A stunning showcase of traditional Japanese performing arts took place recently at the ‘foreigner-friendly’ National Theatre of Japan in the Hanzomon district of Tokyo.
The event was sponsored by the Japan Cultural Expo, a nationwide festival presenting a year-round program of the arts. The Cultural Expo’s goals include making Japan into a stronger arts and culture hub, and leveraging that for economic growth. It is developing and presenting major programs of the Japanese arts, from traditional to the contemporary, such as anime and manga.
The event was titled “Moon, Snow and Flowers: Performing Arts Celebrating the Natural Beauty of Japan” and the programme incorporated numerous performances that did just that.
It used traditional Japanese arts, from stage pieces and ensemble orchestration to singing and solo instrumentation. There were 12 performances in all, four each in the Moon, Snow and Flower categories. The live presentations were augmented by projections on screens on either side of the stage. The images represented traditional Japanese drawing and painting styles while complementing the live production.
The show kicked off with an engrossing rendition of the Kabuki piece “Hagoromo” by the legendary Kabuki actor Kikunosuke Onoe, easily the most recognized performers on the stage that day. Onoe was born into the Otowaya family famous for producing a long line of Kabuki actors. He made his first stage appearance in 1984 and has won numerous awards, including the Yomiuri Theatre Awards’ “Best Performance by an Actor” twice. “Hagoromo” is based on the Japanese performing art Noh and tells the story of a heavenly maiden who comes from the moon and dances wearing the eponymous light and airy celestial robe. Musical accompaniment to the piece was provided by an ensemble of Japanese traditional instruments including shamisen and taiko drums.
The rest of the show was both breathtaking and beautiful and certainly did much to broadcast the very high standard of traditional Japanese entertainment.