Kabuki: How to get tickets and see a performance

If you’re not convinced you need to see this only-in-Japan entertainment while you’re here, get thee over to Should I see a Kabuki performance? I think you’ll be back.

There are three options for getting your kabuki fix:

1: Visit the Kabuki-za Gallery and see three minutes of the current live show, plus a 30-minute audio guide to kabuki theatre and a room full of selfie-friendly props to interact with

2: See only one act. These tickets are much cheaper, sold only on the day of the show.

3: See an entire performance. Each show is three or four acts: Usually it’s one dance (which may be either a dramatic or a comic dance), plus several dramatic scenes from famous story cycles (often performed in different styles of dress).


Going to the Kabuki-za Gallery

The Kabuki-za Gallery is where you can get a taste of a real kabuki production without committing to an entire show

To get there from the street, go down the escalator from outside the right corner of the theatre building, turn right, and follow the overhead signs to the elevators labeled “Kabukiza Gallery.” It’s on the 5th floor. (Note: not all elevators stop on the 5th floor.)

Hours: 10:00 – 17:30


¥800 to view three minutes of whichever live show is being performed on stage while you’re in the gallery

¥1000 to listen in on 30 minutes of the English earphone simulcast guide to the performance currently being performed live on stage, plus photo-friendly access to the room with the stage sets and props


¥1500 for everything (3-minute live viewing, earphone access and prop room)


See one act of a kabuki play

Seeing only one act of a kabuki performance will cost you less time and money, but you should know that tickets are only sold on the day of the performance, you have to stand in line at the single act box office outside the theatre, it’s first-come-first-serve, cash-only, and they only sell one ticket per customer. These seats are on the fourth floor (serious nosebleed section) and there are a total of 60 (unreserved) seats and standing room for 90. Here are the full details.

Click here to find out what’s playing and at what time then scroll down and click on the item headlined “Single Act Tickets” for the current month. It will take you to a schedule and links to a description of the acts.

Prices vary according to the performance, and some shows may be sold out.


Go to the full 3-act kabuki performance

How to find out what’s playing and get tickets:

• Look on the Kabuki-za theatre’s English website for a schedule and description of the shows that are being performed. Two completely different productions (matinee and evening) are staged seven days a week, changing on the first of each month. The website gives information on the current month’s shows and the next month’s shows. (You can’t buy tickets any further in advance.)

These are the decisions you will have to make before you order your tickets:

• Do you want to go to a matinee (11:00 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.) or an evening show (4:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.)? These are two completely different productions, so be sure to read the descriptions on the website before deciding.

• Which day would you like to go? Kabuki is performed seven days a week.

• What class of ticket do you want to buy? Prices range from around $200 per seat for the very best seats on the first floor and some choice seats on the second floor, down to around $25 per seat for the third tier. Usually there are two price points in between the best and the cheapest. Ticket prices vary, depending on the program and who is performing. Exact prices for each month’s shows are on the website. Note: Unless you call right away on the first three days that tickets go on sale, the popular mid-range seats may be sold out. If only the most expensive and the cheapest tickets are available, be ready to decide which would be your second choice.

Get your tickets

You can now buy them online, on the Kabuki-za theatre’s ticket buying page. Note: the website is a little cranky, and once you buy, there are no refunds, so do each step carefully before clicking continue, because you can’t page back to a former step without screwing everything up!


Reserve your tickets in person at the box office:

• Take the Ginza subway line to the Higashi-Ginza station.

• Leave by Exit 3 and you will be right in front of the the theatre.

• Fill out the form at the little table near the box office queue (labeled in Japanese only). It’s OK to write in English.

• Wait in line at the ticket windows, then give the ticket agent the form you filled out. Be prepared with second and third choices for dates and class of tickets if your first choices are unavailable. (Mid-range tickets sell out first, so you may need to choose between the most expensive and the cheapest tickets.)

• The ticket agent will suggest the best seats available in the price range you select. You can ask the agent to turn around the computer screen and show you the diagram of the theatre if you would like to see where the seats are.

• You may pay by cash or major credit card.

