Friday, February 22, 2013
New Kabuki-Za To Bring Tradition, Innovation Together
TOKYO (Nikkei)--The Kabuki-za theater in Tokyo's Ginza district is scheduled to reopen on April 2, emerging from a complete overhaul that has taken more than two years.
- The new Kabuki-za theater has been designed to preserve the look of its predecessors, but with a 29-story tower attached to it.
The new theater, part of a complex that includes an office building, is more than just a stage for kabuki. The complex is intended to become a new hot spot for Ginza that incorporates the tradition of the classical art form and the cutting edge of business infrastructure.
The first Kabuki-za was built in 1889. It has been demolished or destroyed four times since -- by fire, wartime bombs and other disasters. This fifth Kabuki-za is scheduled to finish construction on Feb. 26 and officially open on April 2.
The new theater will look much the same as the previous structure that was built in 1950 in traditional Japanese architectural style, characterized by a large, tiled roof. But unlike previous versions, right behind it rises a 29-story office tower.
Shochiku Co. (9601), which owns the theater, decided to add rental office space to the new theater to secure a stable source of income through office rent, as revenue from the entertainment business can fluctuate, according to a senior official at the company.
There is a so-called Ginza Rule, an unofficial agreement that no building in the district can exceed 56 meters in height. But Shochiku received special permission to put up a building taller than this, provided the project also contributes to the preservation and inheritance of traditional culture.
The main tenants of the office tower include Dwango Co. (3715), which runs the popular Nico Nico Douga video-sharing website. The company, which plans to move its head office to the tower in July, has expressed an interest in helping support kabuki. The Nico Nico Douga site distributes a wide variety of videos, including ones featuring sumo wrestling and the board games of go and shogi. It now wants to use its site to show kabuki performances online, a Dwango manager said.
The theater has also been working with Ginza-based companies to introduce a range of kabuki-inspired products at gift shops. It will sell chocolates flavored with green tea powder made by Wako Co. The Ginza Co., a subsidiary of cosmetics maker Shiseido Co. (4911), came up with facial oil-blotting paper featuring the mythical firebird, the Kabuki-za's symbol.
Shochiku is also focusing on offering more information on kabuki. To encourage foreign tourists to see shows, it has developed LCD panels that display subtitles and story explanations, instead of conventional audio guides. These will be available in Japanese and English at first, with plans to add more languages in the hope of boosting the ratio of overseas attendees to more than the current 10% or so.
On April 24, Shochiku will open the Kabuki-za Gallery inside the tower, exhibiting kabuki-related objects such as costumes and stage sets.
"Initially, we would be very happy to see a crowd come just to look at the appearance of the theater," Shochiku Managing Director Masato Takenaka said, adding that the most important point is that a great number of people will become interested in kabuki.
(The Nikkei, Feb. 20 morning edition)