Experience Kabuki Performances at Tokyo's Kabukiza

Photo: GanMed64 on Flickr

Experience Kabuki Performances at Tokyo's Kabukiza

Bjorn Koolen

Even though it originally started as a “pop-culture” in the age of samurai, today the art of singing and dancing, or kabuki, has become one of Japan’s most significant performing arts. The first time I went to see a kabuki play in Tokyo I truly loved the experience, yet with an average performance length being between 3 to 4 hours while being seated quite uncomfortably if you are tall like me made me hesitant to go again. That is, until I found out about single act tickets, so-called Hitomaku-mi, which allow you to just watch one act of the performance lasting about an hour. Additionally, these tickets are highly affordable at around 2,000 yen, compared to the significantly higher cost of full performance tickets.

Toshiyuki IMAI on Flickr

These single act tickets are only available in Tokyo’s Kabukiza, which is a bit of a shame to be honest, although if you are visiting Japan it just means you have to plan it during your time in Tokyo. Every day about six acts are performed at Kabukiza, equally divided over the morning and evening sessions. The morning acts are three independent short stories on their own and are the best to see if you want to experience kabuki. The evening performances include an opening act followed by a full story which you could split over two evenings if you wish to do so as the performance will be running for several weeks.

The Kabukiza in Tokyo. Photo by Ballet Lausanne on Flickr

Apart from this there are a few other things to take into account when thinking of buying a single act ticket. The tickets are only sold on the day of the performance at the Single Act Box Office to the left of Kabukiza’s main entrance. The sales are conducted in order of the acts sequence which means you cannot reserve in advance and have to buy a ticket within a certain timeframe. Furthermore, a person can only buy one ticket and this ticket is non-transferable. Parents should also be aware that children under the age of 6 years are not allowed to enter the theatre in general.

Although there are 90 seats and 60 standing spots for the single act area on the top floor of the hall, it does pay off to buy your ticket early as you will be entering the hall in the order of your purchase. This essentially comes down to those who bought their ticket the earliest will have seats while the later ones will have to stand. This should, however, not be a major issue as you have to arrive 20 minutes before the act starts. This gives you plenty of time to have lunch in one of the many amazing café’s and bistros in the area after you have bought your ticket.

Kabukiza seating

Photo by urasimaru on Flickr

When you enter the theatre you have the option to rent an English audio guide of the actor’s script for a small additional fee of 500 yen and a refundable deposit of 1,000 yen. Once you have found a nice spot to enjoy the performance you will be informed that it is strictly forbidden to take any photographs or recordings during the play and although eating and talking is allowed between acts please refrain from doing so during the performances.

More information about the performances currently featured at the various kabuki theatres can be found on the official kabukiza website.