For people who want to learn to appreciate a kabuki masterpiece in less time and for less money than is possible at Kabukiza theatre in Ginza, Tokyo, the National Theatre near Hanzomon subway station in Tokyo is just the place.
Every June and July, the theatre hosts an annual programme called "Kabuki Performance for Beginners."
Although the programme is mainly targeted at middle and high school students, the audience includes a considerable number of adults seeing kabuki performances for the first time.
English earphone guides are available to provide explanations on what is happening on stage.
During the June programme that runs from June 2 to 24, a special session designated for foreigners will be held at 7 p.m. on June 19. Titled "Discover Kabuki," it is the first guide for foreigners since the programme for beginners began in 1967.
Before a stage performance, a kabuki actor and a TV personality will give a lecture in English and Japanese on how to appreciate kabuki.
This will be simultaneously interpreted into Chinese and Korean through an earphone guide service. During the kabuki performance, explanatory guides will be available in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean through the earphone guide.
I believe it is helpful for people seeing kabuki for the first time.
The lecture will focus on "onnagata," a distinctive portrayal in kabuki in which actors perform as women. The audience will witness how the actor transforms into the female characters through watching him put on makeup, costumes and a wig. It is rare to see such a process.
"Tsubosaka Reigenki" will also be performed, which is the kabuki adaptation of a bunraku piece depicting matrimonial love.
The story depicts the tragedy of a blind man, Sawaichi (to be played by Bando Kamesaburo), and his devoted wife, Osato (Kataoka Takataro), that is caused by a misunderstanding.
As a result of several twists and turns, the story culminates into a moving, miraculous finale.
I believe visitors to the event will enjoy kabuki's distinctive atmosphere placed in a more casual setting.
Call (0570) 07-9900 for information about the event.
-Shiozaki is a specialist in kabuki.