Kabuki: the thrills of Japanese theatre

12 Jul 2017 in Have Fun

Extravagant costumes, spectacular scenery and lively music make kabuki theatre an immersive experience. Find out where you can catch a show!


Like to experience traditional Japanese arts first-hand? Then head to a kabuki show. It may be around 400 years old, but this classic form of theatre is a highly entertaining way to pass a couple of hours – and get an insight into another side of Japanese culture.

Kabuki show

Kabuki dates back to around the same era as Shakespeare and was originally acted exclusively by women. But in the Edo Period, it became a men-only affair – and that’s how it remains.

This means many male actors, known as onnagata, specialize in playing women. Don’t be surprised to hear audience members shouting out the names of actors during the performance: it’s a way of encouraging them.

Japanese theater

What makes kabuki such a mesmerizing experience is the spectacular mise-en-scène. Everyone on stage wears elaborate costumes and over-the-top make-up, while the scenery is colourful, eye-catching and often highly inventive.

Traditionnal actors in japan

The acting style is deliberately exaggerated with flamboyant gestures, and the stories centre on love, revenge and mistaken identity. On top of all that, musicians on the edge of the stage accompany the action.

The drawback? It’s all in ancient Japanese that even locals struggle to understand.

Fortunately, if you head to the famed Kabuki-za theatre, a 30-minute walk from HOSHINOYA Tokyo, you can rent an English captioning device that translates the text in real time.

HOSHINOYA Tokyo transport

Buy a ticket for just one act on the door – or, if you’re a dedicated theatre fan, book ahead for the full four-and-a-half-hour performance!

Kabuki-za theatre

Photo credits:

GanMed64 / CC BY

Yoshikazu TAKADA / CC BY

calltheambulance / CC BY-NC-ND

sinkdd / CC BY-NC-SA

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