There’s a new show in town, that town being our home (and technically a city): Osaka, Japan. And it’s a weird-as-hell show, in the good way.
Keren – also called Japan Total Mad Feast Stage Keren – opened in Feb 2019. We’d been waiting to see it for weeks. Now that we’ve witnessed Keren live on stage for realsies, we’ll tell you why we think you should too.
What is ‘Keren’?
It started out as the Japanese word (外連) for a ‘gimmicky’, strange kabuki performance – like showing off to the crowd. It had a negative vibe, but that word’s being reclaimed.
Today, the ‘Keren’ we’re talking about is a whirlwind of music, action, drama, and dance. They call it a ‘Japanaganza’. When the show’s intro page looks like this, you know it’s gonna be epic:
…an original revue produced in Osaka that shows Japan’s unique art and culture including performing arts, anime, ninjas, samurai, Fujiyama, yokai, four seasons, and giant tuna…
Okay, that’s a lot to take in for 1 show. We couldn’t wait to see this insanity in person. And we needed to know more about that giant tuna.
It didn’t show up in the original Keren trailer on YouTube. Which we were gonna show you, before it disappeared off the face of the earth. Here’s a different one, less weird but you get the idea.
1 more reason to visit Osaka Castle Park
The place to go to watch Keren is ‘Cool Japan Park Osaka’, near Osaka Castle. It’s a new entertainment hub, and they’re making a huge effort to give out as much info in English as they can.
There are 3 halls – WW, SS, and TT – and Keren’s running at WW Hall. The Cool Japan Park’s a short walk from either Osaka-jo Koen JR station or Morinomiya subway station.
The WW Hall lobby’s got other stuff to see ’til you take your seat, like the Keren official goods table, the Yoshimoto-style back wall, and the Ajinomoto-sponsored photo spot.
We got settled in, and found out that taking photos during the show was okay! As long as we didn’t use the flash. No video allowed, though, and your phone’s gotta be in silent mode the whole time.
Buckle up for 70 minutes of madness
We heard there’d be sword fights, tap dancing, kabuki, and ‘buildings collapsing’. We also got some taiko drumming, sumo wrestlers, and kendo in the mix.
Without too many spoilers… (we’ve used pics from Keren’s Twitter feed, so they can’t be that spoiler-y right?)
The ‘story’ of Keren flips between the present and the past. You’ll see Japanese tradition mix with modern. Like when a group of praying Buddhist monks gets interrupted by ballroom dancers.
The show deals with the language barrier by not using language at all. Everything’s acted out without speaking – anyone can understand. That sword fight we knew about? Even more intense as a silent scene.
There are only 2 songs with lyrics – for one of them, most of the Japanese words are super easy. And for the other, you’ll be too busy watching the background change to wonder what’s being said.
Yep, that’s a giant LED panel acting as part of the scenery.
The digital art’s by Canadian creative team Moment Factory. They’ve got an impressive work history: the Olympics, Super Bowl halftime shows, and Namie Amuro’s final concert tour.
And for Keren, they’ve pulled it out of the bag again. The special effects are amazing. The locations, the seasons, and the weather keep changing in seconds. It somehow looks even more 3D than real life, which we still can’t wrap our brains around.
Having half the set on screen makes scene changes way faster and smoother – you’re not waiting for stuff to get dragged off stage. That means less time for costume changes, but we didn’t see anyone mess it up.
Last but not least, we spotted that giant tuna! It popped up a couple times. We won’t tell you what happens to it in the end… you’ll have to go see.
Spend (just over) a mad hour at Keren
Let’s say you’re a tourist, visiting Osaka for a while, and you wanna experience something fun. Now that we’ve seen Keren, we can give you some good reasons to go watch it:
- Super close to Osaka Castle – easy to find.
- (Almost) no talking – you don’t need to know any Japanese.
- Crazy fun – the kind of thing you won’t see anywhere else.
- Satisfying, but not too long – fits into an afternoon or evening.
Keren’s running at WW Hall of Cool Japan Park Osaka ’til at least June. Check the show schedule on the Keren website for times and ticket prices.