Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Kabuki at the National Theater

A few weeks ago, I went to Tokyo to attend a "Kabuki for Foreigners" program. I read that this was a once a year program held by the National Theater. I have attended two other Kabuki performances, one by myself and another with two Japanese friends. Both of those performances were in Japanese, as was the one in Tokyo. 

My seat was in row nine, so I was very close to the stage.  The first part of the program was a Kabuki actor who was interviewed by a young Japanese woman who translated what he said into English for the audience. 

Kabuki started in the Edo period and both male and female parts were originally performed by an all female cast.  In 1629, women were banned from this type of performance, as the performances were deemed too suggestive, and since then has been played by an all male cast, playing both male and female roles. 

I knew a little about the Kabuki stage after visiting Kanamaru-za, the oldest surviving Kabuki theater, but I learned a lot more at this program. There is a walkway from the back of the theater to the stage called a hanamichi. It can be part of the stage, such as a path or river, and can be for dramatic entrances and exits. The stage also has tricks where the actors can be raised or lowered to the basement quickly so they appear or disapear. The costumes, wigs, and make up are all fantastic.  I learned that red lines in the white make up were for the good guys, blue or black lines for the bad guys, purple lines meant nobility, and green lines for the supernatural.  

In 2005, UNESCO recognized Kabuki as an intangible heritage possessing outstanding universal value. 

The program I saw in Tokyo was called 「紅葉狩」or Catching Colored Leaves. Here is the description: " Some noble Heike 平家 men went for catching colored leaves and they met a group of beautiful women. The women invited the men to a banquet. When the men got drunk and sleepy, the women turned into Oni, 鬼女 and attacked them."

I didn't understand what the actors were saying, but I did understand the story of what was happening. I am very thankful I was able to attend this performance and experience Japanese culture. 

Photos were not allowed inside the beautiful modern theater, but I did take a few photos outside the theater.


Queeniepatch said...

I learn so much from your blog posts! Thank you for always sharing your adventures with the readers.
My BIL, who is a traditional dancer, has often performed at the National Theatre and I used to go visit him in the dressing rooms. Backstage is very interesting! I hope you will have a chance to go there on a guided tour one day.

Leonore Winterer said...

This sounds so cool, I'd love to visit a show some day. But until then, like Queenie, I'll have to live vicariously through your blog!