Kabuki is a traditional Japanese performing art with a history of over 400 years, and has been selected as a UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Kabukiza Theatre in Ginza is a theater dedicated to Kabuki.
At Kabukiza, not only can you enjoy various plays and dances with a ticket, there is also an underground plaza for shopping. Along with high-rise office building called Kabukiza Tower adjoined at the back, it makes up a multi-use development centered on the theater.
Fifth Generation Building
Opened in 1889, the current Kabukiza Theatre building is now in its fifth generation. It has been burned down and rebuilt many times over the years.
The second basement level is directly connected to Exit 3 of the Higashi-Ginza subway station, but to see the exterior of the Kabukiza Theater, it is better to go above ground from Exit 4. This will take you to the sidewalk on the other side of the street, where you can capture the entire Kabukiza building in your camera. However, cars passing on the street may appear in your viewfinder, so be sure to take advantage of the limited shutter opportunities.
Single Act Ticket
Kabuki is divided into a number of acts (chapters), and the performance time can exceed four hours. In order to make it easier for first-time visitors and foreign tourists to enjoy kabuki, there are single-act seats where you can choose just one act to watch.
Some of the acts are shorter than 20 minutes, and the prices are reasonable. Tickets are only available on the day of the performance, so even if you decide to go the day before, you can still get a ticket if you line up early enough. However, don’t forget to bring your opera glasses because the single act seats are in the back.
Kabuki Inari Daimyojin
To the right of the main entrance to Kabukiza Theatre is the Kabuki Inari Daimyojin.
It is enshrined to pray for the safety and success of Kabuki performances, and is worshipped by Kabuki actors and concerned parties. Before it was rebuilt, it was surrounded by a wall and the public was not allowed to visit, but it was moved to its current location during the renovation of Kabukiza in 2013 so that the public could visit freely. Red seal stamp is also available at ‘Souvenier Shop Rakuza’ on the 5th floor of the Kabukiza Tower.
This is a souvenir shopping street located on the second basement floor of the Kabukiza. It is directly connected to Exit 2 of the Higashi-Ginza subway station, and anyone can enter.
In addition to Kabuki-related souvenirs, the shops also sell Japanese sweets, Japanese hand towels, and other standard Japanese souvenirs, making it a popular destination for tourists visiting Japan. There are also coffee shops and restaurants, so it is convenient to stop by during your shopping trip in Ginza.
On the fifth floor, there is a rooftop garden. It is a relaxing space with a lawn and monuments related to Kabuki, such as the ‘Monument of Predecessors’ and ‘Stone Lantern and Washing Basin of Mokuami’.
In front of the garden is the Kabukiza Gallery, which opened in 2013. Although there is a fee, this is a hands-on facility where visitors can touch props and other items used in actual kabuki performances, making it an easy way for tourists and those who have never seen kabuki to experience the culture.
The exhibit is only available in Japanese, but there is also an English pamphlet with the same information.
Next to the garden, there is a bright vermilion Goemon Staircase that takes you down to the fourth floor. The name ‘Goemon Staircase’ comes from the famous line of Ishikawa Goemon in a Kabuki play, “What a magnificent view, what a magnificent view”.
From the stairs, you can see the tiles of the Kabukiza’s large roof up close. Embedded on the roof tiles are the symbol of the Kabukiza, the phoenix. There is one tile that has the phoenix’s face facing the opposite direction, and it is said that if you find it, you will be blessed with happiness.
If you continue down the stairs, you can see a display of models of past Kabukiza theaters, titled ‘Fourth Floor Corridor – Memories of Kabukiza’. Stage photographs of Kabuki actors of the past are also on display.