Visit japan‘s Oldest Surviving Kabuki Theater
Japan is known for its rich cultural heritage, and one of the most prominent forms of traditional performing arts in the country is Kabuki. Kabuki is a traditional Japanese theater art that dates back over 400 years and continues to captivate audiences with its extravagant makeup, traditional costumes, and exaggerated movements. Among the many Kabuki theaters in Japan, the Former Konpira Grand Theatre, also known as Kanamaruza, stands out as the oldest surviving playhouse in the country.
The history of Kanamaruza dates back to 1835, during the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868). At that time, worship of Konpira, a deity believed to protect seafarers, was flourishing, and many people visited the Kotohiragu Shrine dedicated to Konpira. To entertain these pilgrims, Kabuki performances and lotteries were held, making the theater an important cultural hub.
Kanamaruza has witnessed numerous changes throughout its history. Its name has changed with ownership, but the name “Kanamaruza” has stuck since it was renamed in 1900. After a period of disuse, the building was designated an Important Cultural Property in 1970 as the Former Konpira Grand Theatre. It was then moved to its current location and underwent a four-year restoration period starting in 1972.
Today, Kanamaruza continues to be a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Japan. The theater still stages Kabuki performances during the springtime, attracting both local residents and visitors from all over the country. The experience of watching a Kabuki performance at Kanamaruza is truly unique, as the theater has restored and preserved many of the mechanisms used in the Edo period. These mechanisms, most of which are manually powered, are quite rare to see in modern Japan, adding an extra layer of authenticity to the performances.
A visit to Kanamaruza offers not just the opportunity to watch a Kabuki performance, but also to explore the backstage area and see the dressing rooms, cellar trapdoors, and revolving stage used by the Kabuki actors. The theater provides guided tours in English, led by volunteer guides who are passionate about preserving and promoting the art of Kabuki. These tours offer insights into the history and intricacies of Kabuki, allowing visitors to gain a deeper appreciation for this traditional Japanese art form.
To reach Kanamaruza, visitors can take a 15-minute walk from JR Kotohira Station or Kotoden Kotohira Station. If coming from JR Takamatsu Station, they can take the JR Yosan Line directly to JR Kotohira Station, which takes about an hour. The theater’s location in the scenic town of Kotohira adds to its charm, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the traditional atmosphere of rural Japan.
Aside from the theater itself, there are also other attractions to explore around Kanamaruza. One of the must-see sites is the nearby Kotohiragu Shrine, situated on Mount Zozu. To reach the main shrine, visitors need to climb 785 stone steps, which takes approximately 45 minutes. Along the approach to the shrine, there are many restaurants and souvenir stores, as well as footbaths and hot springs, where visitors can relax and rejuvenate after their climb. Exploring the shrine and its surroundings is a perfect complement to a visit to Kanamaruza, allowing visitors to delve deeper into the cultural heritage of the region.
It’s important to note that the information provided in this article may be subject to change due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it is advisable to check the official website of Kanamaruza for the latest updates and guidelines before planning a visit.
In conclusion, a visit to Kanamaruza, Japan’s oldest surviving Kabuki theater, is a journey into the heart of traditional Japanese culture. From its rich history to its preserved mechanisms and captivating performances, Kanamaruza offers a unique and immersive experience for both locals and international visitors. Whether you are a seasoned Kabuki enthusiast or someone looking to explore the cultural treasures of Japan, a visit to Kanamaruza is sure to leave a lasting impression. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the magic of Kabuki at this historic and culturally significant theater.
Address And Maps Location:
Kotohira-cho, Nakatado-gun, Kagawa-ken