No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

22 November, 2008


Friday night, the art teacher at our school sponsored a trip to the 100 year old Showa Grand Theater in Ginza to see 3 Kabuki plays.  She is a Kabuki fanatic and one of the founders of the English ear guide system we used to understand what was going on.  Needless to say, she knows a lot about Kabuki and she opened us up to a beautiful art form.  It dates back to the time of Shakespeare and the stories are almost always tragedies.  Traditional Kabuki acts out Japanese folktales that usually involve spirits, honor, warriors and courtesans.  Each movement is slow and deliberate and is steeped in meaning.  The costumes are the most glorious part--traditional garments, hair and makeup.  They are breathtaking.  The stage scenes are simple and balanced.  Ninja-like stage hands help the actors change costume or remove props on stage.  It was such a fascinating way to learn about Japan's stories and histories.   

The customs of Kabuki are to yell out the actors family name at the correct time so they will strike a pose, eat and drink in your tiny, japanese size seat and don't take any pictures.  Here are some pictures James took:

Not part of the show--we just loved seeing a Japanese Miss Piggy.

The courtesan had just transformed into a mountain woman with superhuman powers.  The stage men change her from a woman into kimono into this in a split second.  The whole audience cheered.

This actor is an onnagata, a male actor who specializes in female roles.  If you were unaware that all Kabuki actors are male, you would be surprised because the men move so gracefully.  Our "Kabuki Expert" said these men are very revered in Japanese culture and are usually around 70 years old.  One of the actors we saw is considered a Living National Treasure.

Here, the courtesan is battling off the evil spirits with the princess by her side. 
She has changed costume this time and is gracefully defeating the warriors with ease.
A traditional bento box--very common to eat at Kabuki theaters, which allow you to bring in your own food.  This one has the "sweet" bean paste pastry, rice with pickled plum, salmon, sweet egg, a sort of chicken yakitori meatball, something fried, eel, tempura shrimp, more rice and a bunch of pickled vegetables which I don't really care for.  They are beautifully crafted, but one does the trick for a few weeks.  I guess my western palate isn't used to it.

Outside the Showa Grand Theater.  It will be torn down this year to make way for a high rise.  Ginza is the place of all things Japanese and very expensive.  

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