Thanks to WordPress blogger Tokyo5 for giving me the heads-up about this.
The Kabuki-za theatre in Ginza, the primary kabuki theatre in the world, is to be demolished in Spring 2010 and then rebuilt, reopening in 2013. I would love to be there for some of the last shows in the old theatre, and some of the first in the new theatre too, if I could.
In a way, this is like the kabuki fan’s equivalent of the new Yankee Stadium. The Kabuki-za was originally constructed in 1925, its architectural and interior style based on a combination of Azuchi-Momoyama (1575-1600) castle architecture and Meiji-Taishô (1868-1926) Western-inspired theatrical design. Destroyed in the war, and rebuilt in the 1950s, Kabuki-za is a grand theatre in the Western (Victorian-esque is a useful description perhaps) style.
Why anyone feels the need to destroy it and build it anew is beyond me. Certainly, there’s the possibility that there are actual structural or logistical (e.g. electrics) faults that derive from the building having been built in the 1950s, and heavily used. Certainly there is the possibility that the new structure will include technological upgrades (lighting, stage effects, etc) which might be difficult to implement without doing it this way.
But to be honest, I would not be at all surprised if it is simply that the Japanese think of a 50-year-old building as being old and in need of replacement. For a country with such a long history, and so many old, historic buildings – including several at Hôryû-ji in Nara which might be the oldest wooden buildings in the world – it is amazing the way the Japanese, when it comes to normal everyday houses and such as opposed to temples and other historical sites, think of anything older than a few decades as being in sore need of replacement. I am quite happy and proud with my own (i.e. my parents’) Victorian era house, built in the 1890s; but when I talk to Japanese about it, they seem incredulous that anyone would want to keep such a house, and that it could possibly be in a good state of repair. Where does this attitude come from?
I hope that when they rebuild Kabuki-za, they keep it relatively traditional, either rebuilding it as it is today, or redesigning it to match an older style, like that of the renovated Kanamaru-za I discussed in my last post. I hope that it is not rebuilt in an ultramodern 21st century Roppongi Hills sort of style. …
All photos my own, taken January 2008.