Japan from the inside out

Marquee attractions

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, July 31, 2012

KABUKI theaters, being theaters, require marquees in the same way as the halls of London’s West End, New York’s Broadway, or the burlesque joints in the 400 block of East Baltimore St. — The Block — in Baltimore, where I grew up. But as with everything else, the Japanese have their own approach to the whole business of marquees.

The photo above shows 78-year-old Kawakatsu Seiho and the 54 maneki (literally, invitations) he drew with the names of the performers of the season’s dramas staged at Kyoto’s Minami-za this year.

Mr. Kawakatsu had just finished a special ceremony called the manekigaki (writing the invitations) at the Myoden-ji Buddhist temple in Kyoto (established in 1477) before the performance of Kichirei Kaomise.

There’s more to tradition even if it does meet your eye. The style of calligraphy is unique to maneki of this sort, and is called kanteiryu. And because this is a special occasion, sake was mixed with the ink. That isn’t just for the heck of it — they say it adds luster to the ink on the boards.

Don’t miss a trick, do they?

The maneki are 180 centimeters long and 30 centimeters wide and hung above the theater entrance. If you want to see what they look like in place, try the following amateur video taken three years ago at the premiere of the same drama at the same theater — Japan’s oldest, founded in the early 17th century. The cameraman could have been more relaxed, but the video provides excellent views of the exterior and interior both.

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