TAKAMATSU, KAGAWA PREF. – Takuko Yamamoto, 95, has helped liven up spring kabuki performances in the town of Kotohira, Kagawa Prefecture, for nearly 30 years by making boxes of confetti to be thrown over the heads of performers during pre-opening parades every year.
Yamamoto was also responsible for taking calls and tending the backstage baths during performances until two years ago. She is unable, however, to see kabuki performances this year after developing cataracts.
But she said she wants to continue making confetti “as long as I can move my hands.”
Yamamoto was born and grew up near Kanamaruza, or Kyu Kompira Oshibai (Old Kompira Grand Theater), which was built in 1835. As Japan’s oldest playhouse, it has been designated an important national cultural property.
She offered to support the theater’s spring performances, which are known as Shikoku Kompira Kabuki Oshibai, and started in 1985, after having worked for years as a nurse.
“I was very excited as I was able to see my favorite performers and loved that Kanamaruza was restoring its popularity,” she said.
Yamamoto, who became close to performers and backroom staff over the past quarter-century, is now loved as “a grandma who knows much about the history of Kanamaruza,” according to officials of the theater.
She was even invited by Nakamura Kanzaburo, a charismatic kabuki master who died last December, to go up on stage on the final day of his performance and was introduced to the audience.
Yamamoto chooses fliers made of soft paper for confetti so it will not hurt performers’ faces when they are showered with it. She cuts the paper into pieces using scissors one or two hours every night while watching TV.
It usually takes a year to make enough confetti — about two boxes’ worth. The colorful confetti is packaged into small bags and distributed to fans on the streets.