Last weekend I went with a few friends to Kabuki and then to an onsen afterwards. Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theater that combines traditional Japanese music as well as a traditional dancing style. Since I live close to Tokyo, I was lucky enough to be able to go to the Kabuki-za.
After catching a train to Higashi Ginza Station with Boris and Steve, we met one of Junko’s British friends. The Kabuki theater itself was very beautiful. The architecture was really traditional and it was neat to see such and old and very Japanese building surrounded by new, modern Tokyo buildings.
After standing in line for about twenty minutes and paying 900 yen for a student ticket we entered the theater. Luckily there were English narration radios available that we used. The radios/earphone rental was about 400 yen and thank god it was there. Talking with Japanese friends, the language is hard enough to understand for native speakers, let alone my elementary Japanese skills. Since we arrived a little bit late we were only able to get standing room.
One interesting thing about Kabuki is that all of the performers are guys. Even the women characters are played by guys. Traditional Japanese music/song played all throughout the play. The story was a love story that ultimately was a tragedy. I am not going to explain it too much, but it was very interesting and I am glad I went there. Thanks to the translator I was able to understand the main points of the story and enjoy it to its fullest. Overall it was a nice cheap traditional activity to do in Tokyo.
Afterwards I headed to Odaiba with Boris and Junko’s friend to meet up with Junko at the Ooedo Onsen. Before the onsen we decided to walk around a popular shopping center in Odaiba (Venus Fort). In the shopping center there was some sort of NFL cheer competition going on where a bunch of cheerleaders from different NFL teams cheered and answered questions. It was kind of refreshing in a twisted type of way to hear a valley girl accent again.
Next we headed to the onsen. An onsen (hot spring) is a very big part of Japanese culture. This one was really nice. Again it was nice seeing such a traditional Japanese building in the middle of modern Tokyo. I found the sign outside to be funny as it explicitly forbade Yakuzas. It also prohibited people with tattoos, but that was acceptable.
After entering the Onsen we dropped our shoes off at a locker and then paid the entrance fee (2000 yen). After paying we went to the Yukata table and I got a yukata. Surprisingly, they had yukatas for 195cm tall people and it fit very well. Next Boris and I went to the mens’ changing room where we put on our yukata (with boxers on underneath). With the yukata on we headed to the common room.
The common room was really nice. Everyone was wearing a yukata and was barefooted. There were a bunch of restaurants, souvenir shops, and mini-bars set up and it was very open. Everything was also very Japanese: the souvenirs, the architecture, and all the food was Japanese. When we checked in we were given a locker key. Attached to the locker key was a barcode that you used whenever you wanted to buy something inside the onsen. It was a really nice system. You were even able to buy massages and entrance to different types of spas.
After hanging around the common room Boris and I headed to the actual hot spring. We went into another changing room where we were given two towels (a big one for drying and a little one for privacy). After putting the rest of our clothes in the locker we went to the hot spring. I guess a lot of people are uncomfortable being around a bunch of naked men, but to be honest I didn’t really think it was a big deal… it is part of the culture. In the onsen there were a few different bodies of water. The way you are supposed to do an onsen is to first wash yourself in the shower, then take a soak in the bath, and then shower again before leaving. The bath was huge and separated into a few different parts. All of them had stones lining them and looked very nice and traditional.
Boris and I liked the outside open-air onsen better. The water was hotter, the landscape was nice, and in general it was just more enjoyable being under the open sky. In the inside onsen there were a few jacuzzi style onsens that looked nice, but I didn’t actually go in them.
After staying in the onsen for about an hour we headed back out to the common room and met Junko and Shauna. I had a really tasty bowl of udon as well as a couple of beers and a bottle of nihonshu (sake). We spent a couple of hours talking and took a few group pictures (in the common room everyone is clothed so it is allowed). After we were done we got changed into our street clothes and then checked out. All the food and drinks that I ordered came out to about 2500 yen which was a really nice deal.
Overall the onsen was great. It is a must go to anyone visiting Japan. It was really relaxing and overall was a great experience that helped me relieve a bunch of stress.