Youkiza Japanese Marionette Show (Mrs. Tanaka)

Last night I went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater in Ikebukuro (Tokyo, Japan) to see the Youkiza Japanese marionette show. The tickets were originally 6,000 ¥ (about 75 dollars) but ICU gave them to us for free.

Which was very nice of them.

The marionette group, Youkiza, has been around since the Edo period (so over 300 years). It is the only mariontette group left; all the others closed down long ago. The Government declared the Youkiza a “cultural asset” which, of course, increased its’ popularity. Their performances involved a Puppeteer (sometimes more than one for large puppets) with a small puppet. The puppeteer typically dresses in the same clothes and often acts alongside their puppet – saying all the lines. They do all sorts of plays, we saw a play written by an Australian man, but they also do Buddhist re-enactments, they’ve done Shakespeare, and many other famous pieces.

All of it is, of course, in Japanese, though.

As I said before, the show took place in the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater in Ikebukuro. It was pretty much right next to the staion – so there was no chance of getting lost.

ICU didn’t actually give us a ticket – or tell us how to get a ticket, so I just kind of showed up and asked around. I was directed to the bottom floor and got my ticket (free) at the counter after saying I was an ICU student. They didn’t check my name or ID number (though I guess it was obvious I was foreign).

One of the other people who showed up actually hadn’t told ICU she was coming (and therefore didn’t have a ticket), but ended up getting the ticket of someone who didn’t show up.

The theater was very small (a lot like the Black-Box theater at Ursinus, if anyone gets the reference). I was in the second to last row.

The inside of the theater

They play, itself, was incredibly confusing. But I like that in plays. They gave me an English explanation at the beginning – so I was kind of able to follow along, but the other three people didn’t have enough time/patience to read through it all.

All of the sound effects were done by only three musicians.

One balding, European man played the drums, an Asian man with long curly hair played a large guitar that also doubled as a violin, and the third man (who I didn’t get a good look at) played the keyboard and another large, wooden flute that touched the floor.

(Notice two of the musicians off on the right side of the picture, as well as the actors towering over their marionettes)

The story was… complicated. So I will just quickly summarize. It was called Mrs. Tanaka, and was about the Tanaka’s a drunkard father and his responsible son. There was a rumor that his mother was a mermaid (hence the cover).

(This was the cover of the flyer for Mrs. Tanaka from ICU)

It takes place in a town by the sea where two famous, antagonistic divers return to port with their haul. A foreign man, an escaped Jew from Nazi Germany shows us (and happens to speak perfect Japanese). A drunken, drug induced party ensues – and when the dust clears the next day, it is revealed that Tanaka senior, the father, borrowed and lost money gambling to the two divers, and promised his son in a diving contract to both of them.

(The Gambling/Drinking/Opium scene)

When they go to collect, the father tried to refuse, but is saved by a beautiful woman, “Mrs. Tanaka.” If you guessed it, Mrs. Tanaka is actually his son, dressed up as the girl. He/she seduces the two divers, so they give her lots of money as a bride price. Then they have a sumo competition to see who will “win” him/her.

(The Sumo Competition)

The foreign man also falls in love with him/her and they kiss awkwardly (have you ever seen two marionettes kiss? It’s highly amusing). When Mrs. Tanaka takes off his/her disguise, the foreigner is disgusted and runs away.

Then a hurricane happens that rams a bunch of animals/objects into walls, and the Tanaka’s escape with the three men’s money to the father’s homeland. He wanted to die in his hometown. Sadly, he doesn’t make it and dies on some unknown coast.

The foreigner was able to rescue a some of his family members from Nazi Germany, and the section of Japan that “Mrs. Tanaka” (the son, since the father is dead) is bombed.

Like I said, interesting story.

One of the other girls had he camera out and was snapping pictures throughout the entire show (apparently someone in an earlier show even got to record it).
I didn’t want to risk it, but I did get three pictures (I hid the camera under my sweater so that it didn’t shine any light.

I would love to see the marionette show again, but don’t have  6,000 ¥ to spare, so I guess I will just wait to see what other free events ICU hosts for us.

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele

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One response to “Youkiza Japanese Marionette Show (Mrs. Tanaka)

  1. I usually read your blogs, but I’m too lazy to comment on them…>______<

    Once I figure out how many stamps it takes to send you a letter, I'll do it. Maybe…<3

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