Shōdo is the Seto Inland Sea’s 2nd biggest island. Every autumn in the island’s Nakayama area, local people put on a Nouson (farming village) Kabuki play.
Amateur dramatics are taken very seriously here…
At its peak, around the 2nd and 3rd decades of the 20th century, 500 to 600 actors performed at the island’s 30 theatres! A love of theatre is very well ingrained in the local population.
Today, there are only two theaters left, Hitoyama and Nakayama. In the cool evening air, you can experience Kabuki as ordinary people of the Edo period (1603~1867) did.
This is the Senmaida (rice terrace) movie location in Nakayama where “Rebirth (Youkame no Semi)” was shot.
When the red spider lily starts blooming on the golden rice terraces, local people suddenly begin to get busy.
Actors, storytellers (Gidayu), Shamisen players (Butaishi), Make-up artists, etc. start preparing – Local people arrange and do everything.
Mr. Tōru Yada, whose family has been playing Onnagata (male actors who impersonate women) for 4 generations, teaches the play to the actors. Trained as a child, he’s been acting for more than 70 years.
They say that in days gone by when the opening night was getting close, the cast used to take it in turns to bring vegetables and cook meals while rehearsing day and night.
As many are now office workers, things have changed a little, but each person is trained to act from childhood.
Armed with alcohol and refreshments, at about 5pm the audience gathers and the evening’s entertainment begins with an auspicious play called Sambansō.
From the children (Kodomo Kabuki) comes “Shiranami Gonin Otoko (Benten Kozō and the 4 thieves)”, a production popular in the world of professional Kabuki.
When the sun goes down the festival lanterns are lit, two acts played by adults begin.
As the atmosphere gets more and more exciting, the audience merrily shouts (Ōmukou) and throws Ohineri (monetary gifts wrapped in paper) for outstanding performances.
Feeling the night breeze and watching performances by adults and kids all together in the middle of the rice terraces, the island’s seasonal tradition that has continued since the Edo period is brought back to life.
Nakayama Kasuga Jinja Hounō Kabuki
Date: On a Sunday close to October 10th
Time: Starts about 5:00 pm
Place: Kasuga Shrine (1486 Nakayama, Shōdoshima-chō, Shōdo-gun, Kagawa)
Contact: Shōdo Island Tourist Association (TEL 0879-82-1775)
Shōdoshima Olive Navi (Japanese) http://shodoshima.or.jp/
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Chizuko Konishi
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