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Dancers perform the Japanese Folk Opera, which aims to promote Japanese culture in Cambodia
Dancers perform the Japanese Folk Opera, which aims to promote Japanese culture in Cambodia. Charlotte Pert

Japanese embassy lights up stage with folk opera tunes

Cherry blossom dancing met heavy metal music at Chaktomuk Theatre as a Japanese choir group performed to two packed audiences on the weekend.

Presented by the Embassy of Japan for a two-day showing on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Japanese-Cambodian relations, embassy secretary Yuki Yaki said that Japanese Folk Opera aimed to promote Japanese culture in the Kingdom.

“This performance is harmonised between the Japanese tradition and opera, and it is rare even in Japan,” Yaki said, adding that the performances blended contemporary Japanese pop culture with traditional song and dance.

Directed by Japanese singer-songwriter Hitoshi Terao, Japanese Folk Opera’s 12 pieces ranged from a traditional rendition of the Sakura spring dance to boy band-style pop songs about love and happiness. A total of 15 performers took to the stage in addition to Terao.

Kazuko Sakamoto, director of Japan’s Human and Cultural Exchange General Incorporated Association which helped organise the performance, said that Japanese folk opera has its roots in the Kabuki theatre of the Edo period.

“Kibuki started 400 years ago and the roots are the same, but not quite the same,” Sakamoto said, adding that folk opera was intended for a less elite audience in days when live theatre was an entertainment staple.

In more recent years, international sounds have entered the folksy tunes, but Sakamoto said that it is part of the fun.

“Japanese people feel like they can enjoy it – keep the Japanese style but make it a little different,” she said.

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