OR you can reserve tickets by phone. Note: You can’t pay by credit card over the phone. The ticket agent will give you a reservation number and you have to physically go to the box office, give them the reservation number, and pay for the tickets there within 14 days of ordering over the phone.

• Call the Kabuki-za Theatre (03-5565-6000, open 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. every day) to reserve tickets. This number is on the English website and is usually staffed by an English-speaking person. Tell the agent which day and which performance you want to attend. Then tell the agent which class of ticket you would like to reserve.

• After you decide which class of tickets to buy, the ticket agent will tell you which are the best seats available and reserve those seats for you if you agree. (They know the theatre and really do try to give you the best seats that are left. You can trust them.)

• They will give you a reservation number. You must go to the box office at the theatre within 14 days of ordering and pay for the tickets there.

Picking up your tickets at the box office:


• Take the Ginza subway line to the Higashi-Ginza station.

• Leave by Exit 3 and you will be right in front of the the theatre.

• Fill out the form at the little table near the box office queue (labeled in Japanese only). It’s OK to write in English.

• Take your form to the ticket windows to the right of the entrance to the Kabuki-za theatre. Pay for your tickets. You can use cash or a major credit card.

What do do on the day of the performance:

• Take the Ginza Line to the Higashi-Ginza station.

• Leave by Exit 3 and you will be right in front of the the theatre.

• Doors open 30 minutes before the performance begins. It is well worth coming early to see the many patrons milling around outside in their beautiful kimonos, and to buy your program, rent earphones, and order your meal.

• Immediately inside the doors to your left is the counter where they sell English programs. I recommend buying one, as they have information about the actors and detailed summaries of the plays being performed. Cash only.

• Up several stairs and around the corner to the left is the English earphone stand. Renting earphones is highly recommended. Cash only.

• Order your lunch/dinner (see below).

• If you have time, visit the souvenir area near the earphone stand on the first floor. They have wonderful, inexpensive, kabuki-themed mementos – many designs are only available at the Kabuki-za theatre. The souvenir stand is open throughout the performance, intermissions, and after the show as well.

• Show your ticket to one of the ushers on the first floor and she will direct you to your seats.

How to get lunch/dinner

Performances go on for four hours. If you don’t plan to eat sometime during the performance, you will be very hungry by the end. Here are the options:

Pre-order your meal and eat at one of the restaurants inside the theatre

• You can go to the counters across from the earphone stand and reserve a restaurant lunch/dinner for the first intermission. There are a number of options, and usually a picture of the meal is displayed next to the price. Pay at the counter, write your name on the order form, and you will receive a receipt and the information about which floor your restaurant is on. As soon as the curtain comes down for the first intermission, go directly to the restaurant (you can show your receipt to an usher and she will direct you to the proper place) and they will have your name on a table with your food all laid out, ready to eat. Cash only.

• This is one of the unique experiences of going to the kabuki, but it is expensive (the cheapest meal is about $25). The food is OK, but not outstanding.

The alternative: Stand in line during intermission at the entrance to any restaurant on the 2nd or 3rd floors, and buy a take-out box lunch. You can eat these in your seats during the intermission, or on one of the benches in the lobby. Drinks are available at vending machines in the lobby areas. Be sure not to drop crumbs or make any kind of mess at your seat and try not to eat during the performance. Carry out all trash with you and be sure not to leave any trash near your seat. Cash only.

Or: It’s okay to bring in your own lunch/dinner from outside and eat it in your seat or on one of the benches out in the common areas. If you don’t want to pack a meal at home, there are stands outside the theatre selling prepared o-bento (much cheaper than inside the theatre), or you can pack your own. If you choose to buy an o-bento outside, be sure to do it before the performance. There’s not enough time to go out during the intermission. If you pack your own, be sure to pack a crumb-free and mess-free lunch and take all your trash out with you when you leave. Try not to eat during the performance. Drinks are available at vending machines in the lobby areas. Warning: The line for the ladies’ restroom is extremely long during the intermissions. It’s best to go in the middle of the performance, or expect to use up the entire break waiting in line.

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

 For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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