We had to run through the crowds at Ginza to make the 11 o’clock showing at Kabuki-Za theater. We left Nerima-Ku for the theater over an hour in advance, yet the actors had already entered the stage when we sat.

The theater doesn’t allow people to take pictures during the performance (or even handle a smartphone for that matter), but I snapped some photos of the curtain and theater between acts.

The stage extends beneath the balcony from which I took these pictures, but the opposing balcony had already filled when we got out tickets. As a result, many of the character entrances and some of the action takes place off-stage. This was my 2nd time visiting this theater — the original Kabuki-Za. The first time I saw Kabuki, this theater was under renovation, and the temporary theater had a center stage that afforded full view from everywhere in the theater.

The performance consisted of 3 stories, the details of which I have copied below from the website:

“The Auspicious Confrontation of the Soga Brothers” (寿曽我対面)

This scene is one act of a history play based on the legend of the Soga brothers’ vendetta. In the Edo period, plays about the vendetta carried out by the Soga brothers, Gorō and Jūrō, were performed at times of celebration. ‘Soga no Taimen’, in which the brothers meet their nemesis, has its roots in the earliest of these plays. This play has ceremonial aspects and features each of the important kabuki character types, including the bombastic ‘aragoto’ style of Gorō and the soft ‘wagoto’ style of Jūrō.


“The Young Nobunaga” (若き日の信長)

This classic of post-war kabuki was written especially for Danjūrō XI by the popular novelist Osaragi Jirō. The play shows Oda Nobunaga as a youth, before he became the callous, hardened warrior that conquered Japan. Pressures from within and without force Nobunaga to act aloof from political affairs. His true intentions are hidden from even his closest friends, but his deception leads to the death of his advisor, Hirate.


“‘The Renowned, Proper Young Warrior” (音に聞く誠の若武者)

The last feature of the trio featured the debut of Onoe Maholo I. The blog Kokera Otoshi says the following:

… the grandson of Living National Treasure Onoe Kikugorō is set to make his stage debut under the name of Onoe Maholo I next month. The ten-year old performer was born on 11 September 2012, just a few months before this theatre opened its doors, and is of dual heritage and nationality, being the son of Kikugorō’s daughter, the Japanese actress Terajima Shinobu, and the French creative director Laurent Ghnassia. He belongs very much to the era of “global kabuki” heralded in the commemorative programmes for the Kabuki-za’s opening performances, when the traditional drama anticipated an increase in its acclaim worldwide.

Onoe Maholo I to make his stage debut at the Kabuki-za in May 2023

Of the three pieces, I found the 1st and last the most accessible due to their elaborate dance and fight scenes whereas the modern Nobunaga piece involved more dialogue and consisted of 3 separate scenes with changes of scenery.

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