One of the biggest hurdles facing fans of Japanese media is actually accessing the pop culture they want to enjoy. Few experiences unite those interested in J-pop or J-dramas or whatever genre you want to affix a “J” to than having no idea how to actually find the thing you want, let alone in a language you know fluently. Perhaps this would make sense in the ‘90s or Aughts, but in the 2010s many people interested in this stuff still have to turn to shady third-party streaming sites or “short versions” to get their fix.
So it’s noteworthy when any major artist in Japan breaks from the typical mold and offers something open to international audiences. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu recently shared a short documentary offering a peek behind a show she did on April 30 called “Kyary Kabuki Kabuki,” a live show held at a kabuki theater. It’s plenty interesting on its own, but also an interesting document given how it includes elements geared towards English-language viewers. Watch it below.
The mini-documentary details a Spring show from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu held at the Minamiza Theater in Kyoto. That’s a venue used for kabuki performances, so for this special live experience, Kyary created a whole performance based around the traditional form of acting. The 11-minute video not only features extensive footage of the J-pop star donning kabuki costumes and doing her best moves in front of the crowd in Japan’s ancient capital, but also includes behind-the-scenes footage of her preparing for the one-off show. That includes meeting with respected kabuki actor Kataoka Ainosuke, and Kyary dropping her thoughts on the art form such as “I’d describe ‘kabuki’ as chaos.”
What’s really interesting about “Kyary Kabuki Kabuki” is that it’s online for anyone to see at all, and comes complete with English subtitles built right in for audiences outside of the country to follow along with. While this has become the norm for a lot of non-English-language entertainment industries around the world — see how K-pop has used it for international attention — it has still been slow to take off in Japan for major releases like singles and videos. Forget about souvenirs like this — the main pieces of an artist’s output often don’t get this kind of attention given to them. That’s slowly changing, but emphasis falls on “slow” there.
This documentary shows how beneficial the extra effort can be because this is a generally interesting glance into a well-known artist’s thinking on traditional Japanese art. It adds more depth to Kyary the artist and is also just entertaining. Fans want to learn more about the artists they love and feel connected to them beyond just the music. “Kyary Kabuki Kabuki” and its accessibility really underlines that.