I wanted to introduce Man to a very dear friend of mine who I have known for 15 years, Emiko. Emiko is the one who patiently taught me how to wear kimono, in person but mostly via email. Together, Emiko and I have had so many adventures over the years both in Japan and the UK, my dad calls us the Dynamic Duo. Emiko has studied many forms of Japanese culture to a very high level including music, kimono dressing, tea ceremony...but her first love is always Japanese dance.
Each time I come to Tokyo I try to see a kabuki play, and since this month's play at the national kabuki theatre is based around dance, I thought it would be perfect to meet Emiko and watch it together.
The Kabukiza Theatre is in Ginza, the most upmarket shopping district in Tokyo, and is a gorgeous building with high quality gift shops and cafes in the basement. Emiko gave Man a warm welcome and we were ushered onto an outdoor bench to wait our turn.
A full kabuki performance starts at 11am and continues until fairly late in the evening, but it is possible to see just one act by queueing for a limited number of tickets immediately beforehand. At 10am we were already numbers 28 to 30 in the queue, and with a maximum of 90 tickets available, this was the optimum time to meet. The wait gave us a nice chance for Emiko and Man to get to know each other.
The performance itself was gorgeously set, with live musicians on the shamisen and koto and lots of Kyoto-style dancing to tell the story of a famous cherry blossom viewing party at a temple there, in 1598. This act only lasted 25 minutes, whereas some can be up to an hour and a half. But for 500 yen it was an absolute bargain to see Japan's top actors on the most prestigious stage.
After a quick drink and a look around downstairs, we headed to Ryogoku for the main event in my sporting calendar - sumo! My family and I are extremely keen followers of sumo and watch each day of the 6 tournaments a year (each tournament lasts 15 days), usually via YouTube, but obviously I go to watch sumo live when I can. Usually I am happy with a cheap seat at the back of the stadium but last year for my 40th, Emiko managed to secure an exclusive box seat much nearer to the action. Today, again, she got box seat tickets and we were privileged to watch sumo from close up.
Before entering the stadium, we stood outside to watch the top division wrestlers arrive and shouted encouragement to them. It's all part of the experience!
Box seats accommodate up to 4 people and are just a space on the floor with cushions, so you have to take your shoes off and sit on the floor. With just 3 of us, we were able to sit along the back of the box and stretch our legs out. 4 people might have been a bit of a squeeze! We bought merchandise featuring various wrestlers and settled in for the top division bouts.
Emiko and I have watched sumo together many times before, but I was worried Man might get bored...no need! We all loved it and had a great time, with some exciting bouts and wins and losses from our favourite wrestlers today.
These mochi rice cakes are shaped to resemble the referee's fan.
We enjoyed the view from our box seat, and waved wrestlers' merchandise to encourage them.
After seeing Cinderella (Emiko) safely into her (train) carriage, Man and I stopped off in Shinjuku for dinner at small vegan chain Ain Soph. It was quite cold and very windy by this point, so we were glad of the warmth before dashing back to Shinjuku station.
NB: By this point you may be thinking this is just a holiday, but I promise there is a reason for coming here; I have an important business meeting on Friday, plus the quilt show to go to! But in the meantime there are two whole days with no particular plans...of course I have some ideas to show Man more of Tokyo, but anything could happen, so please check back tomorrow and see what adventures we end up having x
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I started Japan Crafts in 2006 and have been bringing wonderful fabrics and techniques to people in the UK ever since.