Heading to Tokyo and looking for something traditional to do? The Single Act Tickets at ‘Kabukiza’, the premier Kabuki theatre in Tokyo, may just be for you.
A brief history of Kabuki
Kabuki is a style of Japanese theatre dating back four centuries with a reputation for being quite avant-garde and off-beat. It is a highly stylised combination of song, dance, music and acting with elaborate costumes and makeup. Originally performed by women, the sensuous characters were thought too provocative so were replaced by men. As it stands today, men play most characters in kabuki, including female characters. Without question, it is the most popular of Japan’s traditional theatre styles.
Kabuki performances are retellings of traditional Japanese stories. Love, loss, crime, betrayal, war, death—the very topics that have kept audiences entertained for thousands of years. The actors wear signature heavy makeup and have a wavering sing-song quality to their speech. The live percussion ensemble are a powerful accompaniment of drums and strings.
The stage looks quite unique with a catwalk (hanamichi) protruding into the audience. Some of the most important scenes are played on this section of the stage. You may also see things such as trap doors, revolving stage sections and wires to add intrigue.
Audience participation (kakegoe, or shout out) is a surprising part of Kabuki. During the performance, members of the audience will show praise and enthusiasm by shouting out the actors names or other phrases. In important scenes, or when the actors make their signature poses (mie) the audience will applaud and cheer.
Where to watch Kabuki in Tokyo
The best place to watch Kabuki in Tokyo is at Ginza’s Kabukiza Theatre. An impressive example of 1920’s architecture, it is widely believed to be one of the best places to watch Kabuki in all of Japan.
The theatre dates back to 1889, the original building long lost to various fires, earthquakes and war. The current building is the fifth iteration though still resembles the 1924 design.
You can hire English guide devices to help you appreciate the experience fully. The devices display the script and lyrics in time with the performance so you can laugh and cheer along with everyone else. In the basement level you can find souvenirs to round out the experience.
Single Act Tickets
A standard Kabuki performance can last upwards of 4 hours, including breaks. This is quite an investment, particularly if you didn’t spring for the English guide. However, there is a way to enjoy one act of the full performance, at a fraction of the price.
The Kabukiza offer Single Act Tickets to entice those who might otherwise be put off by the long performance times.
There are two shows per day, the matinee (11:00a.m.) and the evening show (4:30p.m.). Each show is performed in various acts; you could catch the second act, then let someone else take your seat for the third act. The price depends on the length of the act; the schedule and prices are updated monthly on their website.
How to purchase Single Act Tickets
Facing the Kabukiza, head to the left hand side of the building. You will see people queuing for single act tickets day and night from 10am. The staff will give you a number and you join the queue for the next available act. Please note that you are not able to purchase tickets for any act other than the next one, and it’s only one ticket per person. Payment is in cash, then you are ferried in elevators up to the 4th floor where you are shown to your seat. They may not give you a chance to pick up an English guide device, so feel free to leave your seat (or standing position) to go back out and grab one.
Kabuki-za Theatre is located in the ritzy suburb of Ginza, right above the Higashi-ginza metro station. In fact, one of the station exits brings you right into the theatre basement.
Address: 4-12-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo.
Post by Japan Journeys.