You don’t have to understand Japanese to enjoy a night at the theatre in Tokyo. A traditional Kabuki performance at Kabuki-za in the Ginza runs for around four hours but if that’s too long you can just buy single act tickets on the day. Make sure you read the instructions on the website as timing is critical and if you’re not there on time for your act you’ll miss out.
We arrived at the theatre quite early and, following the directions given by the doorman, made our way to the single act ticket office on the fourth floor. Tickets purchased, we found a nearby Indian restaurant for a delicious dinner and then returned to the theatre in plenty of time for our performance.
In true Japanese style the procedure for entering the theatre was organised with precision. We had to line up single file in seating order before quietly entering the gallery on level three. From our elevated position we had a great view of the stage and could see the musicians tuning up their traditional instruments on each side. We had been given a brochure about the performance we were about to see which included a synopsis of the story. Even this prior knowledge, however, was not enough for us to follow what was happening. It didn’t take us long to realise we didn’t have a clue what was going on, so we just sat back and enjoyed the amazing display of drums, music, acrobats and actors.
All female roles in a Kabuki performance are played by male actors but the elaborate costumes, masks and make up meant it was impossible to tell. Photographs are not allowed inside the theatre so beautiful posters displayed in the foyer and outside the theatre show the most famous actors in their extravagant costumes.
The single act we saw lasted for 45 minutes. It was perfect for sampling the drama and spectacle of Kabuki – no Japanese language skills necessary!
* To get to the theatre, we travelled on the subway to Higashi Ginza Station. Exit 3 leads directly to the basement level of the theatre and escalators go to the theatre entrance at street level.
* A single act ticket cost ¥1000. Tickets must be purchased on the day of the performance and paid for in cash.