Tag Archive | Kabuki

Sayonara Tokyo!

Recently I was asked which was my favourite of all the places we visited in and around Tokyo. After some deliberation I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to choose just one. As the largest metropolis in the world, Tokyo is overflowing with fascinating sights and unique experiences. We were there for eight days and we only saw a fraction of this amazing city. Come with me for one last walk before we say goodbye to Tokyo.

Old Yasuda Garden

Old Yasuda Garden

Yakuoin Temple, Mt Takao

Yakuoin Temple, Mt Takao

Our neighbourhood, Funabori

Our neighbourhood, Funabori

Kabuki Theatre

Kabuki Theatre

Buddhist temple, Jiyugaoka

Buddhist temple, Jiyugaoka

Shibuya

Shibuya

Outside the Imperial Palace

Outside the Imperial Palace

Ueno Park

Ueno Park

Entrance to Tokyo Disneyland

Entrance to Tokyo Disneyland

View of Mt Fuji from Mt Komagatake

View of Mt Fuji from Mt Komagatake

Takeshita Street, Harajuku

Takeshita Street, Harajuku

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine

Five Storied Pagoda, Sensoji Temple

Five Storied Pagoda, Sensoji Temple

As Arnie would say, I’ll be back!

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A Night at the Theatre

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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.

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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.

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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.

Two Museums, One Story

There are more than 100 museums in Tokyo covering such diverse interests as stamps and sumo, bicycles and beer. With such a variety of choices, how does a visitor decide which museum to go to? On our day trip to Mt Fuji our guide Yoshi gave us an invaluable piece of advice. “If your time is limited, go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum and the Tokyo National Museum. There you will find all you need to know about Tokyo.”

Edo was the historical name of Tokyo and the Edo Museum recounts the history of the city from 1603, the beginning of the Edo period, to the present. Outside, the building resembles the shape of an old storehouse in the Kurazukuri style, while inside a reconstruction of Nihonbashi, the old bridge into Edo, leads visitors to the exhibition hall of the museum.

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Full-size replicas of important buildings are placed side by side with scale models of the old city in a display where the smallest details of Japanese life are captured. Elaborate carvings, paintings and giant paper lanterns decorate the façade of the Nakamura-za Kabuki Theatre where musicians play traditional Japanese instruments. On the stage actors in lavish costumes and ornate props are ready for a performance of the kabuki play Sukeroku.

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The view changes from life-sized to miniature in the dioramas of street scenes in Edo. They are populated by dozens of tiny figures going about their daily lives: men take their day’s catch to the market while a washerwoman hangs out a yukata to dry. My favourite: the kimono-clad lady shading herself with a brilliant red parasol as she walks along the street.

While the Edo-Tokyo Museum tells of Tokyo’s architectural and social history, the Tokyo National Museum houses a vast collection of art works including 87 Japanese National Treasures.

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Archaeological and cultural pieces dating from antiquity through to the end of the Edo period are displayed on the first floor – allow a few hours to take in the delicately executed calligraphy on scrolls from the 16th century, exquisitely embroidered 17th century kimonos, and beautifully worked Samurai armour.

Yoshi was right – for an overview of the history and culture of Tokyo, a half day spent at each of these two museums is perfect. Now, how do I get to the Beer Museum?