Monday 15 May 2017

Kabuki on the Cheap

The front of the famous Kabukiza Theatre in Ginza,dwarfed by skyscrapers behind
Skyscrapers towering over the Kabuki Theatre in Ginza (Kabukiza)
Kabuki (歌舞伎) - which combines the kanji for singing (utau =歌う), dancing (mau =舞う), and skill/art (waza, similar to the gi in gijutsu=技術) - is enjoying something of a boom among both Japanese and tourists these days. Sometimes called "bizarre" theatre, it is a marvellous hotch-potch of wild and restrained acting styles, extravagant costumes, traditional instruments, dynamic stage sets, shouts from the audience, and men dressed as women (see the description on the official kabuki English site).

But ticket prices can be prohibitively expensive - a first floor box for the morning (matinee) performance (3 acts or maku =幕, literally "curtain") at Ginza's Kabukiza (pictured above) will set you back ¥20,000. However, there is a cheaper way - queue up and buy tickets on the day!

In May, the first of the three morning acts (hiru no bu =昼の部) starts at 11:00am, and if you queue up early (say around 10:00) to the left of the grand main doors (pictured left) you will almost certainly be able to buy tickets when they go on sale at 10:30. Here, you have a choice: you can simply buy a ticket for the first maku (¥1500) which is almost 90 minutes. However, you can also buy tickets for the second (¥1000) and even third (¥1500) acts at the same time and stay in your seat between acts (it's fine to eat in your seat during the intermission). In other words, you can watch three and half hours of Kabuki (albeit from the fourth floor - see picture below) - and probably catch some famous names - for just ¥3,500. The same system works for the evening sessions - see here for more details. As for language, no need to worry: subtitles, including cultural explanations, are available on a special tablet ("G-Mark Guide") which can be borrowed for ¥500! For more detailed information on plot lines, actor names, and kabuki families though, the Yomiuri's weekly Kabuki ABC column is a must read.

Looking down from the 4th floor to the stage of the Kabukiza Theatre
The view from the 4th floor of the Kabukiza Theatre before the start of a show