Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a popular form of cultural entertainment in Japan. It originated as an entertainment for the common people and was oftentimes considered racy and taboo but later on became a formal style of drama. However, it poses a problem for those who do not understand old Japanese culture or language. As a result, most audiences consist of old Japanese people. But with the help of Ebizo Ichikawa (市川海老蔵) and Shido Nakamura (中村獅童), Kabuki performances will now be more accessible to younger generations and also to foreigners. This time, you won’t be sitting for hours wondering about the Kabuki performance you’re watching.
Kabuki is a rich form of showmanship art. Actors wear elaborate costumes and makeup that are eye-catching. To help the audience fully understand the story, movements are highly emphasized and are well coordinated. It also uses traditional instruments to make the performance more captivating.
Kabuki used to be performed in certain huge locations across Japan, but these days, it can also be found in local towns. There are historical theaters around the country that serve as venues for some Kabuki performances.
If you’re a foreigner on your first experience watching Kabuki and you don’t understand a thing about the Japanese language, then might as well use an English guide. The guide will give you information about the performance in English, such as the dialogue, lyrics, and explanation of the story, dance, music, etc. However, an English guide might not be available for some performances. If that is the case, you can ask for an English program instead. This will also give you an explanation about the play. You can ask the theater about this in advance.
Zatoichi is a popular fictional character in Japan. He is featured in one of the country’s longest-running film and television series. The story is set in the old Edo period (江戸時代) and centers on a blind masseur who’s great at swordsmanship. It gives people a perception on how a terrible world can be made better by a hero and how hope can still be found in a troubled society.
A Kabuki play based on Zatoichi, entitled “Roppongi Kabuki Part 2: Zatoichi,” will be performed by Ebizo Ichikawa and Shinobu Terajima (寺島しのぶ) under the direction of Takashi Miike (三池崇史). Its original run was held from February 4 to 20, 2017 at EX THEATER ROPPONGI in Tokyo (東京). It was a huge success, prompting more performances on August 2 to 7, 2017 at Chunichi Theatre (中日劇場) in Nagoya (名古屋), and on August 10 to 13, 2017 at Festival Hall (フェスティバルホール) in Osaka (大阪).
Ebizo and Shinobu are key successors of Kabuki families. They both have deep passions for Kabuki plays that they wanted to connect with people, especially with the younger generation and foreigners. They also wanted Kabuki to be accessible to all, thus their performance at Tokyo’s entertainment and nightlife area. It is participated by different casts and Ebizo takes the role of the blind man, which is a challenge on his part as he cannot use Kabuki expressions.
With great superstars at hand, a versatile screenwriter, and a highly regarded director, you will surely get an easy access to one of Japan’s must-see traditional performing arts. Come and see them this coming August 2017 in Nagoya and Osaka!
・97 Things to Do in Osaka, the Japanese City of Street Food, Culture, and Comedy, in 2018
・Everything You Need to Know about the Magic and Mysteries of Kabuki!
・Traditional Japanese Dance–Drama Kabuki: Types and Elements