Yachiyoza: Kabuki Theater Preserved in the Edo Period Style
In Kumamoto Prefecture, there is a historically valuable theater that was also used in the filming of the movie Rurou ni Kenshin (Samurai X). What is this playhouse that is worth seeing as a historical building but also lets you see kabuki theater inside? Photo: http://www.jaf.or.jp/
The Yachiyoza is a playhouse that is located in Yamaga of Kumamoto Prefecture. Yamaga was once bustling as one of the best onsen (hot springs) areas in the prefecture, and the theater was built in 1910 by local businessman. The wooden 2-storey building with over 100 years of history is highly valuable on its own and it is recognized as an important cultural property of Japan.
The inside is preserved in the typical structure of an Edo period style kabuki theater; an extravagant and stylish atmosphere spreads before your eyes. It is almost as if you can feel the excitement and hear the sounds of the crowd from the Taisho to Showa period when the Yachiyoza experienced its peak. There are still various events held here, which include kabuki of course, but also nostalgic movies, new theater, Japanese music and classic concerts. Information: Map
1. Extravagant Ceiling Advertisement
The first thing that catches your eye when you enter is the bright advertisement that spreads above you on the ceiling. Nowadays, most advertisement is on-line but the Yachiyoza is one of the very few places within the country where ceiling advertisement remains.
2. Theater Structure Preserving the Edo Style
The seating area on the 1st floor is a wide pit. It is partitioned to seat 6 people and the floor is slightly sloping. The inclination allows for the people seated in the back to see the stage as well. This structure is very common nowadays in movie theaters, but it was extremely unique for a theater of the Meiji Period, making it a unique characteristic of the Yachiyoza.
Also this theater still employs the revolving stage of naraku (a trap cellar or the area underneath the stage) and stage equipment such as seri in an Edo style structure.
*Seri: A hollowed area above the stage towards the back. The actor would suddenly appear from below the stage and it would really excite the audience.
Additionally, up in the ceiling is a grid-like framework of bamboo which allows confetti and snow to be sprinkled from above helping to animate the scene. So you see this is a highly functional playhouse with various intricate mechanisms throughout the theater.
On days the theater is not used for performances, visitors have access to these naraku, seri and backstage areas; places that one normally wouldn’t have access to. So we recommend you go and see these devices and really get a sense of this theater as a place of entertainment loved by the common people of the time.
Yumekogura (夢小蔵): A museum located diagonally across from the Yachiyoza. They have many items on display such as historical documents on the Yachiyoza and unique props (sword, spears and kimono, etc). This is also a building that was built in the Meiji Period so the building itself is worth seeing. It may be interesting to learn about the history of the Yachiyoza first, and then head over to the Yachiyoza.
Nearby Sightseeing: Sakura Yu
As mentioned previously the entire area of Yamaga is an onsen town with over 1,000 years of history. Once you visit the Yachiyoza, we recommend you have a soak in the onsen too. Our recommendation is the Sakura Yu. The Sakura Yu started around 370 years ago as a tea house and later became an onsen. The individual involved in the process of building and restoring the building is the Sakamoto Matahachiro. Sakamoto Matahachiro is the master carpenter who was responsible for building the Dogo Onsen, which is famous for being the oldest onsen in Japan. In recent years during the Heisei Period, the building of Sakura Yu has been largely restored but by using traditional techniques of Japan, it has been restored by accurately replicating the style of the Meiji period. Do experience the historical wood structure onsen. Information: Map