I was invited by a beautiful Japanese lady to watch a Kabuki performance with her at the famous Kabuki-za located in Ginza.
Originally constructed in the Meiji-era, it opened in 1889 but was destroyed by a fire in 1921, left uncompleted in the Kanto earthquake of 1923 and bombed by the Allied Forces during the war. The current structure is over half a century old, designed to resemble the traditional Japanese castles in the 16th century, and stands as one of Tokyo's most dramatic buildings today.
Kabuki translates as "song and dance technique" and is known for its highly-stylized drama and choreography and elaborate stage make-up. In 1629, women were banned from appearing because they were attracting the wrong crowd and officials were concerned that it was degrading the art of Kabuki. The ban was lifted 250 years later but women were no longer needed as men had developed the skills for their roles. Today, Kabuki is performed solely by men who take on the roles of both genders.
I sat through the full-length matinee, consisting of 4 acts and lasting from 11:00 a.m. to 4:05 p.m., with short intermissions in between. With the help of an excellent English-translation headset, I was able to understand the story and symbolism of what I saw on stage.
My favourite was Tsumoru Koi Yuki Seki No To (The Snowbound Barrier), the tale of a traditorous aristocrat disguised as a barrier guard who meets a beautiful traveller who turns out to be a cherry blossom spirit and defeats him to revenge her dead lover. Regarded as one of the greatest Kabuki dramas written, the backdrop is a snow-covered barrier with a mysteriously-blooming cherry tree in the center of the set. The costumes and choreography took my breath away, and the perfomance was punctuated by mie poses, where the characters held picturesque poses to establish their character.