◆Writer: Ryota (DeepExperience Content Creator)
A unique once-in-a-lifetime experience, “renjishi!”
Kabuki is one of Japan’s traditional performing arts, and is performed only by men. This includes the female roles. The movements, mannerisms, costumes, etc. are different to reflect masculine and feminine tendencies.
This experience is centered around one of the most popular kabuki plays, “Renjishi.” It’s a very moving story, where a mythical lion tosses his own cub to the bottom of a ravine to test his worth. Only should he climb his way back to the top, will he be able to receive the training to become the king of beasts. The renjishi costume is ordinarily donned only by top kabuki actors, an honor that takes dedication. Through this activity, you have the rare opportunity to take on that role, which will surely be a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Going straight to the venue.
Your guide can meet you not only at your hotel lobby, but anywhere you like, as long as it’s within Osaka city. From there, there’ll be an explanation on what to expect. Afterwards, you’ll head directly to the venue together by taxi.
Arriving at Asuka Hall!
Now, once you enter, you’ll receive a warm greeting from the host. Go up the stairs, and you’ll find the wide stage. Asuka Hall is usually used as a training hall for the Asuka-ryu school of traditional Japanese dance. But that’s not all they do. They also provide various programs to welcome foreign visitors to Japan.
▼The entrance to Asuka Hall
▼Once you get to the second floor, you’ll see the stage where the activity will take place.
First, it’s time to get changed!
For the renjishi experience, the costume is not just any old kimono, but a special one that is specific to the role. There are multiple parts to the costume and heavy makeup is necessary to complete the look. To prevent any makeup from ruining the costume, you’ll change first into a yukata.
▼Getting changed. If you take a look at the right side of the picture, you’ll see the special stage costume. The white scarf-like item on the left is the wig.
Time to put on your face!
After you’re done putting on the yukata, they’ll start the makeup process. The products they use are all-natural, so there won’t be damage to your skin. It takes about 30 minutes, but you’ll want to try and be still as possible.
▼ A bandana is used to prevent the makeup from getting into your hair. The one doing the makeup this time is the third-generation head of Asuka-ryu, Sakon-san.
▼ First, they’ll apply a mixture of rapeseed oil and Japan wax.
▼ Then, they’ll apply the white face powder.
▼ ....until your entire face is covered.
Now it’s time to add the colors!
After the white layer is completely applied, it’s time to apply the colors, which are going to be red and black this time. In kabuki, red represents justice, and blue symbolizes evil or corruption. You can easily tell who’s good and who’s bad, simply by looking at the actors’ faces.
▼ In Japanese culture, red is a color that wards against evil spirits. This is also why red is often used in shrines.
▼ The man watching from the background is the original head of Asuka-ryu. As he watched over Sakon-san doing the makeup, he talked about a bit about kabuki.
▼And...the makeup's done!
Next up is the stage costume!
The outfit is very heavy, and requires more than 1 person to put on. Ordinarily, the lead actor has his 2 top disciples working in tandem to do it. One handles the front while the other gets the back. Coordination is key to getting things done quickly.
▼First goes on an undershirt called the juban.
▼The costume is distinguished by the whirlpool-like patterns called tomoe. You can see this design in Japanese taiko drums as well as temples and shrines.
▼ The hooks on the back are used to hold up the rest of the costume.
▼Put on the hakama (traditional Japanese skirt-like pants) starting with the left foot.
▼Finally, the coat and wig go on. The instructor here shows our friend how to perform the mie pose as she makes the final adjustments to the costume.
▼Referred to as the "king of a hundred flowers," a tree peony is held in each hand while he poses. He looks like a real kabuki actor already!
Preserve your experience with an “oshiguma!”
After the experience, you can make a keepsake called an oshiguma. Using the makeup on your face, they’ll make an impression onto a piece of cloth. As it is unique to your face, it’s a great memento that is the only one of its kind in the world.
▼To get the makeup to transfer properly, the lines on your face will be traced and then the cloth is carefully removed.
▼ They even write your name in Japanese kanji characters.
▼ Our friend Florian here, with his oshiguma!
▼You can also choose to use a more compact, handkerchief-sized cloth.
▼After everything else is done, it’s time for some tea and snacks. We went in May, so we received this kashiwamochi in celebration of boy’s day.
The memory of a lifetime, Renjishi!
The renjishi is a role that only the most esteemed kabuki actors may fulfil. Give it a try and find out why. Enter the world of elite kabuki actors, and experience the role of a king in this unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Get the VIP treatment with your guide, who’ll also act as your personal photo and videographer. The data will be sent to you and you’ll also have the oshiguma as a memento. It will surely be a memorable experience!