Kabuki at National Theatre, Tokyo
Photo: National Theatre, Tokyo

Watch one of Japan’s best kabuki plays for free on YouTube

Due to coronavirus, the National Theatre is streaming ‘Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees’ for free until April 30

Tabea Greuner
Written by
Tabea Greuner

Even though we’re staying home to avoid the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy Japan’s diverse culture, like watching this iconic kabuki theatre masterpiece.

After Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency for seven prefectures, the National Theatre, Tokyo has decided to bring one of Japan’s leading traditional performing arts directly to your living room.

Until April 30, you can watch the three main acts of the kabuki drama ‘Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees’ ('Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura') on the theatre's official YouTube channel. You'll find part one embedded below. The theatre had to close at the end of February due to coronavirus, so the performance was recorded in March without an audience.

‘Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees’ is one of the three most famous kabuki plays. It was written in 1747 for the traditional ningyo joruri puppet theatre, and then turned into a kabuki play one year later. This imaginative historical drama is set a few years after the battle between the Taira and Minamoto clans, which is also known as the Genpei War (1180-1185). After the Minamoto clan vanquishes the Taira clan, Minamoto no Yoshitsune embarks on a journey to find three missing Taira generals who escaped justice at the end of the war. Yoshitsune believes the generals plan to take revenge for their ignoble defeat. You can read the full plot summary here.

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