Thursday, 9 December 2010

Face behind the mask

I don't usually post much about Japanese news, but perhaps the bar fight of kabuki superstar Ebizo Ichikawa XI is worth a mention, if only because it's a further slip of the mask that fronts certain ideas of Japanese-ness. (Sumo has had its share of unmasking recently, for example – earlier this year one whole tournament wasn't televised as punishment for illegal gambling and yakuza connections. And last month a sumo wrestler was video-taped driving a car, which, can you believe, is forbidden for sumo wrestlers.) Now Ebizo – a major star from a celerated kabuki family – has revealed a drunken and allegedly arrogant side which got him into a bar fight from which he was hospitalised with facial injuries.

So it's only worth a mention to point out that sometimes there's a certain lack of mystery behind certain cultural approaches seen as mysterious: kabuki actors can, we now know, be as drunk and apparently unpleasant as any actor outside of Japan who doesn't abide by an imagined behavioural code.

As Japan slips behind China economically, as the English-language expands (outside of Japan), as the economy stagnates, some currently wonder whether Japan wants to turn inwards again. Yet perhaps there's no unique comfort to be truly found in doing that.

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