Kabuki has been performed on special occasions at Chinju Shrine at Hinoemata for at least 270 years. It is said that the tradition began when local people en route to Ise Shrine saw a performance of kabuki and told the other villagers about it. The techniques, style and spirit of that original kabuki have been passed down from parent to child over the years and as a performance given in dedication to the gods it has provided entertainment to the deities and the village people alike for many generations. This is real rural kabuki, with all staff and performers being amateurs from the village, but once you see their stagecraft and skills, any thoughts of amateurism will be banished from your mind. The “Hinoemata Stage” that is used for performances has been designated as a national important tangible folk cultural asset, while Hinoemata Kabuki itself is designated by Fukushima Prefecture as an important intangible folk cultural asset.
Performances are held outdoors. Seats are arranged so as to surround the stage and some people may feel that the atmosphere is akin to an ancient Roman theatre. One of the techniques utilized by this outdoor stage is to incorporate the swiftly changing surrounding scenery as twilight changes to early evening, then night. Both the performers and the audience dive into a world of kabuki while also experiencing the divine might of nature.
Performances take place three times a year, on May 12, August 18, and the first Saturday in September, performed by the Chibanoya Hanakoma-za kabuki group. As Hinoemata Village is at an altitude of 900m in the mountains, even summer evenings get a little chilly, so be sure to bring a layer of warm clothing. All seats are none reserved and available on a first-come basis and there are no entrance restrictions, but the maximum number of seats is about 1,200. For the latest information about Hinoemata Kabuki, please enquire at the Oze-Hinoemata Onsen Tourist Office.