Though performed by amateur actors, ji-kabuki, a countryside version of kabuki theatre is an art form in its own right.
Kabuki, a UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity, has a history of over 400 years. First performed in the early 17th century, the traditional art form boomed in cities during the Edo Period (1603-1868), with its troupes of professional actors often invited to rural areas of Japan to perform on makeshift stages at shrines.
Inspired by these performances, ji-kabuki, a form of amateur dramatics, emerged in the countryside, with farmers and townspeople emulating professional actors, but with their own, more down-to-earth styles.
Nakatsugawa in eastern Gifu is home to six ji-kabuki preservation organizations that stage performances every year. It also houses three playhouses, founded around 120 years ago, and the 19th-century Kashimo Meijiza, one of few extant traditional theaters featuring a revolving stage and runway.
If your trip does not coincide with a ji-kabuki performance, head to Kashimo Meijiza, a wooden, village theater built in 1874. Surrounded by rice fields, it is a beautiful location to learn about traditional Japanese architecture and both professional and ji-kabuki performances.
Kashimo Meijiza is 60 minutes by bus from Nakatsugawa Station.
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