We spent the last few days of our Winter Japan Trip 2016 in Tokyo, visiting two museums and a Kabuki performance.
Ueno station area in Tokyo is note-worthy for its collection of museums and other cultural and educational spaces, such as a zoo and performance hall within “shita-machi” (“low city” where the lower-classes lived during the Tokugawa period). Unlike the museums in “yama-no-te” (‘hill-side” where the samurai-class lived during the Tokugawa period) the museums in Ueno seem to retain the down-to-earth atmosphere of by-gone eras. The establishment of art museums, such as the Tokyo National Museum and the National Museum of Western Art (designed by the renowned Swiss architect Le Corbusier), shows the Japanese government’s desire to educate its populace with its own national as well as international cultures. It is a fun place to visit if one happens to be in Tokyo, particularly in spring for its famed cherry blossoms.
This year we visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum to see the “Van Gogh and Gauguin: Reality and Imagination” exhibit, and the Ueno Royal Museum to see the Detroit Institute of Arts Exhibition. Both exhibits were rewarding in different ways (for instance, I was surprised to see Detroit owned so many excellent art works), but I wish I had more leisurely space and time to experience the art work.
The final night in Tokyo was spent in the “new” Kabukiza theater. (I did attend a performance with my older sister when it was just opened in 2012 after the renovation.) They offered 3 performances daily rather than 2 when the theater was in its original structure. We attended the night show of “Ninin Wankyu” and “Kyo Kanoko Musume Gonin Dojoji” featuring the celebrated “onnagata” (female impersonator) Bando Tamasaburo. As always, the theater was packed with people (mostly women), but the shows somewhat lacked the luster that characterized kabuki before the renovation. It may be due to the fact that the actors were overworked (3 shows a day!) or perhaps due to the absence of amazing performances by the 18th Nakamura Kanzaburo who passed away at a fairly young age shortly before the reopening of Kabukiza.