Kabuki at Ginza Kabukiza, Tokyo

Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theatre with a characteristic dance-drama style and elaborate costumes and make-up. Until now I’ve never been to a Kabuki performance in Japan because I was never quite sure how it all worked and whether it would all be lost on me. However, reading about Ginza Kabukiza in CITIx60 Tokyo and a few blogs started to make it sound easier than I had thought and so we decided to go.

We got the metro to Higashi Ginza, and followed signs for the correct exit for the Kabukiza. We were immediately greeted with a buzzing hall full of souvenir stalls selling myriad gifts and trinkets. We continued up the escalator to ground level where we turned the corner and saw the majestic theatre building. It’s such a magnificent building and I’m not sure my photos do it’s grandeur justice.

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Ginza Kabukiza is a great place to experience a Japanese Kabuki performance and they’ve made it really accessible to tourists. Most Kabuki shows comprise a number of acts that can run for a good few hours. At Ginza Kabukiza they’ve recognised that a lot of tourists would love to get a flavour of traditional Kabuki, but may not want to commit to that amount of time, so you can purchase tickets for a single act on the day of each performance. They have up-to-date displays outside the front of the theatre with information about the acts you can watch and when the single tickets will become available which is usually a couple of hours before the performance. Prices vary, but tend to be around 1000-2000yen. There’s a designated area to buys these single act tickets and we decided it was worth queuing fairly early because your place in the queue at this point dictates the order in which you enter the theatre and thus how good your seats are! We nabbed tickets 16 and 17 so we were pretty happy!

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After we bought our tickets we had a bit of time to kill before our allotted entrance time. We thought we’d go back and look around the souvenir stalls but they were closed (it was a Sunday evening after all), so we decided to mooch around the drool-worthy basement food hall at the nearby Mitsukoshi Ginza department store. More on that in another post soon!

We made sure to be back at the theatre in plenty of time for the performance as you can lose your place if you’re late – it’s a very tightly-run ship! There’s a special entrance to the theatre for people with single act tickets to minimise disruption to those watching the whole show. We got in the lift which only has the 4th floor as an option so there was no chance of us going rogue in the theatre! Once inside we were able to buy English guides for 500yen plus a 1000yen deposit. They were somewhat bulky screens that automatically switched on and updated as the performance went on. Despite their clunkiness, they were great and made such a huge different as we were able to see translations of the dialogue as well explanations of what was happening and some historical background.

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The show itself was a dance about two fishermen who were possessed by good and evil spirits “Aku” and “Zen”. Zen got tired of dancing and left the world. Aku carried on and there was a dance representing the pleasure quarters. At the end there was an awesome scene with the actors in lion costumes (like in the image below) with huge wigs representing their manes. Initially they were dancing as though they were playing in the peonies and then the music became more dramatic as they flung their manes around scaring away the evil in the world.

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It was so entertaining to watch and great to be able to experience this traditional Japanese art for the first time.

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