Kabuki: Botan Rodo (The Peony Lantern)


I had the unusual pleasure to watch kabuki at Meijiza, an old theatre from the 1870s, today. Of course the building has been torn down and rebuilt, that seems to be part and parcel of Tokyo culture.

The staff was terrific and we had tea before the performance, all smiles and helpful guides (and not another furrener in sight). As Kabukiza in Ginza is no more (and they had English translations) the Meijiza is perhaps your only opportunity to get some ancient theatre in Tokyo. Thus you need to do your homework, and thanks to the Internet, you can learn a lot about the plays.

The Meijiza, east of Kanda, was packed with fans of kabuki. Many ladies showed up in their very best kimonos. Here is the Japanese website and a little English information too.

I got to see Botan Rodo, the Peony Lantern, originally written by a Kyoto priest slash playright in the mid 17th century.



A great love/horror drama with Buddhist notes, as the protagonist is faced with not one but two female ghosts. His karmic affiliations all twisted, he is supposed to use talismans and o-fuda papers to seal all openings of his dwelling, to make sure that the evil spirits cannot enter.

In summer, when heat gets the better of us, a scary tale that sends shivers down your spine is thought to cool you down. Here is the 1968 film version, from Satsuo Yamamoto's film. Adapted from Encho San'yutei's novel. But the kabuki play that I got to see was less creepy!



This 1972 version (director Chusei Sone) is good too (with English subtitles):

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