Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

May 26, 2012

Shakespeare in Japan - Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, Tokyo (Musems)

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, Waseda University was established on the occasion of the 70th birthday of the critic and playwright Tsubouchi Shoyo (1859-1935), the first translator of Shakespeare’s complete works into Japanese and founder of the Department of Literature of Waseda University. The facade of the building is modeled on the Fortune Theater of Shakespeare. The museum’s holdings are very extensive: a rich collection of items related to the theater in Japan and in other countries, totaling hundreds of thousands of items. Foremost is a collection of 46,000 woodblock prints related to the theater, but there are also 200,000 pictures of stage performances and many materials connected with the stage such as costumes, puppets and models of stages. The library houses 150,000 books on the theater. Best of all, the museum and its facilities are free.

[Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, Waseda University. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

Inside the pleasantly antiquarian building are 7 exhibition rooms and a room dedicated to Tsubouchi. Visitors start on the third floor with the history of the theater in Japan. ‘The Ancient Age’ shows how theatrical arts developed under continental influences and has displays about bugaku dances. In ‘the Middle Ages’ we move to the quintessentially Japanese art forms of Noh and Kyogen. There are beautiful costumes and masks on display. The Early Modern Age is dedicated to the Kabuki and Ningyo-Joruri, the puppet play, with puppets and the lectern of a Bunraku narrator on view. ‘The Modern Age’ has information on the modern theater that developed under Western influence, and on musicals, Buto dances and even strip shows.

On the second floor are two special exhibition rooms, a room dedicated to folk performing arts such as Kagura and Dengaku, and the Shoyo Memorial Room. This room was designed by Mr. Tsubouchi for the reception of guests and he also used it himself when he visited the museum. Note the reliefs of sheep on the ceiling, as Shoyo was born in the Year of the Sheep. The book cases are filled with Shakespeare and the translations by Tsubouchi himself. On the first floor, finally, are a small room about Shakespeare and room in honor of the great modern Kabuki actor Nakamura Utaemon VI. Here is also a reading room, where the attendant doubles as receptionist for the museum.
Tel: 03-5286-1829

Hours: 10:00-17:00. CL NH, August, university holidays.

Access: 7 min walk from Waseda St on the Tozai subway line.