The Kabukiza is one of the best places to see kabuki, featuring plays almost every day. A trip to the theatre might not be the most obvious way to spend some of your time in Tokyo – but be assured that Japan has theatre unlike that found anywhere else. ‘Noh’ is the oldest and most revered style of Japanese drama, full of highly codified aesthetic principles and subtle word play. Historically it was performed exclusively for the samurai and other members of Japan’s elite, and its minimalist principles were refined over the course of many generations. It can provide wondrous satisfaction for those sophisticated enough to understand it, but unfortunately, to anyone without an in depth knowledge of the art form, it’s more likely to appear dull and boring.
Fortunately, ‘Kabuki’, another form of Japanese theatre, this time aimed at the common people, developed in parallel to Noh. Kabuki is even more distinctive and unique, and, better still, no prior education is needed to appreciate it. In many ways it is the opposite to Noh – gaudy and dramatic rather than subtle and refined. Actors wear elaborate colourful costumes and bright face masks, and express the nature and meanings of their characters using exaggerated poses and gestures. All roles are played by men, but so skilfully do they control their gestures and voices, that it’s often hard to believe that the female characters aren’t played by real women. Kabuki actors are also masters of vocal expression, so much so that much of the meaning of a Kabuki play can be picked up without understanding any of the words themselves. Each performance is accompanied by a small orchestra using traditional Japanese instruments, making Kabuki a true visual and auditory feast.Location: Japan
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