Like any school kid, I loved going on field trips when I was young, But, since we lived in Japan until 3rd grade, my earliest memories of field trips weren’t the typical ones that American kids remember. I remember looking out of a school bus and seeing steaming lumps of sticky rice being pounded into mochi for New Year’s celebrations, for example (I think we were on the way to a shrine where we learned about Oshogatsu, or Japanese New Year, traditions).
And, I have a distinct memory of going from Green Park Elementary School, on a U.S. Army base in Tokyo (it’s no longer there), to a grand old theater in the heart of Tokyo to see a form of traditional Japanese theater, kabuki.
A lot of Americans probably know the word “kabuki” because it’s been used for restaurants and hotels and other products. Like “Sukiyaki,” “Mikado” and other words, they’ve become shorthand for “something Japanese.” But many Americans who’ve heard the word probably don’t know that kabuki is a cultural treasure in Japan, an artform dating back to the early 1600s that’s a bit like a mix of stylized Chinese opera and melodramatic Western-style opera.
The Japanese government is hoping to change that, and make more Americans aware of the traditions of kabuki. They’re sponsoring a U.S. tour of a lecture/performance called “Backstage to Hanamichi,” starring two of Japan’s kabuki masters, Kyozo Nakamura and Matanosuke Nakamura (no relation) from the world-renowned Shochiku Company. Denver gets its introduction to kabuki this Saturday, Oct. 24, at the June Swaner Gates Concert Hall at Denver University, 2344 East Iliff Ave. (303-871-7720 for the box office). The performance costs $25.
I have vivid memories from my childhood field trip: Continue reading