"Tokyo meisho sanjyu-roku gisen Saruwakacho"
Artist: 昇斎一景 Oban, Colour print
Published: 1872(Meiji 5)
Ritsumeikan Art Research Center (arcUP2927)
This is the picture of the audience seats in the end of Edo period to the beginning of Meiji period. In each Masuseki, a squared box seat on the ground, 4 to 5 people are sitting and enjoying eating and drinking. Today, it is prohibited to eat and drink in a theater during the performance, but it was common at that time.
Before Bunka era (around 1810), the nearest space from the stage was not separated with railings and called Kiriotoshi, so it was like just a large flat space. And the theatre staffs admitted spectators to this space as many as possible. But after then, it became Hiradoma with separating railings. Besides this, there are also seats called Sajiki, Rakandai, and Yoshino.
Sajiki are the seats placed each side of Hiradoma and straight in the back of the stage and are the level above Hiradoma. The seats can be purchased only through Chaya (theatre tea-house) and regarded as royal seats. Therefore, Chaya was in charge of managing the seats and taking care their guests. Often the guests in Sajiki enjoyed the kabuki performance eating fruits. Sajiki also have two types called Kami sajiki and Shimo sajiki, Kami means upper and Shimo means lower, and Kami sajiki was more expensive than Shimo sajiki. By Bunka period, there were two crossbars in front of Shimo sajiki, and this was called Uzura (quail) because it looked like Uzura kago, basket that quails were put, from Doma. It is also because the actors come and go through the back aisles of Shimo sajiki, and the guests who are sitting in Shimo sajiki keep watching the actors turning their head like quails. On the other hand, the farthest Sajiki seats from the stage was called Tsumbo sajiki and unfortunate guests had to sit there when the theater was full, or they were crammed into there without restriction.
Rakandai was also a kind of spectator seats which was placed the back of stage right, so the audience in there can only see the actors from behind. However, they can also see the back stage of performance, and were sort of special seats. Rakandai were the cheapest seats because it was temporary seats when the theater got full.
The name Rakandai came from the appearance of the seats filled with guests, it looked just like Gohyaku Rakan, the Five Hundred Disciples of the Buddha, in Tenon Rakan-ji temple.
Yoshino seats were placed right above Rakandai. The name of Yoshino, one of the most famous places for beautiful cherry blossoms and red-coloured maples, came from what could be seen from there. In front of the seats, large stage properties were hanged in top of the stage as seasonal scenery, such as cherry blossoms and red-coloured maples. After the box set was introduced as a stage construction and audience seats and a stage were completely separated, Rakandai and Yoshino could no longer be seen.
Today, although Hiradoma gradually disappeared as chairs come to be used, still it remained in some old theaters, and audience can enjoy the performance from different view. Sajiki has rather become the main seat style for Kabuki theatre today. (,)