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Japan: Kabuki Theatre to be Rebuilt

One of the most recognizable buildings in Japan, the grand, old Kabuki-za in Ginza is closing this month. It will be torn down and become a theater and office complex with direct connections to the subway station. Be sure to click this link to see a sketch of the planned exterior. It's the third image on the page, you can't miss it.

Kabuki-za at night by Ali San

Kabuki-za at night by Ali San

The Kabuki-za opened in 1889. The current theater was built in 1951 after the previous building was burned down by U.S. Air Forces during World War II.

Shochiku Company, Limited, the landowner and operator of the theater started talks of rebuilding in 2005. The main reason given for the construction is that the building doesn't have sufficient protection against natural disasters, especially earthquakes.

The theater, a cultural landmark, is registered as a Tangible Cultural Property.

kabukiza*West Wing(3F) by tenugui

kabukiza*West Wing(3F) by tenugui

Shochiku ran a series of “farewell performances”. Yoko Ishikura lined up for one and remarks:

I thoroughly enjoyed watching both shows, and did not mind standing for over 3.5 hours altogether. Beauty and art is so inspiring that you feel that the life is worth living.

An electronic countdown clock was set up in front of the theatre, where many people took photos. Yuzu says:

歌舞伎がずーっと後世へと引き継がれるには、今建て替えが必要なんですよね。

どのように生まれ変わるのか楽しみですね

I understand that it's necessary to rebuild the theater for Kabuki to be passed to the next generation. I look forward to seeing it complete!

L-Komachi:

私にとって、現在の歌舞伎座で観る、最後の歌舞伎になります。歌舞伎座前のカウントダウン時計の残り日数も一桁になっていました。歌舞伎座の前で、建物やカウントダウン時計を記念撮影している人も多かったです。[…] 「御名残四月大歌舞伎」を全3部を観て、改めて、歌舞伎の面白さを再認識しました。歌舞伎座は建て替えのためしばらく休場となりますが、歌舞伎は見続けることになると思います。

This will be last performance that I see at the current Kabuki-za. The countdown clock is down to one digit, and many people were taking photos in front of the building and the clock. […] Watching the three acts of the “April Farewell to Kabuki-za” made me realize yet again the joy of Kabuki. Kabuki-za will be closed for a while, but I will keep on watching Kabuki.

How will we feel in 2013 when the renovation is complete and we gaze up towards the 20+ office floors glittering right above our beloved Kabuki-za?

Blogger gohermes is reminded of The Executive Centre Tokyo Bankers Club Building (東京銀行協会ビル) in the Marunouchi area. This building has the unfortunate moniker of “scab architecture” (かさぶた建築) and Kyo wonders:

The Executive Centre Tokyo Bankers Club Building

The Executive Centre Tokyo Bankers Club Building

調べたところ、建物自体の問題で全面保存はできなかったようです。こんな形でも残ってよかったのか、跡形もなく消えてしまった方がよかったのか、難しいところです。

It seems that completely resurrecting this building was not possible due to structural issues. Was it better to preserve the building in this way? Or would it have been better to just… let it go? I'm really not sure.

Again, here's the link of the new Kabuki-za.

7 comments

  • Are they seriously considering build that thing on top of the theater?

    • Yes, it’s official. What I’m also sad about is that having offices in the same space will change the neighborhood. Before and after a performance, the area is full of happy kabuki fans, many whom are dressed up in kimono. It’s hard to imagine that there will be people in suits walking amongst them in the near future.

  • Hi Tomomi,

    It seems the link to the new Kabuki-za is down, I get a 404 Not Found…

  • Sylvia Low

    Hi, it so sad that Kabuki-za has been torn down ! Is there another place in Tokyo that we can watch Kabuki ?? The One Act Show (short play) is perfect for foreigners ! I think it is probably now impossible to find something similar, sigh !

  • […] of monozukuri (”making things”) met DYI and technology. Heritage also perseveres as the Kabuki Theater in Ginza is being rebuilt again and the old capital of Nara greets its 1300th anniversary. And of […]

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