Kokusai Theater, Asakusa, c. 1940.

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Kokusai Theater, Asakusa, c. 1940.

Kokusai (International) Theater, Asakusa, c. 1940.

“The second new theatre that Shochiku built in the 1930s [after opening Tokyo Gekijo in 1930], in part for Kabuki, was the Kokusai Gekijo (International Theatre) in Asakusa. This mammoth theatre opened in July 1937 and was the biggest in Asia. It had a capacity of nearly five thousand and was intended to develop a taste for large-scale entertainment among the inhabitants of Asakusa.

“Theatre was thriving in Asakusa at the time, but mainly on a comparatively small scale. Much of the Kokusai Gekijo programming consisted of well-publicised film screenings, mostly of the latest American films, and shows by Shochiku’s answer to Takarazuka, the Shochiku Shojo Kageki (Shochiku Girls’ Opera). The Kokusai Gekijo could easily be filled for performances of operettas, musicals, song and dance routines by the company.”

Japan’s Modern Theatre: A Century of Change and Continuity, by Brian Powell, 2013

Kokusai Theater, c. 1960.

Kokusai Theater, c. 1960.

The Asakusa Kokusai Gekijo (international theater) opened in 1937 as the home theater of the Shochiku Shojo Kageki-dan (SKD) before closing in 1982.

The dance troupe was first established in 1928, and back in the early days the SKD dancers took the showbiz world by storm with their “Tokyo Odori” (Tokyo dance), line dances and other unique performance features.

However, with entertainment options becoming increasingly diversified in the decade starting in 1955, the troupe’s popularity began to wane. In 1982, the Kokusai Gekijo, which had served as SDK’s stomping grounds, was shut down. SKD was disbanded in 1996.

Kokusai Theater dancers, c. 1960.

Kokusai Theater SKD dancers, c. 1960.

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  1. Pingback: A Part of “Pleasure Land” at Asakusa Park, c. 1920. | Old Tokyo

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