A theater house that vividly colored Yamaga’s romantic past

Yachiyoza Theater

The Yachiyoza Theater was built in 1910 by a group of businessmen in Yamaga called Danna-shu. Equipped with advanced functions such the revolving stage made with German-made rails, box seats, and a Hanamichi passage, it uses the structure of a Kabuki house from the Edo period. Colorful advertisements for the shops of Danna-shu, a large brass chandelier, and paper lanterns with dim light decorate the ceilings, creating a retro atmosphere of the Meiji period.

Facility Information

Yumekogura Museum (managed by the Yachiyoza Theater)

The Yumekogura Museum (managed by the Yachiyoza Theater) in a white-wall building stores documents related to the Yachiyoza Theater. It was built in 1887, before the Yachiyoza Theater. Some 200 props used in plays, the kimono worn on stage by the actor Tamasaburo Bando, posters and flyers for performances, the projector used in the Yachiyoza Theater, and box-office records are displayed.

Exterior of Yachiyoza Theater

The Yachiyoza Theater has both the elegance of a Japanese-style building and the good points of Western-style architecture. About 33,000 tiles are used for its roof. The old tiles were replaced by new pantiles during the major renovation of the Heisei period, except for the 1,500 tiles used for the front roof above the entrance. The drum turret on the front gable wall was used for making drum rolls to announce the start of performances across the town.

Interior of Yachiyoza Theater

The Yachiyoza Theater is a two-story wooden building with the structure of a Kabuki house from the Edo period (equipped with a Hanamichi passage, revolving stage, box seats, and balcony seats). There are few pillars, and seats are raised towards the rear, allowing the stage to be seen even from the back seats. After the wooden entrance, old ranking tables of actors are displayed. The ceilings are decorated with colorful advertisements and a large brass chandelier (reproduction) which are unique to the Yachiyoza Theater. Please check them out♪

Revolving stage

A revolving stage is placed in the center of the stage and turned manually. It is used for accelerating the change of scenes, and the following scene is prepared in advance behind the stage. The rails and wheels of the revolving stage are made by the German company Krupp. They are 8.4 m in diameter and weigh 3.2 tons.

Stage lift below the Hanamichi passage

The stage lift is an elevator that moves up and down, installed about two thirds of the way down the Hanamichi passage to the stage. It carries the actors up to the stage from the trap room below the stage and Hanamichi passage. Ninja and monsters often appear from here in plays. The stage is also equipped with a lift of the same kind called Seri.

Dressing room

The stairs behind the revolving stage lead to the dressing room. Actors used to put on make-up and get dressed in this room, which is still preserved in its original state. A new dressing room in another place is used today.

History of Yachiyoza Theater

A traditional theater house loved by people of Yamaga

<Important Cultural Property of Japan> Yachiyoza Theater

Built in 1910, the Yachiyoza Theater is a traditional theater house in the style of the Edo period. For its construction, the Association of Commerce and Industry of Yamaga created a theater union and sold stocks at 30 yen per share.

Kametaro Kimura, shipping agent and lantern maker, designed and supervised the construction of the Yachiyoza Theater. He was an amateur architect, but he visited and examined theaters around Japan, including the Kabukiza in Tokyo, and even traveled to Shanghai to learn the good points of Western-style architecture.

However, entertainment for ordinary people started to diversify in 1960s, and the Yachiyoza Theater gradually fell behind the times. The elderly who remembered its glorious past were greatly pained to see the desertion and degradation of the theater house.

The Seniors Association therefore collected donations through the “Roof Tile Campaign” to repair the roof tiles. The campaign also motivated young people, who started to work for the theater’s reconstruction.

As a result, the Yachiyoza Theater was designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan in 1988.

The performances featuring Tamasaburo Bando, produced by the citizens in 1990, captivated audience with Tamasaburo’s brilliant dance in the atmosphere of the Meiji period created by the Yachiyoza Theater. This worked favorably for the reconstruction and spread the name of the Yachiyoza Theater across Japan.

Major renovation works started in 1996 and completed in 2001.