In our last episode, the family and I spent a hot, sweltering, but fun afternoon at the Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa district in Tokyo. After visiting Sensoji, we hopped back on the Ginza Line for home, but then we had a change of mind.
My wife suggested we get off at the Ginza Station and check out the Kabuki-za Theatre. She is a big kabuki fan, and I had never seen it before, so it seemed worth a look.
The Ginza (銀座) District is the high-end, swanky part of Tokyo. Kind of like 5th in New York City. Where Asakusa has a lot of traditional and often touristy crafts, you find lots of luxury goods in Ginza. If you’re looking for fashion, this is the place to go.
Right in the middle though sits this building:
This is the Kabuki-za Theater (歌舞伎座), home of Kabuki Theater. It was revamped and expanded a few years ago, but retains its old look and feel. Here’s a poster advertising the shows for July:
In general, Kabuki shows are divided into several “acts” or maku (幕) which literally means “curtain”. Thus one act is hitomaku (一幕).
As you can see here, there are two shows: one in the evening and one in the morning. However each one is divided into smaller acts. The full play is four hours, so many people opt to pay for just one act which is about 45 minutes to an hour. The seats here are general seating, but if you wanted front-row seats, obviously you would have to pay more. Some seats are quite expensive.
However, because we have little kids with us (especially Little Guy who is only 2 and very active), we could not see the play. Instead, we opted to see the big exhibit behind the Kabuki-za. In the basement floor, we saw a large shopping area:
Here we picked up some Kabuki goods, and had some coffee at Tully’s (more on American franchises in Japan in a separate post). Since we had wifi here, I could finally play Pokemon Go and even caught one:1 2
Then we went up to the fifth floor exhibit. The exhibit was great. It showed how Kabuki plays are made, and allow people to try out props and such. For example, these props were used to make the sound of rolling waves, or rain:
Also, you could see many costumes, wigs, etc:
There was even a life-sized stage, complete with the walkway or hanamichi (花道). The curtain is called agemaku (揚幕) and has a crest of the phoenix, which is the crest of Kabuki:
Here is the stage itself:
You could go backstage, try out the music instruments, pull curtains, etc. My kids really liked it. My daughter even tried out the shamisen a bit.
You can also enjoy a lovely view from the fifth floor too:
Tired, and satisfied, we finally left and went to Higashi-Ginza Station (right under the building) and took the train home. You can see the Kabuki colors even at the station:
Anyhow, Kabuki-za Theater and the museum were great. The staff at the museum were genuinely interested in sharing more with foreigners, so they asked me to fill out a survey. The english translations were good, and the exhibits were very interactive.
All in all, I had a great impression of Ginza, Kabuki-za and Kabuki in general, especially compared to the crowded, touristy mess of Asakusa. I have been to Asakusa many times, and while I always enjoy it, the noise and crowds do get tiring. The quieter, more refined Kabuki-za Theater was a welcome break.
Speaking of refined, here’s a photo of me taken that day:
If you ever come to Japan, check out Asakusa just to get a feel for the local culture, but then go to Ginza and Kabuki-za to really get to see the heart of Japanese art and culture.
P.S. The official English-language website for Kabuki-za is here.
1 It was a Goldeen, which was strangely fitting because it looks like Japanese koi. 😉 Actually, at my in-laws house, I could use wifi too, and since they live right next to a little man-made canal, I caught tons of water-based Pokemon: Psyduck, Dratini, Magikarp, etc. But I also ran out of poke balls because I couldn’t reach any stops. This became a problem because I missed catching a Farfetch’d, which is only available in Japan (except by hatching an egg). My pokedex has an entry for Farfetch’d, but shows I didn’t catch him. 😦
2 A lot of people ask me why I picked a female avatar. I just kind of figured at the time that girls are underrepresented in video games except in sexist ways, so why not? I had good intentions. 🙂