Misono-za Renovations

Most major cities in Japan have at least one venue dedicated full-time to the traditional theatrical arts. In Nagoya it’s the Misono-za, which is scheduled to undergo extensive renovations next year; or, at least that’s what the venue is planning.

The publicly traded company that owns the 116-year-old theater, which mostly stages kabuki productions, announced the renovation plan last August. However, in the meantime it’s been revealed that the theater has been having trouble borrowing money for the work.

Misono-za owes about 700 million yen ($8.7 million) on long-term loans it has taken out with five different banks and has repeatedly asked for extensions, but to no avail.

Consequently, the renovation plans are up in the air, which means the future of the theater itself is in jeopardy, as the renovation involves tearing down the theater and building a high-rise condominium in its place with a new theater on the bottom floor.

The sale of the condos will give the theater money to pay off its debt and continue into the future. Without approval of new loans to go ahead with construction the company, which is listed on the Nagoya Stock Exchange, could be forced to file for bankruptcy. Its debt stands at 200 million yen more than its assets.

The theater, which does not receive assistance from any government body, is struggling with the loss of interest in traditional theater arts. At a May 14 press conference, the president of Misono-za said the company did not achieve its goal of 315,000 paid admissions for 2011, though he didn’t say exactly how close it got.

Because a kabuki performance takes a great deal of time and effort to prepare, a single stage show usually lasts an entire month The theater has lately been experimenting with more “short-term performances” that could appeal to “young people and families,” meaning non-traditional plays with popular TV stars, or concerts.

In April, the theater launched a year-long series of “sayonara” performances leading up to the closing of the theater prior to renovation, which will start next spring —that is, if the loans come through.