First performed in the early 17th century, Kabuki, a classical Japanese dance drama known for its elaborate costumes and make up has become a symbol of Japanese culture in modern times. Kabuki, is written “歌舞伎”in Kanji and from left to right, the individual characters mean sing (歌), dance (舞) and skill (伎). The principal theater for this traditional Japanese art form is located in Tokyo’s trendy Ginza district and is known as the Kabuki-za.
The theater first opened in 1889 and was managed by a Meiji era journalist, dramatist and educator, Fukuchi Genichiro. Fukuchisan retired in 1903 and the theater was taken over by the Shochiku Corporation in 1914, which has been the theater’s exclusive management company since.
Unfortunately, the Kabuki-za was destroyed by fire in October of 1921. Rebuilding of the theater commenced in June of 1922 however, the uncompleted building was damaged by the great Kanto Earthquake in September of 1923. In December of 1924, the Kabuki-za reconstruction was finally completed. Plays continued to be performed at the theater during the war years until the building was totally gutted during the massive Tokyo air raid of May 1945. When the building was restored in 1950, it was designed in the same architectural style as the 1924 building.
The Kabuki-za continued to operate until concerns over the theater’s ability to survive earthquakes as well as accessibility issues compelled the city to demolish the structure in the spring of 2010. A series of farewell performances, entitled Kabuki-za Sayonara Koen (Kabuki-za Farewell Performances) were held from January through April of 2010, after which kabuki performances took place at the nearby Shinbashi Enbujo and elsewhere until the opening of the new theatre complex, which took place in the spring of 2013.
The 2013 version of the Kabuki-za features an extensively renovated facade in front of a twenty-nine-story modern building, which houses the new theater and commercial office space.
The inside of the theater is very opulent and the stage is enormous. There is a walkway leading down one aisle from the back of the theater, which enables actors to enter the stage from different directions. Performances are offered nearly every day and tickets are sold for individual acts as well as for each play in its entirety. Programs are organized monthly. Each month there is a given set of plays and dances that make up the afternoon performance and a different set comprising the evening show. Headsets are available for rental with English narration to explain what is going on during the play.
Matinee performances are offered between 11:00 AM-3:45 PM and evening shows take place from 4:30 PM-9:00 PM.
If you happen to be touring the Ginza district, try and take in one of the Kabuki performances offered at the Kabuki-za and discover for yourself why this art form has endured since the 17th century or merely go and witness the opulence of the theater itself. Either way, you will come away with an enriching experience.
Web page: http://www.kabuki-za.co.jp/