The National Theatre in Tokyo is closing for redevelopment at the end of October 2023, but not before one last hurrah. On August 20, the theater is hosting “Discovering Japanese performing arts for the future,” a special event that brings together past graduates from six affiliated institutions represented by Japan Arts Council: the aforementioned National Theatre, the National Engei Hall, the National Noh Theatre, the National Bunraku Theatre, the New National Theatre Tokyo and the National Theatre Okinawa. 

This event will showcase the essence of the different arts that will be performed by young professionals who are also past graduates. The event schedule includes Kabuki, Bunraku, Engei (Japanese traditional entertainment), Nohgaku, Okinawan Kumiodori, opera, ballet, and drama. It’s a rare opportunity to see all of these traditional performing arts under one roof and in a single event. 

What to Expect

Below are the sets you can expect to see during this special event. Every single one features excerpts from classic titles. 

There will be two Kabuki plays, “Ninin Sanbaso” and “Genroku Hanami Odori,” and one Buraku play, “Manzai.” The Engei set will feature Daikagura juggling and Rakugo theater music. 

There will be a Nohgaku performance, the Kyogen play “Bonsan.” Okinawan Kumiodori will present “Shinobiai” from the Ryukyu poem, Temizu no En

For ballet and opera, you can see “Romance” or “Kanpai no Uta” (“Libiamo ne’ Lieti Calici” / “Let’s Drink from the Joyful Cups”), taken from Tsubakihime (La Traviata / Lady of the Camellias). The drama play will be a reading performance of the tragedy Himeyuri.

But the show doesn’t end there. Spectators can also join in special activities to learn more about Japan’s diverse theater arts through musical numbers and workshops.

The Behind the Scenes of Japanese Performing Arts

This special program was designed with foreign spectators in mind. There will be English synopses provided as well as workshops and other hands-on experiences to further familiarize with traditional Japanese theater. 

The performance will be followed by a workshop. Choose one of four performing arts to immerse yourself in: Kabuki, Bunraku, Nohgaku, or Okinawan Kumiodori. All four have been recognized by UNESCO and appear in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Professional performers will explain their art and answer questions from the audience. Spectators will also be encouraged to participate in some theater exercises and experience the art form through body and voice. 

A combined ticket for the performance followed by the workshop is exclusively available to foreign visitors to Japan. 

Essential Information

Tickets including the workshop are ¥12,000. There will be a performance at 6pm. Doors will open 60 minutes before the start of the performance. Note that there are no intermissions for either performance.

For more information about the August 20 event, visit the National Theatre official website.

Where to Get Tickets

You can book tickets for the August 20 event via the Yomiuri Travel website.