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Kabuki Performance "Tenjiku Tokube Ikoku Banashi"

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    October 2019 Kabuki Performance

    Written by Tsuruya Nanboku IV
    Tenjiku Tokube Ikoku Banashi
    (The Strange Tale of Tenjiku Tokube)

    Performance Date
    October 2 (Wed.) - 26 (Sat.)

    Performance Time
    12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. <except 11 (Fri.) and 18 (Fri.)>
    4:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. <11 (Fri.) and 18 (Fri.)>
    *End times are estimates and may vary.

    Nakamura Shikan
    Nakamura Matagoro
    Ichikawa Komazo
    Nakamura Kasho
    Otani Hirotaro
    Nakamura Yonekichi
    Nakamura Hashinosuke
    Nakamura Baika
    Nakamura Matsue
    Bando Yajuro
    Nakamura Tozo
    and others

    Tickets(Tax included)
    [Superior Grade]  Adlut: 11,200 yen (Student: 7,800 yen)
    [1st Grade A]  Adlut: 10,000 yen (Student: 7,000 yen)
    [1st Grade B]  Adlut: 6,500 yen (Student: 4,600 yen)
    [2st Grade A]   Adlut: 5,000 yen (Student: 3,500 yen)
    [2st Grade B]   Adlut: 2,800 yen (Student: 2,000 yen)
    [3rd Grade]     Adlut: 1,800 yen (Student: 1,300 yen)
    Seating plan

    Multilingual portable captioning device rental service
    In conjunction with the October Kabuki Performance being organized as the event sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs National Arts Festival, the rental service for multilingual portable captioning devices (in English, Chinese or Korean) will be available for the audience from overseas to enjoy Kabuki.
    Click here for details.

    *Audio guide: Available for rent in Japanese. Click here for details.
    *Subtitles: No subtitles available.
    *English synopsis is available. It is included in the paid Japanese program.

    【Backstage Tour】Learn the Secrets of Toad Tricks!
    ― Behind the Scenes of Tenjiku Tokube Ikoku Banashi ―

    Booking Opens
    available from Sep. 6, 2019 

    Box Office
     +81-3-3230-3000 (10:00 - 18:00(JST))in Japanese and English
     Internet reservations : https://ticket.ntj.jac.go.jp/top_e.htm

    Counter Sales 
    available from Sep. 7, 2019

    in Japanese


    Japanese toad magic on the stage!
    (by Petr Holý, Adjunct Researcher,
    The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University)

     Even today, 190 years after his death, dramatist Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755-1829) continues to be popular, especially among kabuki theatre-goers, who lust for the unexpected, eccentric and unconventional schemes of plays with raw, bloody, supernatural or vengeful ghosts themes. Even The Strange Tale of Tenjiku Tokube (Tenjiku Tokube Ikoku Banashi) is full of such kabuki-specific quick-change techniques, created by kabuki star Onoe Matsusuke I (1744-1815), for whom Nanboku IV wrote the piece in 1804. If you are willing to learn about and enjoy spectacular stage tricks or gorgeous costumes typical of kabuki theatre, do not miss this performance.

     Modeled after a factual Japanese adventurer of the early 17th century named Tokube (alias Tenjiku, which literally means "India"), the plot takes us out of the Japan of that time. Remember that Japan was under the policy of national seclusion and nobody was allowed to travel abroad from the 1630s. The "real" Tokube went around Asian countries on an armed merchant ship and brought many stories from his adventures back to Japan. After his return, he wrote his experiences. This tale became very popular in Japan and served as the basis of subsequent adaptations for the stage. Reading the story, we who came to Japan from abroad may notice a feeling similar to remembering the novel The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen from 1785, by German writer Rudolf Erich Raspe. Due to the censorship of kabuki plays, Nanboku IV had to change the setting of the play to 200 years in the past, to the Muromachi period under the reign of Yoshimasa, the 8th shogun of Ashikaga clan.

     The senior vassal of the shogun, Sasaki Katsuranosuke, reproached for having allowed a treasure of the clan named Nami-kiri-maru (The Wave Cutting Sword) to be stolen, decided to commit suicide by slitting open his belly. This ritual suicide, known as seppuku, is one of the crucial dramatic devices of kabuki plays. Katsuranosuke was granted a 100 day investigative period and was sent to the palace of Yoshioka Sokan, the chief retainer of the clan. To take Katsuranosuke’s mind off his troubles Sokan sent for "the man at the wheel" Tokube to entertain nobility at Sokan’s premises. Tokube regaled them with his fascinating recollections and tales about foreign countries. Even Tokube’s costume underlined his foreignness – he is literally wrapped in a padded kimono with patterns influenced by the Ainu (the natives of northern Japan). This was certainly a bit peculiar for Japanese people at the beginning of the 19th century.

     As the deadline for the investigation of the lost sword ends with it remaining missing, Sokan allows Katsuranosuke to escape, takes responsibility for him and the missing sword and commits seppuku. Before Sokan dies, he comes out to Tokube with his astounding, eerie secret: he is a retainer of the Emperor of China who unsuccessfully aimed to assassinate the shogun and – Tokube is, in fact, his own son, Dainichimaru. And what is more, he possesses the Sword and hermetic art known as "toad magic". Tokube follows the example of his father and learns how to perform this magic. While striking a magical hand gesture, they use an incantation "haraiso, haraiso" which Nanboku assumed from Christianity’s "eleison" (literaly "have mercy") or "paraiso", "paradise". Christianity was believed to be full of miraculous powers (being oficially prohibited in Japan in the 16th century).

     There was actually a rumor, told to be spread by Nanboku, that Christian "sorcery" was used in the scene, where Tokube disappeares in the real water on the stage, only to reappear after few seconds at a different place, being absolutely dry and changed to a different character. Namboku IV and his people became the subject of an investigation by local government officials, suspected of being privy to Christian magic spells undertaken from hidden Christians. A very nice sample of gifted advertising, was it not? Do not miss one of the most famous and spectacular scenes in the kabuki theatre – Tokube kneeling on and bestriding a monstrous toad, with Sokan’s decapited head low-hanging from his teeth, so he can destroy Sokan’s mansion with magical power. Finally Tokube leaves the stage making an exit called the "six directions", while leaping from one foot to another.

     Distinguished kabuki leading actor Nakamura Shikan VIII and other members of his troupe are teaming up this October at the National Theater of Japan to make their appearance in this, one of the most famous kabuki plays. These performances would be the perfect way to incorporate a little kabuki experience into your trip.