Traditional Japanese theatre has developed and advanced greatly throughout its rich history. Noh, Kabuki and Bunraku are the three main style variations. Each has a specific purpose and roots in its own cultural style. The varying themes include violence, love, religion, elegance and more. There is a surely a show for everyone to enjoy. We’ve put together a list of some of the most luxurious venues to view traditional Japanese theatre, both in the United States and Japan.
National Noh Theatre (Tokyo)
This theatre, located in Tokyo, is one of the most spectacular in the world. With openings on all three sides and open-area seating, the National Noh Theatre was constructed in 1983 from 400-year-old bishu cypress trees. However, its technology additions are what really make this theatre modern. Each seat is accompanied by a subtitling system that allows the viewer to change from Japanese to English simply by touching a button. Noh is the most refined of Japanese theatre and is known for being performed in masks to the aristocracy. The plays often last all day and come from the root words “skill” and “talent”. Looking for a place to stay during your visit to Tokyo? See our list of favorite destinations in the city here.
The Aratani Theatre (Little Tokyo)
Located in the historic Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, the Japanese American community (JACCC) aimed to create a home for their arts and culture to keep it alive for future generations. The Aratani Theatre is made up of 880 seats along with a customized Bose sound system. It has been a cultural pillar for the Japanese community since its grand opening in 1983.
Most of the funds were raised by two Japanese ambassadors to the United States. With a total cost of $6.4 million to build, the Aratani Theatre brings the vibrancy of traditional Japanese culture to Los Angeles. It is also the first theatre venue to use the advanced Bose RoomMatch sound system to improve acoustics. However, one of the most unique parts of this theatre is the customized curtain (or “doncho”) made in Kyoto, Japan from handwoven silk. The design features a vibrant peacock flying over a slew of cherry blossom petals. The Aratani Theatre offers a great viewing experience from all seats with excellent vocals throughout the theatre.
Minami-Za Theatre (Kyoto)
Source: Japan Info
Located in the heart of Kyoto, Japan, the Minami-Za Theatre is the oldest Kabuki theatre in the country. With more than one thousand seats, it is unique with a runway-style stage that also revolves. There is also a trap-door feature to lift the performers. The Kaomise Festival, which takes place every December, is the largest event of the year and highlights some of the best Kabuki actors in the nation. Kabuki is the populist form of traditional Japanese theatre, with its more major advancements occurring between the 1600-1800’s. While it began as an art form solely performed by women, it has now developed into men performing the roles of women. The Minami-Za Theatre offers irregular opening hours with entrance fees depending on the show so be sure to visit their website before coming to a show.
Whether you have a favorite style of traditional Japanese theatre or are experiencing the art for the first time, these three theatres are breathing new life into this age-old tradition. With the option of seeing a show in your own state or traveling all the way to Japan, you can see how strongly this art form has been influenced by both dance and movement throughout the years. What style of traditional Japanese theatre will you choose?