Theater is a form of art that not only entertains but also greatly supports a country’s preservation of culture and tradition. In the Netherlands, the well-known Theater Hangar offers a unique experience for viewers of its long-running Soldaat van Oranje (Soldier of Orange) musical. This is to try out the SceneAround, a rotating auditorium located in the center of the venue.
Fortunately for those of you in Japan, you won’t need to fly all the way to Europe as Japan has built its own revolving theater, the IHI Stage Around Tokyo, in Koto Ward’s (江東区) Toyosu (豊洲) district. On top of this, the venue’s opening performance is the successful samurai stage play entitled Dokurojo no Shichinin (髑髏城の七人; Seven Souls in the Skull Castle) starring the popular Japanese actor, Oguri Shun (小栗旬).
Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc. (TBS) acquired the rights to build the world’s second revolving stage on the reclaimed island of Toyosu in Tokyo Bay. While the Dutch Theater Hangar can accommodate up to 1,100 seated guests, Japan’s IHI Stage Around is even larger with 1,300 seats on its 360-degree revolving stage.
The theater is named after IHI Corporation, a leading conglomerate headquartered in Toyosu which produces ships, aircraft engines, turbochargers for automobiles, industrial machines, power station boilers and other facilities.
The year is 1590, the 18th year of the Tensho (天正) era. Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) attempts to unify Japan after the demise of Oda Nobunaga (織田信長). However, a man named Tenmao (天魔王) from the Kanto (関東) region, who once served Nobunaga, is against this unification. He leads the Kanto Dokuro-to (関東髑髏党; Skull Clan), a group hiding in the Skull Castle.
Sagiri (沙霧) happens to obtain the plans of the secret passages in Tenmao’s Skull Castle. As she flees for her life, she encounters Sutenosuke (捨之助). Sutenosuke takes her to Ranbee’s (蘭兵衛) brothel to hide her and to keep her safe from Tenmao’s group. Soon, Sutenosuke and Ranbee stand against Tenmao but their swords are no match against his. While the history of the three of them being together in the past is revealed, Tenmao’s dark intentions are also uncovered.
Determined to stop Tenmao’s plans, Sutenosuke heads deep into the mountains to meet a swordsmith and ask for a weapon that could defeat Tenmao’s invincible armor. At that time, Ranbee also decides to go to Skull Castle alone. Sagiri hears about this and secretly follows him.
What is the relationship between Sutenosuke, Ranbee, and Tenmao? Will Sutenosuke be able to stop Tenmao’s plans?
Theater director, Hidenori Inoue (いのうえひでのり), founded the theatrical troupe Gekidan Shinkansen in 1980. Their group is named after the bullet train, the mode of transportation that brings them back home after every performance. Seven Souls in the Skull Castle is considered Gekidan Shinkansen’s masterpiece and will be the first performance that IHI Stage Around Tokyo present. Produced at Ikebukuro West Gate Park (池袋ウエストゲートパーク), it is re-staged every seven years since 1990. The play is a fictional recount of Toyotomi Hideyoshi as he tries to unify the country in the period following the death of Oda Nobunaga.
The cast includes Oguri Shun as Sutenosuke, Koji Yamamoto (山本耕史) as Mukaiya Ranbee (無界屋蘭兵衛), Songha (成河) as Tenmao, Nana Seino (清野菜名) as Sagiri, Arata Furuta (古田新太) as the swordsmith Gantetsusai (贋鉄斎), and more.
It seems that Hidenori Inoue couldn’t have chosen a more fitting opener for this highly anticipated new venue. Not only can the audience experience the thrill of being in a revolving theater, but they can also know more about the country’s stage play culture, appreciate the chanbara (sword fighting) genre, and meet one of Japan’s most famous leading men.
Oguri Shun is the star of the upcoming live-action adaptation of Gintama (銀魂) where he also plays a samurai. While waiting for its release, how about watching him perform live at the IHI Stage Around Tokyo theater on March 30, 2017 til June 12, 2017? IHI Stage Around Tokyo is located outside Shijo-mae Station (市場前駅) on the Yurikamome Line (ゆりかもめ線), or a 15-minute walk from Toyosu Station on the Yurakucho Line (有楽町線). Ticket prices start from 9,800 yen. The performances’ schedule is available on their official site.
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