When we think back to our trip to Tokyo, seeing a Kabuki play stands out as being something we wouldn’t do again. In fact, I can’t even say I would do it again just for the experience; it was just that awful.
What is Kabuki?
Kabuki is traditional Japanese theater that originated in the Edo Period at the beginning of the seventeenth century. At one point in time, both men and women participated in Kabuki performances, but soon the tradition shifted to men playing every role; a tradition that is still in effect today.
Three role types of Kabuki are:
- Onnagata: men playing women’s roles
- Aragoto (rough style): kabuki acting that employs exaggerated movements and speech. Actors that use this style wear red or blue makeup along with padded and enlarged costumes. Aragoto is short for aramushagoto which means “reckless warrior matter.”
- Wagoto (soft style): Wagoto actors don’t use exaggerated movements and makeup, but instead focus on emphasizing more realistic speech and gestures.
Kabuki is a very unique art form, and along with garish makeup and costumes, actors perform along to music that brings the audience back to the Edo Period, and utilize trap doors, foot bridges, and other contraptions to enhance each performance.
Our Kabuki Experience:
After a few other plans fell through, we decided to give Kabuki a try. While you can buy tickets to see an entire show at the Kabuki theater, we went for a cheaper (and quicker) option; single act tickets. Single act tickets vary based on the play, but we payed about ¥1,500 for each of our tickets (about 15 USD/ticket). There is also a ¥500 charge for an English translation guide, which we foolishly did NOT get. (Who needs an English translation anyway, right?!)
When we arrived at the theater, the first and second acts had already sold out, so we waited about an hour for tickets to the third act. It was advertised as a comedy, and the lighter of the three acts, but once the show started, it seemed that we had been misled.
Thankfully we had scored a place at the front of the line for the third act, and were one of 90 other people that were able to get seats. The other 60 people in line with us had to stand for the entire act.
I’ll just say this: Kabuki was not for us.
While I’m glad that we were able to experience such a traditional Japanese thing, it was pretty boring, and we were both relieved once the show ended ( I’ll even admit that I dozed off a handful of times). The music was difficult to listen to, and just when we thought the act was coming to a close, they began another long stream of choruses. The one thing that stands out from the play is when what looked to be a doll on stage, turned out to be a real toddler in disguise. The toddler spoke a few lines, danced, and surprised the entire audience.
Your Kabuki Experience:
If you’re like us, you’ll probably disregard everything I’ve said & go to a performance, because you’ll probably only do this once in your life, right?!
Here’s three things you’ll need to remember:
- For your first Kabuki experience, go for the Single Act option.
- Decide ahead of time which act you want to see, and get there EARLY. You don’t want to have to stand the entire time.
- Just give in & get the dang English translation. It’ll be the best ¥500 you’ll ever spend.
Price: Single Act ticket prices are based on the play, but all tickets must be paid for with CASH ONLY. Single Act tickets are also sold on the day of the performance and cannot be reserved.
You can buy reserved tickets HERE.
Location: The Kabukiza theater in Toyko is located in the Ginza Area