Traditional Japanese Arts and Performances in Tokyo 2019 – Where to Meet Geishas, See Kabuki and Noh and more!

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  • by Zoria Petkoska

    In Tokyo, some of the best areas that offer many splendid displays of Edo culture are Nihonbashi, Ginza and Marunouchi. All in close proximity to the Imperial Palace and the Edo Castle (now non-existent), they keep traditions alive. Read on to find out how to see a kabuki play in the National Kabuki Theatre in Ginza, or a Noh play in a restaurant setting, or how to see a real geisha performance in Nihonbashi.

    Geisha Shows in COREDO Nihonbashi

    Many visitors struggle to understand whether Japanese geishas are a thing of the past, like samurai, or they still exist today? Are the geishas seen in Japan today real, or people cosplaying a geisha? It certainly is confusing. Let’s clear that up – geishas do exist. These elegant entertainers have kept up their traditions to this day, and you don’t have to go to Gion, Kyoto in hopes to maybe catch a glimpse of them as if they were a natural phenomenon. You can book and see their performances, just like any customer would do.

    The COREDO buildings in Nihonbashi are building on the Japanese cultural heritage, with traditional Japanese cuisine restaurants, kimono and yukata shops, and rare traditional performances. Their “Time to Geisha” event is a great chance to see a geisha performance called “ozashiki”. The shows are small and intimate, visitors sipping on Japanese tea and wagashi sweets as the geishas perform traditional dances to the sound of live shamisen music.
    Everyone gets a chance to interact with the show as the geishas invite volunteers to play traditional games. At the end, geishas will also pose for photos together with the visitors.

    This event takes place every Saturday (except the 5th Saturday in a month) in Coredo 3, 3rd floor. For more details and tickets, head to the official website.

    COREDO 3 location

    Feeling uncertain whether to attend a geisha performance? Let’s clear some misconceptions about geisha performances – they are not aimed only at Japanese men. Especially nowadays, the industry is geared towards tourists too, regardless of gender. The geishas entertain the customers with dance, music and simple party games, suitable for any visitor. Moreover, geishas are not only in Kyoto, they also have headquarters in Tokyo, Niigata, Kanazawa and so on. And in some rare cases, provided they’re fluent in Japanese, foreign women too can train to become geishas and indeed there are some foreign geishas in Japan.

    Noh Theatre and Dance Performances in Suigian Restaurant

     

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    Noh theatre is the oldest preserved theatre form in the world, performed to this day. Listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, both Noh and Kyogen drama originate from the 14th century and are played together. Noh theatre is characterized by a bare scene contrasted with the actors’ lavish costumes and masks. There is always a Japanese pine tree painted in the back of the scene and musicians on stage accompanying the actors.

    Suigian restaurant in Nihonbashi offers the chance to watch Noh and Kyogen, as well other traditional performing arts, in the comfort of a stylish restaurant. A visit to a theatre will surely be more expensive, more difficult to reserve and organize and lengthier. The Suigian performances are aimed at foreigners, so there is English explanation and a chance to meet the actors. As you watch the performance you can sip on a drink or taste authentic Edo style sushi. They collaborate with longstanding and famous suppliers for their food, green tea, wagashi sweets and so on.

     

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    The restaurant has a proper theatre stage, as well Noh masks displays. From the interior look, to the plates and lacquer-ware, everything is carefully chosen and designed to represent Japanese aesthetics.

    Other performances you can see in Suigian are the following: “…performances by the five schools of Noh drama (Kanze-ryu, Hosho-ryu, Konparu-ryu, Kongo-ryu, and Kita-ryu), various schools of Noh musicians, two schools of Kyogen drama (Okura-ryu, Izumi-ryu), as well as Kyomai dance (Inoue-ryu), Nihonbuyo dance (Hanayagi-ru, Fujima-ryu), Ryukyu dance (Miyagi-ryu), Bunraku puppet theatre, Gagaku ancient court music, and Ikenobo Ikebana flower arrangement.” For more information, go to their official website.

    Suigian location
    Produced by Hidetomo Kimura, who also produced ART AQUARIUM, Suigian is a relaxing place to experience Japanese performance arts the easy way.
    Read more about ART AQUARIUM 2019 and see the goldfish extravaganza on COREDO 1.

    Kabuki Plays at Kabuki-za Theatre, Ginza

     

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    This theatre has been rebuilt many times throughout the 20th century, managing to preserve its elegance and uniqueness and its prime Ginza location. It is the only theatre where there are exclusively kabuki shows on repertoire. Originating in Kyoto in the beginning of the 17th century, Kabuki theatre was proclaimed by UNESCO as an intangible heritage in 2005. Similar to Noh theatre, costumes are lavish, and actors sing and dance accompanied by musicians on stage. Both arts follow an antiquated rule of having only male actors playing both roles, similar to old Shakespearean theatre. Kabuki theatre’s symbols are the distinctive face make up and the red black and green stripes of the theatre curtain.

     

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    Kabuki plays can last the whole day, but don’t worry, there are other ways for visitors to enjoy kabuki in smaller bites. The Kabuki-za theatre has special “single act tickets” that are much cheaper than a whole play and can be exclusively bought on the day of the show, so no reservations are needed. There is also audio translation available so that you can understand the plot of the play.
    The Single Act Box Office is located on the left side of the main entrance to the Kabukiza Theatre on the ground level and you must wait in line to buy a ticket. After that, ticket holders have access to level 4 of the theatre. For more details specifically about the single ticket purchase process, read this announcement by Kabuki-za theatre.
    For more information on the theatre itself, please go to the official website.

    In the same Kabukiza Tower where the theatre is located, there is the Kabukiza Gallery. It is accessed from a different entrance to the side of the building and it offers a glimpse into the props and costumes used on the Kabuki stage. Finally, at the B2 floor of the same building there is Kobikicho Square where you can buy all sort of kabuki-related souvenirs.

    Kabuki-za location


    Immersing yourself in the traditional arts of a country is always a rewarding experience. And luckily, no matter how much you know or don’t about the performing art in question, these places will make sure to accommodate newcomers.

    *Featured Image: Author’s photo/