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    Hokkaido

    Sapporo / Hakodate / Asahikawa / Obihiro

    Japan’s northernmost island and an outdoor lover’s paradise

    Akita

    Kakunodate / Tazawa / Nyuto Onsen

    Relax among mountains and lakes in summer, or be dazzled by the winter snow while enjoying unique, northern cuisine.

    Iwate

    Morioka / Hiraizumi / Tono

    Stunning in all four seasons, Iwate is full of opportunities to enjoy great food and festivals, as well as magnificent scenery.

    Tohoku

    Yamagata Prefecture / Fukushima Prefecture / Aomori Prefecture

    Sceneries, history, cuisine, skiing and hiking... enjoy a trip that will rejuvenate your soul.

    Niigata

    Sado-ga-shima / Naeba / Myoko Kogen / Echigo-yuzawa-Onsen

    The land of snow, hot springs and fine sake

    Chiba

    Narita / Tokyo Disneyland

    The gateway to Japan. Packed with great spots for sightseeing where are easily accessible from the capital.

    Tokyo

    Shinjuku / Akihabara / Asakusa

    Japan’s capital and the world’s most populous metropolis

    Mie

    Kii Peninsula / Ise

    Most sacred shrine, Excellent pearls, and Samurai theme park. Touch the tradition and history.

    Kyoto

    Arashiyama / Gion / Kurama

    The traditional and cultural heart of Japan

    Osaka

    Umeda / Namba / Shin-Sekai

    One of Japan’s major cities and home of good eating

    Fukui

    Fukui / Echizen-Ono

    Sample seafood delicacies such as Echizen crab and puffer fish, as you soak yourself in the history of Fukui’s many heritage sites.

    Hyogo

    Kobe / Toyooka / Himeji / Kinosaki

    Enjoy tradition, modernity, sightseeing spots and culinary delights

    Tokushima

    Iya Valley / Tsurugi-san

    Hidden springs and fantastic scenery amid pristine natural surroundings.

    Kochi

    Shimanto City / Ashizuri-misaki

    Combining unspoiled natural beauty with a tropical climate

    Hiroshima

    Miyajima / Iwakuni / Tomo-no-ura / Onomichi

    Steeped in history and a symbol of peace the world over

    Ehime

    Uwajima / Matsuyama / Ishizuchi-san

    Fresh fruit and fish. Tour some of the castle, explore the history.

    Fukuoka

    Fukuoka / Dazaifu

    Many sights to see and delicious cuisine. Fukuoka leaves you satisfied every time.

    Saga

    Karatsu / Imari / Arita

    Experience breath-taking natural scenery and traditional crafts. A trip with delighting surprises around every corner.

    Kumamoto

    Kumamoto / Aso-san / Kurokawa-Onsen

    Surround yourself with nature and taste gourmet flavors you will find nowhere else.

    Kagoshima

    Kirisima-Yaku National Park / Satsuma Peninsula

    The home of historic heroes and a living volcanic landscape. Toast with delicious shochu and sample the unique Kagoshima cuisine.

    Okinawa

    Osumi Island / Amami Islands / Miyako Island / Yaeyama Islands

    Japan’s tropical side offering a unique culture and history

  • Theme

  • Must See

  • More fun

Kabuki

Kanamaruza Theater, a traditional kabuki theater

Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a traditional Japanese form of theater with roots tracing back to the Edo Period. It is recognized as one of Japan's three major classical theaters along with noh and bunraku, and has been named as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

What is it?

Kabuki is an art form rich in showmanship. It involves elaborately designed costumes, eye-catching make-up, outlandish wigs, and arguably most importantly, the exaggerated actions performed by the actors. The highly-stylized movements serve to convey meaning to the audience; this is especially important since an old-fashioned form of Japanese is typically used, which is difficult even for Japanese people to fully understand.

Dynamic stage sets such as revolving platforms and trapdoors allow for the prompt changing of a scene or the appearance/disappearance of actors. Another specialty of the kabuki stage is a footbridge (hanamichi) that leads through the audience, allowing for a dramatic entrance or exit. Ambiance is aided with live music performed using traditional instruments. These elements combine to produce a visually stunning and captivating performance.

Plots are usually based on historical events, warm hearted dramas, moral conflicts, love stories, tales of tragedy of conspiracy, or other well-known stories. A unique feature of a kabuki performance is that what is on show is often only part of an entire story (usually the best part). Therefore, to enhance the enjoyment derived, it would be good to read a little about the story before attending the show. At some theaters, it is possible to rent headsets which provide English narrations and explanations.

