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Saturday, November 25, 2006

So today I got up early and headed to Shinjuku to try and get a rush seat to RENT. Jordon and I had kind of planned on going, but then a few things came up, so we rescheduled to next week, because I thought they had extended their run into next week. It wasn't until I google translated the Japanese RENT site yesterday that I realised that those extra shows were in Nagoya and Osaka, not exactly close to here!

There were two shows today, 12 and 5, so since we had Noh plans for this afternoon, I was planning on trying to get in for the noon show. I was really hoping that they didn't do it like New York (a lottery), so I went early, hoping to get an early number, and hopefully a ticket. In the end, I was number 5 in line, but it didn't help me out at all - there were over a hundred of us competing for 20 tickets (it was a lottery), and needless to say, I didn't get one :(. It's probably a good thing that two of us didn't try and go together - it was one ticket per person, so I saw a few families/couples having to make the decision of who got to go...
(As close as I got to RENT - we all had numbered cards, and then they drew numbers for the lucky twenty who got the final (not great) seats. It was really interesting, because as people got called, everyone clapped graciously for them! I'm pretty sure at home, people would have been shooting them jealous dagger looks since they got the tickets the other people wanted so much...)

Anyway, for those of you who were interested in a summary of the plot, if you actually want one still, post a comment, and I'm happy to recap what happens....

Anyway, I came home, and it was still only noonish by this point, but a gorgeous day! About 10-14C probably, and really really sunny - so nice! Eventually, I headed back out with my laptop and walked to Shibuya and ended up back at the New Yorker's Cafe (huge and good for power sources), and worked on a personal essay/article type thing I'm planning on submitting to 'common ties' a blog (I think owned by google maybe) that pays for interesting short stories about people's lives. Weirdly, while I was working in there, 'Kiss from a Rose' by Seal came on. Not so weird, except that I forever associate the 1995 trip over here with that song (and The Sign by Ace of Base, since that was on the first CD I ever got to go with my first disc man that Peter got me at the airport before we flew home). It's funny how music can hold such strong associations!

At threeish, I left there and walked to the Cerulean Tower Hotel, where Peter, Hitomi, and I had a scintillating afternoon of Noh theatre planned. Noh is an old form of Japanese theatre, generally considered to be an acquired taste! Honestly, we'd been briefed by a ton of people not to expect a whole lot of action, and it was probably good that we had low expectations, because it actually turned out to be fairly interesting.
(The big Christmas tree in the lobby of the Cerulean Tower Hotel, using Hula Hoops as a main decorative feature!)

The first half hour was definitely the worst part - they had a lecture by a Japanese professor on the art of Noh, which Hitomi said was a bit hard to follow even in Japanese! For the English speakers (the CCCJ was vaguely involved in the event, so there were a few of us), there was an ear piece with some kind of vague translation piped through. Unfortunately, the translator didn't seem to be fully bilingual, and that, combined with not so exciting and/or clear subject matter in the first place, meant that we were no more clear on what we were about to see after the speech than before it (for me at least, anyway!)

As this was the fifth anniversary of this particular theatre, we saw three different types of performance: Something which I'm not actually sure what form it was, called 'Shimai: Hashitomi', which was short, and involved five men doing a lot of chanting, with their leader moving around the stage, and using his fan to approximate something (we think perhaps sword fighting).

The second 'act' was a a Kyoogen Comedy; Bunzo. This had two actors, and an official 'stool holder' so that the main actor wouldn't topple off the stool in his complex robes. The story runs along these lines: "Tarokaja slips away on a journey without telling his master. The master gets mad, so he visits the master's sick uncle to try and make amends. He cannot remember what kind of treat he was given (?). He remembers that the master liked the bit about the battle of Ishibashiyama from the Tale, and decides to tell him about the food described in that." From what I could see, he got in trouble for doing so, but really, I have no idea!

The final 'act' was the actual Noh (or a portion thereof, actually), of Kurama Tengu (The Goblin of Kurama), by Miyamasu, a Noh of the 5th category (Finale Noh). All I can say is, thank God for the super cute five kids who were a part of this one! They definitely stole the opening portion of the show! The littlest one was only about 4 and soooooo cute dressed up in the elaborate costumes. One boy, a ten year old, had a fairly major part, and notably stood in one corner, with his arms held at near shoulder level for about ten minutes. Try doing that for a minute or so and then imagine a ten year old kid, under stage lighting, in a heavy costume doing it, without so much as a facial muscle twitch!

It was actually pretty interesting, because since I really didn't understand very much (we had a less than totally helpful translation of the story with our handouts), it really forced me to check out the technical aspects of the show, like the costuming and blocking and everything. It was pretty cool - some of those masks are pretty creepy! It was also totally amazing how STILL the actors and musicians were when they weren't directly involved in the action. There was no movement whatsoever, and some of them held uncomfortable positions for a very very long time! Even just coming on and off the stage was done very carefully and methodically. No extra movements are taken, and setting up and moving around is done with maximum efficency.

The music was interesting too - a heavy dose of what I could only describe as chanting, combined with drumming and then a crazy Japanese flute which certainly kept you awake during the Noh performance! At some times it was haunting and eretheral (sp?), and at turns it was, honestly, a bit grating - very high pitched or something!

I'm almost done with the Noh, promise! But one last thing which is interesting, is that you have be born into a Noh family in order to preform, and basically only males can be Noh players. So for the little kids in the performance, they have already started some kind of lifelong apprenticeship into the theatre and ancient tradition. Pretty interesting contrast with all the modernity among kids here!

I also got to meet Vivian (from Edmonton), who works at CCCJ I think. (CCCJ=Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan or something like that). She was very nice, and had really thoughtfully brought be a copy of Metropolis from the beginning of September which had a feature article about Noh in it, so I was able to get a better idea of what it was all about before the performance started.

After that, we headed to the Outback Steakhouse in Shibuya. I've been hearing so much about the new one opening in Roppongi on the Metpod, that I wanted to try it out. I had a fantastic salad with chicken, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, cheese etc. One of those great salads where the lettuce isn't the main/only ingredient and you really feel like you got a good meal. They also had diet coke, so all in all, successful!

Came home and started watching a movie called Hawaii, based on the James Mitchner novel of the same name. It's an interesting movie from the sixties about the first missionaries going to Hawaii, but it's nearly three hours long, and I needed to get the blog up, so I'll finish it another day...

I think that's about it - a surprisingly Japanese/cultural day all around! If you get a chance to look at some pictures of Noh costumes and the stage and stuff I would recommend it - the costumes are pretty impressive! The performance itself was also interesting, but something like the National theatre has just started where there is seat back English translation on the go would make it MUCH more enjoyable and understandable for us gaijins!


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