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Published on 06.03.2016
What is Ji-kabuki
Ji-kabuki or hometown kabuki is a folk art performed by local amateurs instead of professional actors. During Edo period, Ji-kabuki were performed as offerings to local shrines throughout Japan and the tradition has been kept until today in many regions.
The history of Ji-kabuki in Tono
Tono, the southwest of Gifu prefecture and the intersection of main roads between Edo and Kyoto, was exposed urban culture and entertainments from the start of Edo period. Local people invited professional kabuki actors to play at shrines. They loved kabuki, so much so that they began to play themselves in a playhouse they built by hand. Their enthusiasm to kabuki even led the shogunate to forbid them to perform such show. The locals, however, ignored the ban and kept tradition. The end of Meiji period, there were over 60 playhouses in this region. Only 7 of them survive today including Meiji-za which boasts 5.5m rotating circular stage and one of ‘The Important Tangible Cultural Properties’ in Gifu prefecture.
People’s love to ji-kabuki continues today as it was in Edo period. Performances are held two to six times every month at various locations. Hundreds of the locals flood in a playhouse and cheer for the actors calling their day job like headmaster and policeman.
Not only actors but also many locals volunteer to performances. Some become Directors while others become musicians. All the supporting roles, such as stage carpenters, choreographers, makeup artists and so on, are done by the enthusiastic locals, too.
It is not obligation or politics that has maintained ji-kabuki for over 300years; it is the pure sincerity of people in Tono.
Ji-kabuki project will introduce recommended sightseeing spots around the Tono. They offer various sightseeing programs, which can be arranged through local affiliations if you wish. Feel free to contact them from their website below.
Alternatively, you can browse Tono area information site. Caution that it’s machine translated, therefore the contents may not be 100% accurate.
World famous tourist town Hida Takayama is about 2hour drive and Gero hot spring, one of the best 3 onsen in Japan, is about 1hour drive from Nakatsugawa.
Access to Tono
Tajimi and Nakatsugawa are the main stations of Tono region and they are on JR chuou main line between Tokyo and Nagano. Technically, you can hop on and off local trains from Tokyo, but it’s unrealistic because it takes over 10hours.
The quickest way is to go to Nagoya by Tokai shinkansen (bullet train) and change to chuou main line. It takes only 77minutes from Tokyo to Nagoya station, and 41minutes from Nagoya to Tajimi station and further11minutes to Nakatusgawa station by Shinano express train.
The cheaper way is using express train Super Azusa from Shinjuku to Shiojiri station, and then change Shinano express to Nakatugawa station.
Tono railway runs overnight highway bus between Shinjuku and Tono area. Leave Shinjuku just before midnight and arrive Nakatugawa at 5am. Return ticket costs only 8200yen (September 2016). Booking is essential.
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