Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kabuki Trip

It seems like weekends are going to be our times to explore and have fun, and it's going to be even more fun when we get a car. We were walking around aimlessly Friday night looking for something to do and exploring base a bit. We ended up at the enlisted club and saw a show of Polynesian dancers. Ian went to the bar and got me "something with rum and pineapple", it ended up being half alcohol. It was a one drink kind of night. I had no idea those girls could shake it like that. And the guys were really awesomely muscled and tattooed. There was even a fire dance by this huge Samoan guy. We have a hard time staying up past 8 now that we get up every morning at 4, so we ended up going home after that.

Today we went to a Kabuki show in another town about two hours away. Don't ask me where I have absolutely no idea. The theaters name is the Kurakan Theater. It is the oldest Kabuki theater still standing in Japan. This year is it's 101st birthday and all the wood on the inside is original. It was originally built to entertain miners in the area. They mine gold, silver, and bronze. After WWII, television became more popular so less people wanted to watch theater. A lot of theaters were torn down but the people of this town took over the Kurakan in order to save it. They hold a show there twice a day, everyday of the week.

As soon as you get inside you have to take off your shoes and put them in a plastic bag. There are special tatami mats on the floor in the theater and everywhere else there is this red velvet carpet. It's really funny, because to go to the bathroom they provide these red rubber slippers that you can wear into the stall - which is a squat toilet by the way. By the end of this trip, walnut bladder Meghan mastered the squat toilet. In the theater you get to sit on a little cushion on the mats through the whole performance. I'm fidgety.

so some special things about a kabuki theater is that there are these little raised planks that run into the audience and the actors actually use them during the play so they are walking right past you. on the far left side of the theater is a larger raised isle that actually has a hidden door with a platform that the actors use to come up from the basement that is all run manually. The main stage is also on a huge rotating circle that is also run manually by four guys in the basement or "Hell" as the Japanese call it. This is the hallway that runs under the trap door. They hall all kinds of posters of past famous Kabuki acts that have been at the theater.

 This is the huge wheel under the main stage. The stone wall around this wheel was built with the original theater.
The also showed us the dressing room. All the walls are covered with signatures of actors that have acted there. The really famous ones are covered over with plexi glass or are framed on the walls.

We couldn't take pictures during the main performance, but we could take pictures of the song and dance that came after. Kind of like an act two. The play was all in Japanese so we really didn't get a lot of it. The gist of the story was that the protagonist accidentally kills a man in the first scene that has the same tattoo as he does on his arm. He meets a con man that tells him that the man he killed was the long lost son of this loaded blind merchant and that they should use the tattoo to take him for a lot of money. So they go and meet the merchant -  and they are so nice to him that he has an attack of conscious and comes clean. There was a lot of funny bits. Ian was elated to see Kabuki in Japan. We might have to take a trip down to Tokyo where all the pros are. Act two was kind of all song and dances that really had nothing to do with the original play. The women in Kimonos in these pictures are Onnagata which is a man dressed like a woman, since some shogun a long time ago forbade women to perform in kabuki. It's a really big deal and most of the time the onnagata have a stronger following than the male leads, we say women putting letters and money in the onnagata's kimono as she came around on the raised isles. Actors tend to favor either male roles or female roles, but the guys we were watching switched between the two during the whole performance.

My favorite part of the entire thing was every time a samurai sword was draw and there was a fight this crazy hard core rock opera music would come on and there would be all kinds of crazy lights. And there was a lot of sword drawing. I was laughing and cheering like a mad woman. It was also funny at the end of the performance that they pulled a member of our group up on stage. This guy had arms the size of my thighs and he was a good 6'2'', the guy wasn't fat. He was up there learning how to fight with a samurai sword with the interpreter against the other actors. Then they dressed him in a kimono and a wig - it was seriously funny. He did and awesome job. After the play we went to Lake Towada, next post.


  1. Samurai Swords, Very cool concept and reviews
    The work is very versatile, with so many concentrations intermingling
    Samurai Swords

  2. Excellent work. Now I also wanna a visit here. Love your blog post regarding kabuki theater and all your images as well. Few days ago I collected my kabuki theater dance dress from at PIJ. Now I want to order some mask for mine from there.