Caselberg does Kabuki

In 38 days time, the historical and famous kabuki theatre in Tokyo will close.  Being in Tokyo currently, this was a unique opportunity to witness a piece of history before it went away.  I like history.  I have no idea what the two short plays I saw are called, but we were in for a treat, because the second, after the intermission, was a mixture of the more free-form kabuki and the traditional Noh.  Thank goodness for the little radio receiver that provided commentary in English.  The party included about ten members from the Japanese office, because the modern generation in Japan in moderately starved of their own cultural heritage and probably know too little and are very eager to take up the opportunities when they arise.  The English commentary allowed me to pass on many interesting facts about the performance and the history.

Kabuki is often a family affair, and there was a father and son team performing two of the main roles.  These roles are frequently passed down from father to son, or within an entire family grouping, only among the male members, because kabuki is performed solely by male actors.  The stories were traditional tales, the first about an exiled noble and tragic in its consequence.  The second, also traditional, in the same way that Shakespeare adapted classic tales, dealt with a special bridge that led to the peaceful land of Saint Monju.  It would only appear in the presence of a higher spirit, and was guarded by a lion spirit called a shishi.  Unless you had prayed enough to achieve the appropriate level of enlightenment, you could not cross the bridge, and the shishi would eat, you.  End of story.

As with much of Japanese storytelling, there is not the resolution you might expect from a more Western tale.  I often find that with a number of the anime series I’m fond of.  They are open ended, leave you wondering.  Perhaps it’s more about the thought process, the philosophical gestalt, rather than a moral per se.  I find that I tend that way in my own short fiction.  Writing something that leaves the reader thinking is more satisfying to me than a neat tied up package, but hey, that’s just me.

Dinner afterwards (with much drinking–a requirement) was at a small East Ginza place called Sumo Pig…but more about sumo later.

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Caselberg does Kabuki — 2 Comments

  1. Gah… closing of cultural treasures… I was always so impressed that the Japanese even have craftspeople as National Treasures… I guess it’s the recession, there too.

    Sartorias wrote on her blog that you’re currently living in Germany, so “Herzlich willkommen von dieser Leserin!”

    Re: Kabuki in the family, I recently read an awesome manga- which I would buy in a heartbeat in English or German – called Ashita no Ousama, which concerned a girl becoming a scriptwriter in a theatre and contrasted modern western-style theatre with Kabuki theatre and its traditions during the storyline. Very enlightening – and a lovely romance as well.

  2. Very sad to lose the Kabuki theatre. I didn’t get to Tokyo fast enough. Hope they filmed a bunch of performances. The National Treasure program always impressed me, too. Of course, there are a few traditions that have slipped by the wayside. A form of shibori dyeing was outlawed at one point — the sewing of pieces of rice into material to make patterns. The people doing the sewing generally went blind quite quickly.