Sometime around early May I guess, we noticed that they were starting to build some sort of monstrosity at the shrine across the street from us.
Metal scaffolding and tarps in every shade of gray and green went up, accompanied by hammering and the buzzing of table saws at ungodly hours of the morning (okay, maybe it was 9, but still).
Then a box office went up and flyers were hung all over the block. My boss informed me that this was the annual theatre production by a troupe of amateur actors (called something like "aquarium group"; we found out why later). She stressed the amateur part in the description as the reason why she and her husband had never gone to see them. But after a week of hearing the live music (the accordion/horn/violin trio sounded particularly moody and jazzy) and the shouting of the actors (we could have sworn there was some kind of domestic dispute going on outside our window, the shouting during rehearsal was that loud) and the applause, we were all quite intrigued. The four of us went to see the play last Friday night.
The play was approximately 3 hours long with no intermission. It started outside around a sort of makeshift pool with a broken red rocking horse sitting in it (the thing people are sitting on in the picture above). After a 20 minute prologue that included two witches, three peddlers, an old scared drunk man on a bike, a really angry old woman and two beautiful kimono-clad women rotating around on this elevated merry go round, we filed into the rickety structure to take our seats on ascending tatami covered benches, but only after we first removed our shoes and placed them in the small white bags that were provided when we purchased the tickets. Inside the structure was an elaborate double-decker bar facade that rotated around to reveal a small store and dirty apartment facade on the other side. (no cameras were allowed inside, so I have borrowed a few from their website).
Apparently the story had something to do with a Japanese community living in a small town in China. There were two sisters separated at birth and people trying to get in touch with missing parts of their lives. We of course got none of this. We couldn't understand a bit. When the young gal in the sailor suit (one of the sisters) gets shot, she falls into a small pool of water in the floor of the stage. Out of nowhere, 3 ninjas jump out (I'm not making this up) to grab her body. The bar facade rolls backward to reveal a giant pool of water in the base of the stage. The ninjas hook her up to that broken red horse (from the prologue) that is now connected to the ceiling and hoist her up to the sky and out of view, while water sprays her from multiple hoses in the pool. People in the first row were given plastic blankets to shield them from inevitable castoff. It was mayhem and it was wonderful. Despite not understanding a bit, it was totally entertaining. Not in my wildest imagination could I predict what was going to happen from one scene to the next. At one point during the non-intermission set change, we watched a short stand up routine, an old kimono'd man in drag and three construction guys carry a beam across the stage with childlike drawings of fish and octopus attached to their heads, as if to say "don't mind us, we're just some fish swimming through".
After the play ended, they invited everyone back into the seating area for some sake and senbei. I guess they might not be able to afford to do this again next year, so were having one last party before the season ended. The gal below played one of the peddlers. She spoke English and came to chat with us after the play.
And then on Saturday night we went to see the boyfriend of one of Ryan's students play a gig at this small venue in Asakusa. This tiny, eclectic bar called Tribal Village only held about a dozen people, but I can honestly say that he could have filled a bigger place. Junya played a good variety of Japanese and American favorites, a couple of original songs and even took requests from the audience. The best part about it was that he looked like he was having a total blast up there. He is a really talented musician. I hope he keeps it up. The gal in the hat came up and belted out a few duets with him and played some killer percussion. Fun night.