Outdoor kabuki marks Skytree anniversary

by Lindsay Nelson

Special To The Japan Times

To commemorate the second anniversary of the May 22, 2012 opening of Tokyo Skytree, the leading kabuki actors Nakamura Shichinosuke and Onoe Matsuya last Saturday performed the popular dance-based piece “Dango-Uri” (“The Dumpling Sellers”) on an outdoor stage in the Sky Arena at the tower’s base.

The 25-minute show — which followed a stirring set from Musashi, an ensemble of two shamisen players and a taiko drummer — was part of a weekend of special events held at the 634-meter tower, which is Japan’s tallest structure.

Nakamura, one of a select band of actors in the all-male world of kabuki who plays both male and female roles, is perhaps most widely known for his role as Emperor Meiji in Edward Zwick’s 2003 blockbuster, “The Last Samurai.”

This time, in “Dango-Uri,” he played the wife in this depiction of a married couple whose life is simple but contented because they can work together and make others happy with their fare.

Like Nakamura, Onoe comes from a long family line of kabuki artists, and like him too he has appeared in films as well as TV dramas. In November, he is set to perform in the musical “Thrill Me.”

After their stellar display, the two actors (both known for their good looks) shed their makeup and costumes before appearing besuited to face the media.

Nakamura told reporters how he wanted to see kabuki become more of a regular feature of life, explaining, “I’d like it to be cheaper and more accessible because the world is full of people who love kabuki.”

Nakamura and Onoe will appear in the kabuki play “Sannin Kichisa” (“Three Thieves Named Kichisa”) at Theatre Cocoon in Shibuya, Tokyo from June 6-28. For details, call 03-3477-9912 or visit