Tamasaburo Bando, 62, is the leading specialist of onnagata, which is the theatrical portrayal by a male actor of a female kabuki character. His intimate study of women and how they move led the country to honor him as a National Living Treasure—bestowed upon those who are considered guardians of important cultural assets.
To Bando, the anointment is not just recognition. It is a duty, he said, “a moral obligation to future generations for those who practice and perpetuate traditional Japanese art forms.” Although his primary art form involves how to be a woman, he said that his vision will always be that of a man’s. But then again, “the same concept of onnagata is based on a man’s imagining of a woman.”
While a usual kabuki show runs for at least four hours, it remains very popular in Tokyo. Ginza‘s Kabuki-za, Tokyo’s most famous kabuki theater, has in fact undergone extensive renovations for future performances and is set to reopen this April. It is almost quite ironic, really, since the city is known for its extreme love for modernity. Bando believes however that, although kabuki is an old art, it has evolved along with the times, all the while keeping its spirit.
[via France 24]