Kabuki: Why It’s the Perfect Choice for Entertaining Overseas Guests

Aiping
Aiping

As globalization continues to advance in the business world, there is a hike in the number of companies and business owners who have increasing opportunities to entertain important customers and business partners from abroad every year.

In an age when all kinds of information are available to some extent on the Internet, it is no longer unusual for even first-time visitors to Japan to be quite knowledgeable about the country.

Even then, since these guests have traveled all the way to Japan, there are many hosts who want to entertain their guests with an extraordinary, memorable experience.

Now, you might be one of many who are wondering, “But what on earth would please them?” Well, let us explain to you the amazing appeal of Kabuki, the ultimate live experience that Japan proudly offers.

Explaining Kabuki to International Visitors

Originally, an Entertainment Performed by a Woman

If you are interested in more information about examples of uniquely Japanese hospitality and cultural experiences, please refer to this article.

Expatriates in Action: Experiencing Authentic Japanese Hospitality and Cultural Insights

In 2009, Japanese kabuki was registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Although kabuki is now performed by all male actors, it is said to have originated in the early Edo period when a woman named Izumo no Okuni would perform dressed as a man.

At that time, there were several types of kabuki, including those with only female actors and those with only boys, but after going through various trends, those performed by “men only” became what we know today as kabuki.

Since the performance is enacted only by men, the women who appear in it are played by actors called “onnagata” who specialize in doing female roles.

Kabuki Actors Are Huge Stars

“Kabuki” is based on the word “kabuku.”

“Kabuku” denoted selfish behavior or eccentricity, and such a person was called a “kabuki-sha.”

They were often glamorously and luxuriously dressed, very conspicuous when walking down the street, and sometimes characterized by their rough actions and words, but on the other hand, they were also immensely admired by the people.

One might say that they were like the rock stars of today.

Kabuki was the first theater to incorporate a performance dealing with the subject of “kabuki-sha.”

As a form of popular theater, kabuki became an instant success when the common people found out they could see plays about kabuki-sha, their beloved superstars that they admired so much.

Features of Kabuki

As can be seen from the kanji, kabuki is composed of three components: “song (music),” “dancing (dance),” and “skill (drama).”

Also, more impressive is the astounding visual impact.

The gorgeous costumes, arrayed in a wide variety of colors, are almost like works of art, showcasing extravagant artistry.

The makeup, drawn in thick, clear lines on a white face, is also unique.

And then there are the facial expressions and body movements that can only be seen in Kabuki, as typified by the “mie.”

Kabuki’s special appeal lies in the fact that it has many unique, distinctive elements, none of which are usually seen outside of kabuki.

Kabuki from an International Perspective

Japanese Cultural Icon that You Can “Go and See”

There are many Japanese icons, like “samurai” and “ninja,” that are recognizable to people abroad, and “kabuki” is also included as one such icon.

Unique costumes centered on Japanese-style clothing, makeup, accessories, and stage design.

Even if it does not move or make a sound, it is a Japanese cultural icon with a powerful presence.

And what Kabuki has that samurai and ninja do not.

It is the fact that even now, in the Reiwa era, kabuki still exists as a profession and anyone can go to see it.

Japanese kabuki continues to attract attention from abroad and is still a representative icon of Japan.

Image of Being “Too Difficult”

On the other hand, just as even Japanese people feel that kabuki is something difficult to visit casually, overseas guests also tend to think of kabuki as something high-class and out of reach.

However, originally, kabuki was a form of popular theater for the common people.

In fact, it used to be something enjoyed by the common people, so much so that people of high rank, such as court nobles and samurai, were not allowed to watch it.

Still, it was so popular that people of high rank deliberately pretended to be commoners to watch the show in secret, and gradually status became irrelevant to kabuki.

The reason why people think it is “difficult” is because it is difficult to understand the content just by watching the performance, which requires some knowledge of the historical background and history of the period if the performance focuses on samurai society or Edo society.

Still, Kabuki Is Cool Japan

“Even Japanese people feel intimidated, so is it really safe to recommend kabuki to overseas customers?”

