Bridging the Here and Now of Japanese Arts with Meijiza Theatre's "SAKURA"
At first glance the East Tokyo area is one full of contradictory forces, the downtown of Ueno is home to many of the city's finest museums, its bustling markets a world apart from the peaceful moats of the Imperial Palace a stop or two away. Likewise the pop-cultural mecca of Akihabara is only a brisk walk from Nihombashi, the heart of the city since the advent of Edo. To the initiated it is all too apparent that these are not conflicting forces despite their differences, but instead representative of a balance between high and low culture, formality and openness, and the relentless drive towards the new while respecting the past. It is in essence the character of Tokyo itself, and one that is worth getting to know.
However, for those whose time in Tokyo is all too brief it can be hard to get a sense of the city, and while there are increasingly more and more visitors to Tokyo who are very familiar with facets of Japanese culture, it is the complete picture that encompasses all these juxtaposing forces that is the key to understanding the metropolis. Stepping up to meet this lofty challenge is prestigious theatre Meijiza to the east of the Nihombashi area, whose history dates to almost the very start of the Meiji era itself and who has been at the forefront of the Japanese performing arts for the best part of a century and a half.
Entitled "Sakura - Japan in the Box," the production is an ode to the here and now of Japanese culture in general, and the aforementioned character of Tokyo in particular. Beginning with a focus on the now iconic image of the high-school girl at the Shibuya scramble crossing landmark, the organized chaos of the city surrounding her and the desire to find her place in it both palpable, and all too relatable for the visitor overwhelmed by the metropolis. The girl in question is the titular Sakura, and her journey shared with the audience, taking her through the traditional Japanese performing arts that Meijiza is famous for, as well as the contemporary forces of anime and the highly stylized forms common in popular culture. Along the way Sakura meets each of the Japanese seasons anthropomorphized in animated idol form, each expressing a different side of the city, and country at large.
Building on the borderless appeal of the dynamism of both the traditional arts and anime world, the production aims to be instantly accessible beyond language barriers, with key story seasons explained with either cut in manga-style panels in four languages, as well as a free smart phone application that users can use to follow as well as record the action.
The production is a departure for the halls of the Meijiza, but a timely one as the countdown to 2020 sees the number of visitors to Japan rise year on year, and the key to unlock the city becomes all the more necessary. With the production set to run until 2020 in various forms, take this chance to reconsider the Tokyo you know through a spectacle that is open to all regardless of age or background, and afterwards set out into a Nihombashi with fresh eyes on a city to be celebrated.
SAKURA - Japan in the Box
Presented by MEIJIZA