Kabuki

The day after the Nihon Buyo event, we got to go see a Kabuki performance.  The journey there was quite an interesting one.  We were in the middle of a typhoon (not a bad one, but a typhoon, nonetheless) which means there was rain and wind.  Luckily, we didn’t get it as badly as we were supposed to, because, with 5 other people, I biked to the train station.  None of us wanted to pay the 420 yen to take the bus when we could have biked for only the 100 yen parking fee.  Also, by the time everyone got back from the performance, it was unlikely that we would be able to catch the last bus.  So, we set off biking in the pouring rain, umbrellas in one hand, steering with the other, for 2.5 miles.  And this is where I say, thank you, mom, for making me bring that ridiculous poncho with me.  You told me so.  I looked like a lumpy tent on a bicycle holding an umbrella, but I stayed dry the whole way, and everyone was jealous of my hideous style.  We got to the train station just fine, though, and took the trains to the theater.
This is what it looks like on a train in Japan.

The girl who pops in at the end is Lynn.  We actually found out a couple of days ago that we graduated from the same high school (her 4 years before me).  Small world, huh?

We weren’t allowed to use cameras during the performance, so I can’t show you very much, but it was a really interesting experience.  The show is about 3 hours long, and the performance emphasizes what is visually and audibly appealing, rather than on plot or dialogue.  The story was a scene from the famous tale of Yoshitsune, who was a warrior involved in the famous battle between the Heike and Genji clans.  The tale of the rivalry between these two clans was and is very famous, and had stories, performances, poetry, art, etc. created about it.  Yoshitsune, who was part of the Genji clan and helped to overthrow the Heike, was betrayed by his brother and banished, because his brother believed he was going to kill him.  The performance I saw was about a part of Yoshitsune’s travels after his brother betrayed him.  The entire performance spanned only a few things, but the attention to detail was so great that every movement and noise was important.  Kabuki actors spend their entire lives devoting themselves to perfecting the strange and specific facial expressions, bodily movements, and voice wavering that are characteristic to Kabuki.
The scene we saw began with three people from the Heike clan pretending to be a family who owned a boat shop.  These three (a man, a woman, and a child) were actually rulers of the clan (the child was the emperor) and they were housing Yoshitsune without him knowing that they were actually out to get him.  A couple of warriors from the Heike clan came to try to kill Yoshitsune but the main Heike man (boat house owner) wouldn’t let them, because he didn’t want to give away his identity, and is was his life goal to get revenge on Yoshitsune for overthrowing his clan.  The Heike man went out to kill Yoshitsune when they set sail to get him away from the place where his brother would be looking for him to kill him, but Yoshitsune, the typical hero, won the battle.  The battle and death of the main Heike man were incredibly long and detailed, made to showcase his incredible power, but Yoshitsune’s power over even him.  Then, he took 45 minutes to kill himself, and the child emperor (who couldn’t have been over 6 years old and had been standing perfectly still on the stage the entire time) expressed that the Heike man should forgive and appreciate Yoshitsune’s good deed in forgiving him for attacking him.  The end (yes, that was essentially everything that happened in the story, and it took 3 hours).
We spent a lot of time learning about these stories and people in a class I took last year, so I knew all about the story before we even got our introduction.  So, I was really excited.  The stories overall are so incredibly long and complex that even after spending weeks on them in class, I still don’t fully understand them, and I realize a lot of things don’t make sense, but I’ve learned that Japanese stories don’t tend to make much sense.  The experience was really nice, but it’s really one of those once or twice in a lifetime things.  I’m glad I went but I nearly fell asleep a couple of times (so did most everyone in the theater, though).

A character of a stage hand (they come on during the performance to change props and are “invisible.”

A replica of a kabuki actor and costume.  Very accurate.

My ticket and playbook.

The curtain before the show started was so beautiful.  Those little screens with blue writing on either side are where the background musicians’ chants were written, since they were a little bit hard to understand with their specifically wavering voices.
After the performance, we all took trains back to Musashisakai station, where we had left our bikes, and set out to bike home.  But, alas, Kim had forgotten her jacket in the theater.  Someone had asked me if I knew whose it was, and I said I recognized it, but couldn’t remember who it belonged to, so she gave it to someone else, and none of us could remember who.  And, of course, Kim’s bike lock keys were in her jacket pocket.  So, we decided to just carry her locked bike back the 2.5 miles.  After we had gone about 7 yards, we realized we were going the wrong way.  So,  we turned around.  But then Shelby’s tire went flat.  Luckily it wasn’t raining, because from the time we got to the bike lot until the time that Shelby and Kim just decided to leave their bikes overnight and take a cab while me and Lynn rode home it had been about an hour.  It’s a good thing Japan is so incredibly warm, because without a jacket in California at midnight in post-rainy weather, that whole ordeal would have been horrific.
We all got home safe and sound, and Kim got her jacket and keys back.  And now we all keep our keys separate from each other in case we lose one.