Hakata-za is a big favorite not only of Fukuoka City residents, but its popularity has spread throughout Kyushu and extends to the rest of the country. Located in Shimokawabata-cho in the city’s Hakata Ward, the theater presents a diverse range of performances from kabuki to musicals, and these offerings change every month. The facility was planned with the objective of revitalizing the once-flourishing artistic sector in Hakata. It was built by the city and is operated by a largely private-sector company in which major regional corporations and Fukuoka City have a capital stake
The theater, which seats 1,500, was designed to be capable of presenting all types of performances. Its facilities include a revolving stage, a hanamichi (elevated runway), a trap cellar underneath the stage, and an orchestra pit. It opened on June 3, 1999, with a performance of Kesori featuring Ichikawa Tanjiro XII, the father of Ichikawa Ebizo. Later performances included Benten Kozo with Onoe Kikugoro VII, the father of Onoe Kikunosuke, and Kyoga no Komusume Dojoji with Sakata Tojuro IV.
It has presented a month-long kabuki performance in June ever since it opened, making it the only theater west of the Kansai area to regularly offer kabuki for a full month. In addition to the June kabuki, it also offers an event known as the funenorikomi, which has quickly become a Hakata early-summer tradition. The funenorikomi is the traditional opening ceremony in which the performers of a kabuki drama board a boat that docks in the area where the performance will be given. This is another tradition that is kept alive only in Hakata and Osaka. The boat will float down the Hakata River that passes next to the theater on Friday, May 29. Don’t miss it!
Tickets to a kabuki performance are rather expensive, which tends to discourage attendance, but the art has what isx known as the makuseki system to generate interest. Under this system, people can buy inexpensive tickets to see only one act. They are sold only for that day’s performance starting at 10:00 a.m. Only 16 seats are available for each performance, however. You can find out more at the Hakata-za website (www.hakataza.co.jp) or in English on our website www.fukuoka-now.com/kabuki
Originally published in Fukuoka Now magazine (fn126, Jun. 2009)