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The Beginners Guide to Watching Kabuki in Japan

The beginner’s guide to buying a Kabuki play ticket

For those who are new to Kabuki(歌舞伎), you may be wondering where you can buy a ticket to see a performance, or whether there is English language assistance available. This article will guide you through these questions and more, so be sure to check out the information below.

It’s difficult to find where to buy Kabuki tickets, particularly if you wish to reserve using English language resources. Below we introduce a website where Kabuki tickets can be booked in English.

We recommend the Shochiku website “KABUKI” to buy Kabuki tickets. The reservation and purchase can all be made in English. Once the reservation is made, the time table of the performances are confirmed, and there are explanations of the Kabuki play contents and points to look out for.

Respecting the art of Kabuki – introducing Kabuki etiquette

Kabuki may seem like a high brow art form and a little intimidating at first, but if you know the simple etiquette points, you will easily be able to enjoy the performances. We introduce the most important points of Kabuki etiquette below.

Ensure that all mobile phones are switched off

If a phone rings, it can disrupt the concentration of other audience members and the atmosphere of the play. Particularly for Kabuki, the artistic use of sound is very important, therefore, it is best to ensure that phones are off so that they do not interrupt the performance.

Chatting and making other sounds is prohibited

It is best to leave sharing your thoughts about the play with your friends until after the performance. Also, while small snacks can be brought into the premises, the sound of rustling through plastic bags can be disturbing to others during the performance, as the audience will generally be silent.

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Photography and recording is prohibited

It is understandable that you may wish to preserve the memory of the Kabuki performance by recording it, but this is not permissible in any circumstance. The beauty of the performance is better to be etched in your mind’s memory rather than that of a smart phone or camera!

Ensure that you arrive to your seat in plenty of time

If one arrives late, the stage becomes dark which can make arriving to your seat dangerous when navigating the steps, and can disturb other audience members. Therefore, we recommend that you always arrive with some time to spare. While there is some variation, the spaces between seats in Kabuki theatres are also generally quite small. There is often not much room to place large pieces of luggage, so we recommend that you store these in the lockers provided outside the stage. If on the off chance you feel unwell during the performance, ensure that you take all that you need with you and make a discreet exit.

In order to fully appreciate the performance and its historical context, it is recommended that you read the explanation of the play content in the handouts provided. If it is not possible to read this guide, it is also possible to purchase an audio guide which will explain the performance in real time as you are watching it. Below we explain where you can purchase these audio guides where earphones are provided.

Where to hire real time audio explanation guides

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There are certain audio guides that you can borrow which will explain in real time the actors, roles, clothing, props, music, historical context and particular aspects to Kabuki. These are timed so that they do not interrupt the characters themselves, but instead provide additional explanations during moments of silence, for example, explaining the context to a line uttered by a character directly after the line is said.

Audio guides can normally be borrowed at the Kabuki hall entrance or lobby, where a designated place to hire them is provided. All you need to do is to set the volume and place the earphones in your ear, and you are ready to go – no other adjustments or settings required. The audio guide also explains what will be coming up in the performance prior to it starting, as well as during the performance. The earphones can be returned to the relevant staff after the performance. Please be aware that English audio guides in Tokyo Kabuki theatres are limited, so please check beforehand. The rental fee is around 700 yen.

We hope this article helped you learn more about Kabuki and its etiquette, and that you are now armed with all the knowledge you need to enjoy Kabuki!

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S.Carly

S.Carly

Author & Editor