Monday, March 31, 2014

Minamiza March 2014 Performance

Unlike Kabukiza in Tokyo, Kyoto's Minamiza and Osaka's Shochikuza do not hold kabuki performances year-round.  When I saw that there would be a performance at Minamiza during my visit to Kyoto, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to attend!

During March, there were two performances each day.

The matinee performance featured Fubuki Toge (The Snowbound Pass), Suo Otoshi (The Dropped Coat), and Yowa Nasake Ukina no Yokogushi (Scar-faced Yosaburo).

I attended the evening performance which included:

Gohiki Kanjincho (The Subscription List of Theatre Patrons)
Description from Minamiza's English website:  “Gohiiki Kanjincho” was first performed in 1773 as a lavish kaomise play. “Kaomise” was the first play of the new season and was not only the occasion when theatres showed off the new line up of stars for the season, but also had a variety of rules and rituals. Among these was that if a member of the Ichikawa Danjuro line was appearing, the play would feature the routine “Shibaraku!” where a superhuman hero stops the villain by calling out “shibaraku,” or “wait a minute!” “Gohiiki Kanjincho” not only features “Shibaraku,” but also features an early version of “Kanjincho (The Subscription List,)” now, one of the most famous plays in kabuki.  In “Kanjincho (The Subscription List)” the wise and powerful Benkei gets his master Yoshitsune through a barrier gate by using his wits. “Gohiiki Kanjincho” relies on the very old aragoto style of acting for a leisurely and comic version of the same story. Benkei gets his master Yoshitsune through the barrier by pretending to be very weak and allowing himself to be tied up. He cries like a baby when he is tormented by the barrier attendants. But when Benkei recognizes that his master is safe, he explodes with energy, showing off the bombastic aragoto style of acting. He breaks the ropes and pulls off the heads of the attendants, tossing them into a barrel and washing them like a bunch of potatoes.
Seeing these versions of two of the most famous aragoto-style plays was a real treat.  Onoe Shoroku was truly larger than life as Kumai no Taro in Shibaraku and Benkei in Kanjincho.  The "potato washing" scene was unexpectedly funny.

Kyokanoko Musume Dojoji (The Maiden at Dojoji Temple)
Description from Minamiza's English website:  A beautiful young woman dances under cherry blossoms at a dedication ceremony for a temple bell. She dances the many aspects of a woman in love, but is actually the spirit of a serpent, driven to destroy the bell out of jealousy. This is the most famous of all kabuki dances and considered to be the pinnacle of the art of the onnagata female role specialist.
I have seen Musume Dojoji performed by Tamasaburo Bando, and Musume Ninin Dojoji performed as a duet by Tamasaburo Bando and Kikunosuke Onoe.  It seemed appropriate to now see Kikunosuke perform Musume Dojoji.  His movement and expression are elegant and beautiful. While my favorite dance play is Sagi Musume, I never pass up an opportunity to see Musume Dojoji because the range and mastery of dance techniques it requires is both inspiring and breathtaking. 

I was running late to this performance, so I didn't have time to take photos of the beautiful interior.  For visitors with disabilities, keep in mind that Minamiza's last interior update was in 1991, so it is less accessible than Kabukiza.  The goods area, while small, carries quite a few actor-related goods which I found to be lacking at Kabukiza.

There are no English listening devices available.  However, the program book does include an English-language section including a cast list and description of each play.

Minamiza can be reached by bus, subway, or taxi.  If you are coming from Kyoto Station, I would recommend taking a taxi which is much more affordable in Kyoto than it is in Tokyo.  I took the subway and it required a transfer and a lot of waiting as the trains don't run frequently.  Due to Hanatorou (Spring Illumination) in the nearby Higashiyama area, the bus queues were very long.

If you happen to be in Kyoto between April 24th-29th, there is a special 30-minute tour of Minamiza called "Experience the Stage of Minamiza" where you can get a close look at the kabuki stagecraft, including the hanamichi (flower path/runway and namesake of this blog), trap doors, and revolving stage.  Tours are Japanese-language only.

After the performance, I stopped to pay my respects at the nearby statue of Okuni, the founder of kabuki.  

I'm looking forward to attending more performances at Kyoto's Minamiza Theatre!

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