You may be worried, but rest assured.

There’s no problem.

As I said in the features of kabuki, kabuki consists of “music, dance, and drama.”

Among them, music and dance are things that can be enjoyed by all people around the world, even if you don’t understand the language.

Although it is easy to focus more on the appearance and the story content, kabuki is an art form that can be thoroughly enjoyed just through the audio experience such as the music, sound effects, and footsteps of the performers, as well as the visual experience such as the bold movements, distinctive facial expressions, and the stage sets and costumes that change one after another.

If you want your guests to enjoy the theatrical part of the show as well, the following tips will help them enjoy it even more.

Kabuki Viewing with International Guests

Points to Keep in Mind When Watching Kabuki

We want to entertain people from overseas with Kabuki.

We want guests to enjoy kabuki.

In order to achieve this, there are just two points that we need to keep in mind.

1. Explain viewing manners.

Yes, it is an entertainment style meant for the masses, but there are still manners that should be explained to the guests in advance.

Most VIPs are usually already familiar with the viewing manners at a theater, but by announcing in advance what kind of activities are considered ina appropriate while viewing kabuki, the guests will be able to fully enjoy the show without any worries.

It is quite important that we do our best to remove these small possible worries.

2. Explain the general storyline of the performance.

It is said that there are currently more than 4,000 kabuki plays.

First, it is a good idea to choose a performance that your guests will most likely be interested in watching.

If the guests prefer something traditional, then classical kabuki would be a good choice. If they love anime, they would probably enjoy a kabuki show based on popular anime shows.

In addition, by guiding the guests through the general story before the show, they will be able to follow the flow of the storyline even if they don’t understand every little detail of the spoken lines.

There are also English audio guides, etc., so we recommend taking advantage of those services when appropriate.

Experiencing Kabuki in a Private Setting

When entertaining VIPs or important guests, we strongly recommend the kabuki experience in a private setting.

Unlike viewing a performance on an actual stage, the special private performance will be prepared just for that customer, so it’s a good guarantee that they will thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Also, when the guests see kabuki actors up close, they will be overwhelmed by their impressive power.

Real Kabuki Actors Explain Kabuki

When explained by a real Kabuki actor, it sure sounds convincing, doesn’t it?

Everyone is drawn to each and every spoken word.

Curious guests often ask many questions about training, practice, daily life, and so on.

Kabuki Make-up and Costume Experience

Even if you cannot schedule a time to fully view a kabuki performance, there are still ways for the guests to enjoy kabuki.

For example, how about wearing kabuki costumes and trying on kabuki make-up?

There are so many overseas guests who sincerely want to wear and experience traditional Japanese costumes.

Since dressing up in kabuki costumes and make-up is not something one can casually do anytime, inviting a kimono dresser or make-up artist to actually do them in a private area is a rather luxurious experience, creating very special memories for the guests.

By combining this with a kabuki viewing, the customers can have a renewed appreciation of kabuki by finding out first-hand how difficult it is for the actors to move so smoothly in the heavy costumes.

Photography Sessions that Cheers Up the Guests

Photography is prohibited at Kabuki-za and other theater venues.

You can take pictures anytime during the private viewing, which makes our clients very happy.

So be sure to take many pictures because the visual impact of kabuki is second to none.

I encourage you to take many pictures of the guests with the kabuki actors, and as they experience the costume dressing and make-up.

I am sure that every time they see those photos, they will remember their exciting experience in Japan and the generous hospitality you extended to them with all your heart.

Summary

Kabuki, which boasts a high level of popularity among people overseas, is no longer confined to Japan but is increasingly expanding into the world through performances overseas.

However, it is also true that there is a unique atmosphere and a way of enjoying kabuki that you can only experience in Japan.

For the important lifelong customers that you truly cherish, we want to help you give them a memorable experience with the bold and delicate performance of the kabuki actors and the experience of costume dressing and make-up.

If we also enjoy kabuki together with our guests, it will surely be a memorable and precious time for all.