Autumn is coming. In Japan, we call it ‘the best season to appreciate art and entertainment’. So, why don’t you try Kabuki, a traditional Japanese performing art this autumn? Here is a guide to enjoying Kabuki for beginners!
1. Basic information you should know about Kabuki
I went to see kabuki for the first time when I was a university student without knowing anything about it. I just accompanied my English friend who visited Tokyo on her holiday. I thought it was going to be super boring but I was wrong! It was powerful and beautiful…. I was blown away!
You might think Kabuki is only for old people and feel a bit difficult to approach, but you don’t have to worry. Kabuki can be more casual and reasonable than you think!
What is Kabuki?
Kabuki is a traditional Japanese form of theatre with over 400-year history. It is known for elaborately designed costumes, eye-catching makeup and the exaggerated actions performed by male actors.
Though this is a very classic art, it is getting more popular among young people thanks to ‘Super Kabuki’, which is a modernized version of Kabuki introduced by Ennosuke Ichikawa the third. They even performed a popular Japanese Manga, ‘One Piece’.
Where to see Kabuki?
Kabukiza theatre in Ginza, Tokyo is the main and the biggest theatre in Japan. It was originally opened in 1889 and performances are run almost every day. They generally have a matinee and an evening performance. (They sometimes have 3 performances a day.) Kabuki is usually made of a set of 3 or 4 acts (Maku) with 40-minute interval (Makuai) between each act, so it takes about 4 hours to finish seeing a whole show. There is a nice Bento (lunch box) shop called ‘Yagura’ on the 2nd basement floor of Kabukiza. Having their Bentos during the intervals is one of the highlights of seeing Kabuki.
How to buy tickets?
The ticket price varies depending on the seat. The most expensive seat (First class Zashiki seat) costs about 20,000 yen. You can purchase tickets in advance online or you can buy them in person at the box office on the day of the show. But if you would like to have a front row seat or you would like to see a popular show, I definitely recommend you book in advance.
2. Let’s start with Single act ticket (Hitomaku-mi)
If you feel that 20,000 yen is too expensive or that 4 hours is too long. Why don’t you go for a single act ticket (Hitomaku-mi) then? You can purchase just one act you would like to see. This is also a very popular way of seeing Kabuki and I believe it is the best way if you are seeing Kabuki for the first time.
How to buy a single act ticket?
The tickets are available from about 1,000 yen to 2,000 yen. You can only purchase them on the day of the show. Please be noted that they only accept cash payment. There is a special entrance for single act ticket on the less hand side of the main entrance, where you can purchase your ticket. It has a sign saying ‘Box Office for Single Act’ in English, so you won’t miss it.
The seats are located on the 4th floor. There are about 90 seats and 60 standing room. If you would like to have a seat, you must be ready for a long queue! Also, when the show includes some special performance called ‘Chu-Zuri’ （宙吊り) , which means the actor is suspended in midair, there aren’t many seats on the 4th floor, therefore you need to be there well in advance to get a single act ticket.
*Please keep in your mind that you won’t have an access to other floors than 4th floor.
3. How to enjoy Kabuki more?
Make most of ‘G-Mark Guide’ services
You can hire a translator device called ‘G-Mark guide’(captioning) to understand Kabuki more. The rental fee is 500 yen and you pay 1,000 yen as a deposit additionally. 1,000 yen will be returned when you hand the device back. This G-Mark Guide has a small screen, which does not only translate the lines but explains you the story and the background of the show. It is worth renting it!
Manners while the performance
Please remember to follow some rules when you see Kabuki. Don’t worry, they are very simple!
- Before the performance starts, please remember to switch off your mobile phone.
- No talking, eating and drinking (except for the First class Zashiki seats where you are allowed to eat and drink during the show)
- Sit still
Just give it a try!
As I said, seeing Kabuki is not difficult. In fact, there are loads of foreign tourists come to see Kabuki. You don’t have to feel hesitated at all. It is really a blown away experience! You might even change the way you view Japanese traditional art!! I strongly recommend you give it a try this Autumn, ’ a season of art’.