Komanosuke Takemoto: a rare voice of tradition

Jan 22, 2014

Komanosuke Takemoto: a rare voice of tradition

by Ayako Takahashi

The traditional performing art of bunraku (ningyō jōruri) involves three puppeteers together operating a cast of single puppets, with a gidayū bushi to the side comprising a story-teller (tayū) and a shamisen player (shamisen- hiki) seated on a round platform (yuka). Originally, the gidayū ...

'Kaz' Kumagai brings tip-top tap to town

Jan 15, 2014

'Kaz' Kumagai brings tip-top tap to town

by Nobuko Tanaka

“Anyone can enjoy being be a tap dancer in their daily life; all you have to do is casually make a rhythm with your feet when you’re walking down the street,” Japan’s leading exponent of the art, Kazunori Kumagai, insists — seemingly oblivious to ...

This special Horse Year kabuki's a real winner

Jan 15, 2014

This special Horse Year kabuki's a real winner

by Rei Sasaguchi

Most kabuki plays have at their core a dramatic historical episode. Around this, there’s generally a colorful, oft-times melodramatic and action-packed confection of intrigues, loyalties, romances, self-sacrifice and villainy founded on varying degrees of fact — or simply fashioned as pure fiction. In “Sanzenryō ...

Jo Kanamori talks dance in Japan

Jan 8, 2014

Jo Kanamori talks dance in Japan

by Nobuko Tanaka

A15-minute drive from Niigata Station, just across the mighty Shinano River pouring into the sea from the Northern Alps, a massive oval-shaped hall sits amid rich green parkland. This is Niigata City Performing Arts Center, aka Ryutopia — the nation’s only public theater with ...

Hop, step and thump

Jan 8, 2014

Hop, step and thump

by Stuart Varnam-Atkin

The audience bursts into applause and a green-, black- and terracotta-striped curtain called the joshiki-maku comes down on a sparkling kabuki performance; rather, it’s rapidly pulled across from stage left to right. But as everyone knows, it’s not time to leave the auditorium, as ...

New York's Apples make a big impression

Jan 8, 2014

New York's Apples make a big impression

by Atsuro Hirota

In the last three months since I arrived in New York to study American drama with a grant from the Asian Cultural Council, a U.S. nonprofit dedicated to international cultural exchange, I have been to the theater more than 70 times — including at ...

Top billings of 2013

Dec 25, 2013

Top billings of 2013

by Nobuko Tanaka

Although all Japan’s 50 reactors have been shut down since September, cleaning up in the wake of the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is making very slow progress and tens of thousands of people still live in temporary ...

Kumakawa blends ballet and business — with panache

Dec 25, 2013

Kumakawa blends ballet and business — with panache

by Kris Kosaka

Being good at business may be “the most fascinating art,” as Andy Warhol said — and few likely know that better than Tetsuya Kumakawa, dancer extraordinaire turned extraordinary businessman. Once the darling prodigy of The Royal Ballet as the first Asian dancer and youngest ...

Maestro steers bunraku classic to its happy end

Dec 25, 2013

Maestro steers bunraku classic to its happy end

by Rei Sasaguchi

For its last bunraku offering of the year, the National Theatre in Tokyo’s central Hanzomon district staged two plays to great acclaim between Dec. 4-16: “Otonomiya Asahi no Yoroi” and “Koimusume Mukashi Hachijo.” Of these, the former is a classic example of the predominant ...

What goes around comes around in Nagatsuka's 'Macbeth'

Dec 18, 2013

What goes around comes around in Nagatsuka's 'Macbeth'

by Nobuko Tanaka

Whether he likes it or not, unassuming Keishi Nagatsuka is widely seen as being foremost among the coming generation in Japan’s contemporary theater world. Though the 38-year-old director, actor and playwright began to stand out after founding the Asagaya Spiders company in his early ...

Miura's sex 'Whirlpool' wows a bashful Paris

Dec 18, 2013

Miura's sex 'Whirlpool' wows a bashful Paris

by Bronwyn Mahoney

Looking around before “Ai no Uzu” began, there was an almost palpable anticipation ahead of our plunge into the realm of young Japanese people’s sex lives. What to talk about while waiting for the orgy to begin? The excitement was less to do with ...