【For Foreign VIPs】5 Enjoyable Traditional Performing Art Experiences in Tokyo
As a Japanese person, we’ve learned about Traditional Japanese Performing Arts as children, and currently, continue to see these traditions being upheld.
Many overseas visitors to Japan want to see Traditional Japanese Performing Arts.
When your boss asks you to entertain his/her friend who is coming to visit Japan, you may find yourself in a pickle when you’re asked to take them to experience traditional Japanese entertainment.
But, how great would you look, if you were able to smoothly arrange a Traditional Performing Arts experience for this VIP client?
If you find yourself in such a situation, here are 5 enjoyable Traditional Performing Art Experiences in Tokyo to show visiting VIPs.
Tokyo and Traditional Performing Arts
Tokyo is a cultural hub and home to a myriad of Traditional Performing Arts.
There are so many theatres where you can enjoy Traditional Japanese Performing Arts.
Even overseas visitors who do not speak Japanese can still enjoy the depth of Traditional Performing Arts in real-time, using subtitles or earphone guides, which many theatres offer.
Tokyo is home to internationally famous theatres such as the Kabukiza Theatre, the National Theatre of Japan, the National Noh Theatre, the Meijiza, and Asakusa Engei Hall.
There are 4 primary Traditional Japanese Performing Arts, theatre, music, dance, and entertainment.
These 4 classifications; theatre, music, dance, and entertainment, actually stem from the Meiji era, which may not adequately reflect the myriad of Japanese performing arts available.
However, current classifications of theatrical performances continue to follow the customary classification of theatre, music, dance, and entertainment.
What is Theatre?
Traditional Japanese theatre includes Noh, Bunraku, Kabuki and Kumi Odori, all of which feature music and dance as important elements.
What is Music?
Traditional Japanese music is very diverse in instruments and genre.
From ancient times to the present day, modern music is the result of the layering of a variety of musical styles of different origin and history.
From storytelling to singing, music is mostly characterized by vocals and the Shamisen.
What is Dance?
Japanese dance includes Kagura and folk dance, passed down within each region. However, the Japanese dancing we see on stage has been refined and developed from one of the most notable Japanese dances, Kabuki, which originated from Kabuki, as well as Kamigata Mai.
What is Entertainment?
This generic term encompasses a variety of vaudeville-like theatre performances, such as Rakugo, Manzai, Rōkyoku, Magic, and Edo-Daikagura.
Their roots can be traced back to Sangaku and Sarugaku from ancient times, however, it became popularized through vaudeville theatre during the Edo period, paving the way for many of the modern performing arts that are presently enjoyed.
It is common in Traditional Japanese Performing Arts for the act type to vary from theatre to theatre.
Essentially, you will only see Noh at a Noh Theatre, or Kabuki at a Kibukiza, or Japanese dance iat a Ryotei.
5 Enjoyable Traditional Performing Art Experiences in Tokyo for Overseas guests and Why these are recommended
We will now introduce a few Traditional Performing Arts that overseas VIPs will enjoy, especially should they want to learn about Japan and have a glimpse into Japanese culture.
The most notable of Traditional Japanese Performing Arts is Kabuki.
In medieval times, it was widely popular as a source of entertainment for commoners.
Thanks to recent collaborations with anime, Kabuki has become something that even younger generations enjoy.
Tickets to see Kabuki are commonly perceived to be hard to get your hands on, and expensive, however it varies depending on the seating location.
It is recommended to purchase tickets as early as possible, to ensure a good view for your VIP guest, with a seat close to the stage.
While the tickets may be expensive, they still sell out quickly.
Depending on the theatre, same day tickets may also available.
Which means, even with short notice, you may still be able to get your hands on some tickets.
There is a same day ticket called “One Act Seats,” which refers to seats or standing-room-only space in the gallery to see only one act of a Kabuki play.
Kabukiza typically have daily performances, with the ‘play’ changing month by month. There is usually one matinee performance and two soiree performances.
Stopping by the souvenir shop in the basement of a Kabukiza is a source of enjoyment in and of itself, and is an opportunity to buy original zori or geta.
It is a good idea to invite your guests to check out the souvenir shop before show time. Goods, sweets, and bento boxes all make great souvenirs.
Renting a special head-set to get commentary in the guests own language before show time si also recommended.
The Japanese used in Kabuki is very classical Japanese, and even native Japanese may have a difficulty understanding it at times.
The head-set not only provides a summary, it also discloses a lot of information that you wouldn’t otherwise not know, just from watching. For example:
- The name of the actors.
- Introduction of relatives of the co-stars.
- The meaning behind the music being played and what it represents.
- Introduction to Backstage.
If you have a general summary as well as the head-set, your guest is sure to appreciate the storyline and the experience much more.
Kabuki is popular not only for the spectacle, but also what you can “learn” from it.
How about wearing a Yukata and trying Japanese dance?
Japanese dance is traditional and unique to Japan, and has been around for about 400 years.
The characteristic elegance and meticulous movements are representative of the Japanese people themselves.
Under the guidance of a Japanese dancer, visitors can learn to dance whilst wearing a Yukata.
Yukatas are a type of traditional Japanese clothing that can be worn easily and comfortably.
A complete set can be rented to participate in this experience.
This is a popular option, as visitors can experience dancing while wearing traditional Japanese clothing.
Experiencing Japanese Entertainment
Experience entertainment, Traditional Performing Arts that flourished during the Edo period.
Witness professional vaudeville-style performances (acrobatics, Kamikiri, Kazuma), that continue to be popular with locals, even today.
Experience acrobatics acts, such as umbrella twirling, creating various shapes with just a pair of scissors and paper, and magic tricks stemming from the Edo period.
Such entertainment performances that use various props are also popular experiences.
Appreciating and Experiencing Noh
Through Noh, visitors to Japan are able to witness how various gods are woven into everyday life in Japanese culture.
Rooted in Noh culture and different from regular performances, “Okina” is performed using ceremonial music, and “Ema Nyotai” focuses on various Japanese gods.
You can also experience altar rituals as well as a backstage tour after the performance, something you are unable to experience from a regular seat.
In this way, Noh is a popular option to learn about the unique Japanese Shintoism.
Appreciating and Experiencing Taiko Drums
The deep sounds of hits and strikes.
The accompanying yells of “Let’s go!” and “Yes!”
This popular experience allows visitors to feel the force and momentum of Japanese culture.
On-site services are also available so that the customer doesn’t have to travel.
Private Performance Viewing
In Japan, where the culture wholeheartedly takes care of guests, another option is to rent out a space in which visitors can enjoy Kabuki, Japanese dance, or entertainment privately. For such VIP visitors, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
What do you think?
Having a visiting guest or associate enjoy Traditional Japanese Performing Arts is something that makes us all happy as well.
By “experiencing” instead of just “watching,” our hope is that visitors can enjoy themselves, whilst learning more about Japan and our culture through Traditional Performing Arts.