The interior of the previous Kabukiza Theater, a modern kabuki theater

Kabuki conventions

When it originated, kabuki used to be acted only by women, and was popular mainly among common people. Later during the Edo Period, a restriction was placed by the Tokugawa Shogunate forbidding women from participating; to the present day it is performed exclusively by men. Several male kabuki actors are therefore specialists in playing female roles (onnagata).

One of the things that will be noticed are assistants dressed in black appearing on stage. They serve the purpose to hand the actors props or assist them in various other ways, in order to make the performance seamless. They are called "kurogo" and are to be regarded as non-existent.

If you come across people from the audience shouting out names at the actors on stage, do not mistake this for an act of disrespect: all kabuki actors have a yago (hereditary stage name), which is closely associated to the theater troupe which he is from. In the world of kabuki, troupes are closely knit hierarchical organizations, usually continued through generations within families. It is an accepted practice for the audience to shout out the actors' stage names at an appropriate timing as a show of support.

Formal dress code is not required when attending a kabuki play, although decent dress and footwear are recommended. Sometimes, often on the first day of a run, some ladies may attend the show dressed in traditional kimono.

Rotating stage of a traditional kabuki theater from below

Where to watch it

In the olden days, mainstream kabuki was performed at selected venues in big cities like Edo (present day Tokyo), Osaka and Kyoto. Local versions of kabuki also took place in rural towns.

These days, kabuki plays are most easily enjoyed at selected theaters with Western style seats. A day's performance is usually divided into two or three segments (one in the early afternoon and one towards the evening), and each segment is further divided into acts. Tickets are usually sold per segment, although in some cases they are also available per act. They typically cost around 2,000 yen for a single act or between 3,000 and 25,000 yen for an entire segment depending on the seat quality.

Below are some venues where kabuki can be watched:

TOKYO

Kabukiza Theatre
Above Higashi-Ginza Station (Hibiya/Asakusa Subway Lines)

The Kabukiza in Tokyo's Ginza district was reconstructed recently and reopened in April 2013. It closely resembles its predecessor except for a skyscraper that now stands above it. It is the most accessible theaters for foreign tourists, staging plays almost everyday and offering single-act tickets and English headsets. Single-act tickets are only available on the day at a dedicated ticket window, while regular tickets can be booked online in English.

National Theatre
5 minute walk from Hanzomon Station (Hanzomon Subway Line) or 10 minute walk from Nagatacho Station (Yurakucho/Hanzomon/Nanboku Subway Lines)

Programs vary monthly, and include kabuki or bunraku performances, as well as kabuki appreciation workshops for beginners. English headsets are available for rental.

KYOTO

Minamiza Theater
In the Gion district, just next to Keihan Gion-shijo Station or 5 minute walk from Hankyu Kawaramachi Station

About two runs of three weeks per year, usually one during spring and the other during autumn, are performed.

OSAKA

Shochikuza Theater
In the Dotombori District near Namba Station

Three to five runs per year, each lasting between three to four weeks. English headsets are unavailable, but an English program book can be purchased at the information counter.

FUKUOKA

Hakataza Theater
Next to Nakasu Kawabata Subway Station

Two runs per year, one in February and one in June, are usually performed at this theater.

Historical Theaters

These theaters no longer primarily serve as venues for performances, but are maintained for visitors to experience the feel and structure of a traditional kabuki theater. One distinct feature of traditional theaters is the absence of Western style seats. Instead, the audience is seated on cushions laid on the floor within squarish areas separated by wooden beams.

KOTOHIRA

Kanamaruza Theater
15 minute walk from JR Kotohira Station or Kotoden Kotohira Station
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Admission: 500 yen

This wonderful, historic theater is open to tourists to explore on their own. Kabuki performances are held only for a couple of weeks in April. The Kanamaruza stands just a few steps away from the main approach towards Kompira Shrine.

UCHIKO

Uchikoza Theater
5-10 minute walk from JR Uchiko Station
Hours: 9:00 to 16:30
Closed: December 29 to January 2
Admission: 400 yen (Uchiko-za only)
900 yen (also includes the Kamihaga Residence and history museum)

Also located on Shikoku, the Uchikoza Theater used to stage both kabuki and bunraku performances, but these days only bunraku performances are held infrequently. For most of the year, the theater is open for tourists to explore.

information source: japan-guide.com

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