The MBA Diary Tokyo

Going for a kabuki performance

If you read about the top things one should do in Tokyo, some articles may suggest you to visit a kabuki show. Kabuki is a traditional form of Japanese theater, created in the 1600s, where the actors act, dance and show their skills on stage. It’s not like your usual theater show — kabuki is distinctive in the way the actors speaks and moves.

Kabuki, since a few centuries ago, only involve male actors. The kabuki business is run by the same families for generations now, including the Ichikawas. Our sensei introduced us to the kabuki superstar of today, the handsome but scandalous Ebizo Ichikawa, who’s currently trying to further promote kabuki overseas.

They also briefed us on the storyline of the shows that we’re going to watch the next day.

“Why are you telling us the story! We won’t be surprised anymore!”

Cried some of my classmates.

Senseis told us that everyone knows the stories already! It’s the same thing that’s being repeated for centuries. When people go to kabuki, they already know how the story will go, but what they come for is to view the skills brought by the actors — that’s the art. So there are instances where the audience makes noise because they know their favorite parts are coming.

“Oooohhh.”

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So. The next day, we went to Shimbashi Embujo, a kabuki theater in Shimbashi, to watch the classics. Our sensei forewarned us that kabuki shows are lengthy (ours was for 3 1/2 hours!) and that we might fall asleep.

We were allowed to buy bento from outside the theater and bring food and beverages in. Only in Japan, probs because people there can consume civilly. At first glance, the theater was full and the majority of people were retirees.

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So how did the 3 1/2 hour show go? Well, there were 3 separate stories, all starring Ebizo Ichikawa. The shows were all in Japanese, spoken in the kabuki way. Like an elder that has too much time so he/she drags his/her words all the time. However, our sensei gave us papers that summarize all three stories so we’d get the storyline. When we didn’t understand some part, they’d whisper the story to us, too, which really helped because the story made more sense.

Some things are so strange (the Japanese are strange for centuries it seems), but still, fascinating. The whole act was seamless! We were told that these actors perform almost everyday at the theater, so they’re very skilled. Practically have no rest, too. Respect!

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At the end, I enjoyed the experience. Someone also highlighted… that none of us slept 😆

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To enjoy kabuki, check out the showtimes and reservation info at Shimbashi Embujo.

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