Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo’s Ginza, the center of the traditional performing art that is on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritages, was closed on April 30. It will revive in the spring of 2013 with new buildings. Toward the end of the 16-month long Kabukiza Farewell Performances, which started in January 2009, the theater, known for its conspicuous Japanese style, was thronged with kabuki fans.

On April 28 fans formed a long line to buy tickets at the door for special seats to see just one act of a kabuki play. The audience’s emotions reached a high point when actor Nakamura Kanzaburo said from the stage, “Let’s see more dreams at a new Kabukiza.” The last performance was held on April 30 under the name “the ceremony to mark the closing of Kabukiza.”

The original Kabukiza opened in 1889 at the initiative of Genichiro Fukuchi (1841-1906), a journalist, playwright and theater reformer. In 1911, it was remodeled, with Japanese styles stressed. An electrical problem caused a fire that burned it down in 1921. In 1924, a Kabukiza with a style similar to the present Kabukiza was built. A May 1945 air raid badly damaged it. The present Kabukiza was completed in January 1951.

Although kabuki is very popular at present, few fans patronized it for many years after World War II. It was only in September 1989 that performances of kabuki plays started each month of the year at Kabukiza. The debut of new stars and enhanced interest in traditional Japanese culture have contributed to kabuki’s revival. Kabuki also has become popular abroad. In a sense, the coming three years offer a good chance for kabuki actors to cultivate more fans as they hone their artistic skills and perform at various places across Japan.

The new, barrier-free Kabukiza will have about 2,000 seats, about the same as the present facility. Its facade will basically maintain the current style. Behind it will stand a 29-story office building. Hopefully, it will not only attract more people to kabuki but also help fill Ginza with an air of festivity in good taste.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.