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Things to do / Traditional festivals

Traditional Japanese entertainment joins the digital age

Throughout Japan, traditional stage performances, such as kabuki, noh, rakugo (comic storytelling) and dance shows featuring geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha), have been called off as a result of the spread of COVID-19. Some productions, however, are scheduled to make the leap from stage to screen — computer screen that is — which will surely help you pass the time at home if you need to self-quarantine.

Shochiku Co. Ltd., a titan of traditional entertainment, had to cancel its kabuki performances at three of its venues in March. However, on April 6, the company added to its YouTube channel a taped discussion with kabuki actors who would have made appearances in the March program at Meijiza, a theater in Chuo Ward, Tokyo (https://bit.ly/3a92e8t; available until April 26).

From April 13 to 19, a staging of “Super Kabuki II: Shinpan Oguri” (https://bit.ly/2VrXpSg) will also be available online. The production, which was originally scheduled to run at Kyoto’s Minamiza in March, brings a modern flair to the traditional art with eye-catching stage lighting and set designs.

And that’s not all. The March program at Kabukiza in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, which consists of five plays including “Shin Usuyuki Monogatari” (“The New Tale of Usuyuki”) and “Kajiwara Heizo Homare no Ishikiri” (“The Stone Cutting Feat of Kajiwara Heizo”), will also go online via the Shochiku YouTube channel from April 17 to 26 (https://bit.ly/3eqcTPh).

Kabuki fans should also check out the YouTube channel for the National Theatre, Tokyo (https://bit.ly/3clVNQH), which will feature stagings of the classical piece “Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura” (“Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees”). It will be available to stream until 3 p.m. on April 30.

Meanwhile, those who prefer noh should take note of the things the Kanazawa Noh Association is doing. The latter half of “Funa Benkei” (“Benkei Aboard Ship”) ― a story in which the namesake warrior monk battles the evil spirit of a hostile samurai ― will be available to watch online until the end of April (https://bit.ly/3ckK7O5).

All of this streamed content will only have Japanese subtitles, if any, so be sure to read up on the shows in English via their official websites before watching the videos. (Yuki Yamauchi)

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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