The Rat Burglar (鼠小僧)

  • Kabuki: 鼠小僧  (The Rat Burglar)

3/6/15 (Fri), film

I managed to get myself switched to an All Nippon Airways flight to New York when my United flight was suddenly cancelled. One advantage was a good selection of Japanese films, and I was surprised to see some Kabuki selections. I had avoided this particular 2003 production before since I didn’t want to spend money on Noda Hideki, who wrote and directed it. But it was a big hit, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to know what was out there. And at free, the price was right.  Continue reading

Kabuki: Bancho Sarayashiki, Kurozuka (番町皿屋敷, 黒塚 )

  • Kabuki: 番町皿屋敷, 女暫、黒塚 (Bancho Sarayashiki, Onna Shibaraku, Kurozuka)

1/16/15 (Fri), Tokyo

Bancho Sarayashiki is based on a famous ghost story where the evil samurai Aoyama Harima, having been rejected by his young servant Okiku, tricks her into thinking that she has lost one of the family’s ten valuable Korean dishes, a capital crime. She frantically counts over and over, but only finds nine. He then murders her and throws her down a well. She comes back as a ghost to haunt him, always counting up to nine and then shrieking. That story was evidently adapted into Bunraku puppet theater, where the cruelty factor was upped considerably, and that version was then turned into a short-lived Kabuki piece.

The version this month, though, is a New Kabuki adaptation by Okamoto Kido in 1916, which takes a significantly different approach to the ghost story – for one thing, it has no ghosts. Continue reading

Noh: Tsunemasa (経政)

Noh: 経政 (Tsunemasa)

9/14/14 (Sun), Karasumori Hachiman Shrine

This was an evening show being performed at a neighborhood shrine as part of an annual festival. I had hoped for candlelight rather than artificial lighting, especially since it’s called for in this case in the script itself, but I guess fire laws (and common sense on a wooden stage) prevailed.  Continue reading

Noh: Mochizuki (望月)

Noh: 望月 (Mochizuki)

11/20/16 (Sun), Tokyo

Mochizuki belongs to a class of Noh works that actors aren’t allowed to do until they are deemed ready by their elders. As such, the lead’s performance was a big honor for him. In a lecture on the show a week earlier, he noted that the story was basically scratched out some centuries ago to give young performers a chance to do the popular lion dance from an even-higher ranking show called Shakkyo. Here it’s presented as a show within a show, so technically doesn’t violate the hierarchy keeping the unworthy actors from the lions, a very Japanese compromise — though the fact that this show is now itself a ranked show is ironic.  Continue reading