Live theater isn’t as popular now as it once was. Some claim it is either too expensive, or inaccessible. Perhaps there is a bit of truth there, but theater remains a fascinating form of entertainment that anybody can enjoy. Every June, Hakata-za puts on a series of kabuki performances, an ideal chance to enjoy one of Japan’s quintessential traditional arts in Kyushu. By attending kabuki in person, you can come to appreciate the splendid stage props, costumes, and live shamisen musical accompaniment that is unique to the art, not to mention the powerful performance of the actors.
Hakata-za – Fukuoka’s Grand Theater
From kabuki to modern drama, musicals, takarazuka (all-female musical theater) and more, Hakata-za hosts a set of performances each month from one specific variety of performing art. Equipped with the latest stage mechanics, lighting and sound systems, Hakata-za can put on a broad range of performances. Thanks to the three-story seating arrangement, the visibility of the stage is excellent from every seat. A coming attraction to look out for is “Kyo Kanoko Musume Dojoji” featuring Sakata Tojyuro, a Japanese living national treasure who turns 77 this year.
Inside the Theater
The second-floor lobby bustles with shops selling souvenirs and boxed meals. Pamphlets for the performances are also on sale here, and a quick look at these before the show will help you better understand the stories. Also, there is a restaurant and a café on the floor above, convenient for a quick rest. There are two intermissions during the performance of the June kabuki showing.
The Essence of Kabuki
To the left of the first floor seating area is a walkway called ‘hanamichi’ that leads from the back, up to the stage. Also, there are the omuko, phrases called out to the actors when they take the stage. Examples of omuko include the actor’s yago, or hereditary stage name, and other calls such as “We’ve been waiting for you!” This too is something you can only find in kabuki.
Besides the regular full-program tickets, the hitomaku miken, or one act ticket, for those who wish to watch only a single kabuki program, are an economical way to see kabuki. These tickets go on sale from ten in the morning on the day of the show. There’s also a special discount for students. Twenty minutes before the play starts, students can buy tickets for fifty percent off the standard price, depending upon availability. Inquire at the second floor ticket counter. Student ID is required.
Matinée Performances 昼の部 Start: 11:00
1. “Kotobuki Soga no Taimen” (Jidaimono*) 「寿曽我対面」
Enjoy the traditional style of kabuki theater. Actors’ makeup, and exaggerated muscle movement and facial lines strongly depict each character.
2 “Kyo Kanoko Musume Dojoji” (Buyo dance) 「京鹿子娘道成寺」
Commemorating the 77th birthday of living national treasure, Sakata Tojyuro. An excellent example of kabuki buyo.
3 “Kami Yui Shinza” (Sewamono*) 「髪結新三」
A piece perfectly depicting the typical entertainment area of the Edo Period. Performed in simple Japanese, the play is easy to understand even for those new to kabuki.
Evening Performances 夜の部 Start: 16:40
1. “Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami” (Jidaimono) 「菅原伝授手習鑑」
The performance consists of two acts of “Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami,” one of the kabuki pieces about Sugawara Michizane’s demotion to Kyushu’s Dazaifu. A must see for residents of Fukuoka.
2. “Dattan” (Buyo dance) 「達陀」
A dance taken from the omizutori (water ceremony) of Todaiji. A rare powerful performance about Buddhist monks.
3 “Benten Musume Meono Shiranami” (Sewamono) 「弁天小僧女男白浪」
One of the famous kabuki pieces, filled with Japan’s unique seven-five phrasing. The lines and story are easy to understand, and the stage is exquisite.
*1 Jidaimono – A period play set in an era previous to the Edo Period, portraying the lives of warriors and aristocrats.
*2 Sewamono – A contemporary play depicting the lives of ordinary people during the Edo Period.
Daily,11:00 and 16:40
Tel: 092-263-5555 (Japanese only)
Lines are open from 10:00
Ticket Information チケット情報
Tickets to see all three acts of either the Matinée
or Evening peformance.
A Class: ¥18,000
B1 Class: ¥15,000
B2 Class: ¥12,000
C Class: ¥5,000
Hitomakumi-ken are discounted ‘single act’, C class tickets, only available for purchase after 10:00 on the day of the performance from the Hakata-za Box Office at the theater. Offer limited to one ticket per person.
Act 1: ¥1,400
Act 2: ¥1,700
Act 3: ¥2,000
Act 1: ¥2,000
Act 2: ¥1,200
Act 3: ¥1,900
2-1 Shimokawabata-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
(directly above Nakasukawabata Subway Station, Exit 7. 地下鉄「中洲川端駅」7番出口直結)
Hakata-za offers free headsets which narrate the play in modern Japanese, as opposed to the ancient dialects used on stage. If your modern day Japanese is better than your Edo-era slang, this will help!
Hakata-za has a Kimono Day on June 7th. Turn up in your best kimono to watch the kabuki and receive a small free gift.