‘Renjishi’ by Ebizo Ichikawa

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A few days ago, I was invited to a special performance by Ebizo Ichikawa, a Kabuki actor, at Nogaku-do in Shibuya. It was a special event for the customers of different financial institutions. I went to Nogaku-do to see ‘Kyogen’ a few months ago and liked the hall very much.

I saw Ebizo perform Kabuki a few months ago, but have not seen him so up close. So I was very much looking forward to the event. The program began with his welcoming speech followed by a musical performance by the Tanaka Denzaemon group. The group consisted of different kinds of drums and the Japanese flute. I know very little about music, but one of the pieces reminded me of a festival. When I checked the program note, I was right! The group played music for festivals, tea houses and for war. It was short piece, but was very pleasant and enjoyable.

After short intermission was ‘Renjishi.’ It tells the story of a father and a son and is known for spectacular dancing (not sure whether I can call it that or not). There were music and songs telling the story. I have been learning the structure and the stories of Kabuki pieces recently and am amazed how Japanese performing arts are similar in thinking and philosophy to that in the West (which I am also learning). It is very subtle and has a very unique style, but the pieces have clear messages to tell. It is fascinating how people, regardless of their nationalities, backgrounds, etc., have developed similar arts.

At the same time, I was reminded of the training and discipline required to perform. In order to perform Kabuki, play music, etc., you need to practice every day for a long time. As I thought about how much practice they have done so far and how much they have to do from now, I was struck by their dedication and commitment. It was a beautiful, refreshing, relaxing and, at the same time, inspiring experience.

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