Susan's Shanghai Blog - Kabuki (subset of Week 109)

With the redesign of our website, I wanted to pull the Kabuki out of the main pages.

We headed to the Kabuki-za Theater. This is the principal theater in Tokyo for the traditional kabuki plays. The original theater was built in 1889 and the wooden structure lasted until 1921 when it was burned down in an electrical fire. They started to reconstruct it in 1922 but then the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake struck and the not-yet-finished structure burned down. It was rebuilt in a baroque Japanese revivalist style but (yet again) it burned down .. this time the fire was caused by the allied bombing during World War II (oops). It was restored again in 1950 preserving the 1924 reconstruction style. It was demolished (on purpose this time) in 2010 to rebuild it for accessibility and better earthquake protection measures. This incarnation of the theater opened in March 2013.

You can purchase tickets for individual acts or for the whole play (we went for the whole play). One of the great things is that you can get an English Audio-guide which gives details of what is going on (not the exact translated dialog). It is somewhat interesting in that a large number of the Japanese people ALSO had audio-guides, supposedly because the language used in the theater is not exactly current-day-Japanese and is not always easily understandable. Some pictures of the inside of the theater, which has three levels and box seats on each side.

There are no pictures allowed during the presentation, so I can't show you what Kabuki looks like ... you'll have to take a trip to Tokyo and catch at least one act of a Kabuki show yourself!. The show that we watched was called Kokoro no Nazo Toketa Iroito. It has 3 love stories intermixed within the show. Kabuki features a cast of all men, even for the women's roles and uses a rotating stage with a lot of trap doors.

The first intermission I went out and in the theater gift shop, they had sold different things, including some food. This was something kinda interesting, it was a little cake filled with what I think is red bean paste. I got to watch as he took the metal molds and filled them about 2/3 of the way with batter, then in the middle he added a dollop of the red bean paste into the center, and then added a bit more batter on top. The mold was closed and then put over head until the cake was fully cooked. Then out they came into a wooden box where you would then buy them in bags of 10. Aren't the little faces cute??

During the first act, it had "snowed" and you can see the little paper snowflakes on the floor. We went all-out on the tickets, getting the first-row box seats. You enter through a door and then you can see that it has a counter and two cushioned chairs. Here is another view of our 1st row box seats with Tom there.

Like the locals who took in the show, we had a bento box lunch during one of the intermissions. However instead of the box sitting on our laps, we had the counter in the box, which made things a lot easier. We also had a pot of hot Japanese green tea in our box. We had picked up the bento box at one of the stores just outside of the theater. We did one that had all sushi because there was no English writing and sushi was something that we understood with just pictures. When we opened our bento box, each little piece of sushi was individually wrapped in some type of green leaf (maybe a bamboo leaf?) We don't know what type each piece of sushi was, but it was all good.

During the intermission, the screen on the stage changed, so I tried to grab a few pictures of it. Mostly nice nature scenes.

One of the interesting things that we got a great view of from our box seats was this piece of wood on the front-right of the stage. During the show, a guy would come out every once in awhile and beat this piece of wood with blocks of wood to make certain sounds. For example, when someone was running off the stage, he would hit the wood blocks to make the sound of the feet hitting the ground, making it more dramatic.

We also grabbed a picture as we were leaving of the hallway with all of the box-seat doors on the right.

Then more pictures of the theater after the show. We did the matinee (4 hours of it, since it was the entire play) and there was another show right after, so there was alot of people with people coming and going.