Shochiku Co., Ltd. presented “Japan KABUKI Festival in Las Vegas” over an about two-year period in collaboration with MGM Resorts International as part of its efforts to attract inbound tourists increasing towards 2020. The project has recently drawn to a successful close.
1. Pursuing new vision for kabuki on occasion of 120th anniversary of Shochiku’s founding
Shochiku, the world’s only producer and promoter of kabuki that is Japan’s traditional performing art with a history of over 400 years, commemorated the 120th anniversary of its founding in 2015. Shochiku has decided to produce new content for inbound tourists whose number has been rapidly growing towards 2020.
As part of these efforts, Shochiku has decided to not only uphold the tradition of kabuki but also pursue a new vision for kabuki by blending cutting-edge technologies with diverse attractions of kabuki while exploring the possibility of giving performances at unprecedented venues.
2. Kabuki performances given in Las Vegas in collaboration with MGM
As the first shot of these efforts, Shochiku planned two-year “Japan KABUKI Festival in Las Vegas” in collaboration with MGM Resorts International, a world-renowned entertainment company. As the first overture to the festival, Shochiku presented the performance of newly produced “Fight with a Carp,” themed on a classical kabuki work at the Fountains of Bellagio, the city’s landmark, in August 2015. “Fight with a Carp” starred top-ranking actor Ichikawa Somegoro, who performed a large-scale stage fight in a huge fountain. Various images were projected on the fountain — which was used as a 300-meter-wide water screen — during the performance in collaboration with teamLab Inc.
The five performances over a three-day period, which were praised as unprecedented entertainment that integrated the latest imaging technology with kabuki, attracted approximately 100,000 spectators.
3. Seat occupancy rate at 90% in “localized” kabuki performances
In May this year, Shochiku gave performances of a newly produced work, “KABUKI LION” at the David Copperfield Theater within MGM Grand, a prestigious hotel in Las Vegas, as the main performance of the festival. The drama featured Ichikawa Somegoro and Nakamura Karoku among other kabuki stars. The projection-mapping technology and other state-of-the-art imaging technologies were used in collaboration with NAKED Inc. while English lines were included in the performances, a “hanamichi” (extended stage) was put in place in a unique way, and other efforts were made to partially “localize” the performances. The performances were highly successful, and the average seat occupancy rate came to around 90%.
Besides these theatrical performances, a “Water Screen Digital Show,” a fountain show themed on Japanese culture, was produced using the cutting-edge projection mapping technologies while a matching game application was developed, enabling many tourists to enjoy themselves.
4. New projects in collaboration with companies that have cutting-edge technologies
The development of content as aforementioned requires collaboration with cutting-edge technologies in a large framework. Many leading Japanese companies that empathize with Shochiku’s goal extended support for its projects. In particular, the technologies of Panasonic Corp., which extended special support to Shochiku, and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., which provided technologies, have shown a new potential of choreography of kabuki performances. Moreover, these technologies helped make great achievements in public relations on Japan’s cutting-edge technologies using various content, such as “KABUKI LION Interactive Showcase,” a technological exhibition that the two companies held in front of the theater, and live transmission of the kabuki performances to Japan.
Kabuki, Japan’s most traditional performing art, has been registered by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Shochiku is determined to hand over the tradition of kabuki to future generations and promote the development of new content through the integration of cutting-edge technologies with kabuki in cooperation with various companies to promote the attractiveness of kabuki and produce works that people from all over the world can enjoy.