Journals from Kanto Gakuin University, Japan
2011-11-27 Old and New Japan: Kabuki and Soccer
View of the kabuki theatre from our seats. The stage is on the left.
Since we were in Japan, we had to go see a live kabuki play, with an emphasis on "had to." We had bugged the International Center about getting tickets for kabuki and we finally got to go on November 15th. Of course, we had to buy the tickets in October as kabuki is very popular. Our seats were on the second floor (there are three floors total and the third floor is the cheapest) and we were on the left side of the stage. Unfortunately, we couldn't see the hanamichi (a walkway that actors occasionally use to enter the stage), but there was a television near us just for the purpose of showing us the hanamichi.
A word of caution: kabuki uses Japanese that is difficult for even some Japanese people to understand. We understood about 15% of what the actors said. Luckily, if you're willing to pay for the night's program (it looks like a book), there are English explanations of the plays. On the night we went, we saw three plays: Uiro Uri, Kyokanoko Musume Dojoji, and Kamiyui Shinza. Their summaries are far too long and difficult, but here is how I distinguish them. Uiro Uri was the play we hardly understood; we had no idea what was going on. Kyokanoko Musume Dojoji had an interesting story and it was mostly dancing, which was very cool to watch. Kabuki is performed only by men, so it was amazing to see a man act as a woman, a role known as onnagata. The onnagata in Kyokanoko started out as looking like a man playing a woman, but as the play progressed, we gradually forgot the woman was actually a man. The last play, Kamiyui Shinza, would have been a lot more interesting had we been able to understand the conversations. It was a little funny, but the longest play out of all of them. Since kabuki ended at 9:00 at night and we had gotten up at 5:00 A.M. for a field trip, we had trouble paying attention to the last play. Despite being tired, kabuki was a fun experience and we wish we had time to go on another day and see different plays.
In the same week as our kabuki cultural experience, we got to see an aspect of modern Japan. On Saturday, November 19th, we trekked to the Nissan Stadium in Shin-Yokohama to cheer on Yokohama's soccer team, the F-Marinos. Unfortunately, the weather decided it didn't like us so it rained all day long. If it had just been rain, we would have been fine, but it was super windy, rendering our umbrellas useless. In fact, the wind did break two of my friends' umbrellas that day.
Yokohama was playing against Nagoya Grampus which was one of the top 3 teams in the Japanese soccer League (J-League). Yokohama was only ranked in the middle so we were prepared to have the game go either way. The fans of both sides were really intense, wearing their teams' ponchos, waving huge flags, and chanting designated cheers. The official "cheerleading teams" of Yokohama and Nagoya were in the rain for the entire game, which really showed their dedication.
The field was astroturf, so the soccer players were sliding everywhere. There was once a pile up of 3 to 4 players with all ending up in the same spot. For much of the game, Yokohama fought to tie an early Nagoya goal so the game was very exciting. As a lover of soccer, I was easily caught up in the game and it was disappointing that Yokohama lost in the end. I initially felt bad for the fans who cheered so hard for the team, but quickly realized that the fans were just glad to have seen a good game. Fans of soccer in Japan don't seem to be as, well, fanatic as fans in Europe. After the game's end, we pushed our way out of the stadium to buy Yokohama memorabilia.
The game was fun, but the weather made us feel miserable. The rain even soaked through my rain jacket, the same jacket that I wear in Oregon. The wind was also incredibly strong. Later on, I found out that the wind had been blowing at about 30 miles a hour and gusting up to 45! No wonder umbrellas were breaking left and right. I even had trouble walking and I kept getting blown around.
All in all, it was an interesting week filled with all sorts of experiences.