Dancing art: Kabuki and Shibuya

Dancing art: Kabuki and Shibuya

It dawned on me that Kabukiza Theatre was a big deal when I spotted the metro riders decked out in kimonos.

To bookend my ballet excursion with something more local in flavor, I had secured my seat for a matinee performance without knowing what to expect. It turns out that kabuki drama operates as a full-day experience: you can attend three separate performances in a single day, from courtlier eras when the leisurely had no reason to rush.

I settled for just one performance, in two acts: the escape of Yukihime (“Princess Snow”) from a rebellious overlord, followed by a coquettish spring dance themed around irises.

The dancers display their skill through their exaggerated control: each motion deliberate, sustained. I realized it reminded me most of the classical Japanese paintings, with their startlingly still figures — now come to life. The stage tricks delighted (filling a well with blue ribbon for water, scaling a tree trunk with a hidden ladder), to say nothing of the elegantly choreographed battle that concluded the drama.

Kabukiza Theatre, home to classical Japanese drama

It thrilled me to recognize elements from one of my island English classes: a textbook lesson on bento (Japanese lunchbox) traditions had mentioned their place of honour at the theater. Kabuki must be exactly the type of performances where theater-goers fortified themselves with elaborate bento arrayed in lacquered boxes.

As Tokyo’s theater has yet to recover their bento restaurant from COVID restrictions, I pounced on a charmingly presented box at a nearby vendor.

From the theatre, I shot west to Shibuya’s downtown where dwells Cafe Ron Ron (named for the sound of a cat purring). My friend and I had searched SkyTree in vain for a dessert buffet (now closed, perhaps also a casualty of the pandemic), but the idea stuck with me. Intensive googling yielded this conveyor belt restaurant stocked not with the typical plates of sushi, but cakes and cookies.

Since I had trekked to Shibuya, I could hardly skip the Meiji Shrine — its classic square gates had been jumping out at me from Google Maps whenever I searched the city.

Unlike in Kyoto, where some shrines abut busy streets with minimal margin, the builders of the Meiji Shrine had secluded the site in a dense forest of winding paths and leafy green. A welcome sense of calm descended as I approached, though my lack of sympathy for emperor worship deprived the temple itself of any real gravity.

Then I caught the train back to Odaiba, determined to make up for a missed opportunity on Monday: a visit to Small Worlds Tokyo, a museum of miniatures. The elaborate settings range from actual (Paris and Shanghai) to fantastical (Sailor Moon and Gundam Wing), but all mix in aliens and magic. Alongside ordinary citizens stroll yellow blobs; a Pokemon dragon reared its head from the river in Germany. I whiled away the evening there, marveling at the intricate and often slyly comical displays.

Tomorrow is my last day in Tokyo. If the ticket vendors oblige me, I hope it will turn out to be magical…

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