Why pay money for a boring bus tour when you can experience Japanese culture first hand? The catch phrase of TABICA, one of Japan’s newest travel experience companies, is ‘meet the locals, live. locally.’ — and that’s just what you can do!

Offering nature, arts & crafts, cooking, and culture classes, TABICA’s aim is to ‘share one-of-a-kind experiences, promote interactions between local hosts and deepen guests’ understanding of Japan.’ Among the experiences available is Noh performance — one of Japan’s oldest theatrical arts.

For centuries all-male casts have taken to elegant cypress stages, portraying stories taken from folk law and traditional literature. Although it may seem simple on screen, walking into the performance hall with its impressive wooden stage transports one back in time to an olden-day Japan.

The use of masks aims to stimulate audiences imagination by intensifying characters’ body language and movement. Depending on the angle, one mask can express multiple emotions such as sadness, happiness, and love.

Before guests are taught the basics of Noh performance, they venture backstage for a tour audience members would die for — where they can sit in the seat Noh big-shots use to transform into their powerful characters, and see where the cast prepares before each show.

Noh joke — this traditional theater experience is noh-t easy! After learning three basic emotions from a professional, participants are fitted with masks and this is where things get tricky. The masks are so detailed they leave little room to see or speak — making it difficult to see the stage, let alone the other cast members! Skilled performers are able to sense where they are positioned by the painstakingly accurate movements, learned from years of practice.

The day’s experience concludes with a private performance from one of the revenue’s very own actors — showing just how much it takes to truly capture the energy and skill of Noh.

See the entirety of Kelly (aka Strawberry Mochi), Emma, and Sam’s experience on YouTube before booking one for yourself!

Tours are organized though TABICA.jp and depart from Harajuku Station in Tokyo daily. Bookings are essential, so be sure to call ahead.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.