Wakimachi Odeon-za

Wakimachi Odeon-za 脇町劇場オデオン座

Jake Davies

Located in the small rural town of Wakimachi in rural Tokushima, the Wakimachi Gekijo is a fine example of an early 20th century Japanese theater.

Wakimachi Gekijo, Shikoku, Japan.
Exterior of the Wakimachi Gekijo in Wakimachi, Tokushima Prefecture
Wakimachi Gekijo, Shikoku, Japan.
Wakimachi Gekijo

Due in large part to the bombing of most of Japan's major cities during World War II, and also partly to the late 20th century Japanese tendency to demolish "old" buildings and replace them with newer, modern structures, very few example of historic theaters till exist, and those that do are to be found in similar rural environments, like the Kaho Gekijo in Iizuka, Kyushu, or the Uchikoza in Ehime.

The Wakimachi Gekijo was built in 1934 with a capacity of 750, primarily for kabuki, and other popular entertainments like rokyoku, a form of storytelling with shamisen accompaniment.

In the postwar period the building was converted into a cinema, though occasionally other types of entertainment would be performed.

With the massive rural population drain to the big cities the theater, like so many others in similar situations, became uneconomical to operate and closed its doors in 1995. It was scheduled for demolition, but before that happened it was used as the setting and location for a movie about a run-down rural cinema.

Directed by Yoji Yamada, the man responsible for the very successful Tora-san movie series, and starring Toshiyuki Nishida, the 1996 release of The Man Who Caught The Rainbow (虹をつかむ男 ) sparked an interest in the cinema and led to it being renovated and reopened, where it is now often known as Odeon-za, it's name in the movie. Occasional performances do take place, but it is primarily a tourist attraction.

Wakimachi Gekijo, Shikoku, Japan.
Wakimachi Gekijo, Wakimachi, Tokushima Prefecture
Wakimachi Gekijo, Shikoku, Japan.
Wakimachi Gekijo, Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku


Wakimachi Gekijo
140-1 Nishibun, Mima-shi
Tokushima 779-3602
Tel: 0883 52 3807

Open from 9am to 5pm and closed on Tuesdays, entry is 200 yen and 100 yen for children. There is also a special reduced price ticket that includes entry to the nearby Yoshida Residence.

The Wakimachi Gekijo is located at the eastern end of the "Udatsu Street" historic preservation area in Wakimachi, Mima city, about 4km from Anabuki Station on the JR Tokushima Line.

Anabuki Station is 44 minutes by Limited Express from Tokushima Station (1,370 yen) or an hour or 70 minutes by local train (850 yen). The Japan Rail Pass is valid on this JR Line.

Anabuki Station is also the nearest station to the Former Nagaoka Family Farmhouse, another worthwhile attraction in the area.

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