Authentic Air Safety Kabuki Theatre

Okay, a little break from my weighty opining on the value and philosophy of art.

I caught this on the Forbes site recently. All Nippon Airways (ANA) has employed kabuki actors to appear in their safety videos. The video showcases a lot of the characteristic elements of kabuki performance, including, as Forbes notes, male performers in female roles.

I always think it is great when countries showcase their traditional arts for a broader audience. (Which by no means diminishes New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings themed air safety announcements). The internationally familiar context of an air safety announcement assists in the sharing of this cultural practice. You need not speak Japanese or English to understand what is occurring.

Andrew Bender does a good job in the Forbes piece pointing out some of the common devices from kabuki performance, including the places where they diverge from tradition. Read the article if you are curious to learn more about what you are watching.  There are a ton of other symbols present like color and gestures, the meanings of which I once knew more about but which are pretty vague in my memory now.

If nothing else, perhaps people will stop randomly labeling activities as kabuki theatre after seeing a sample of what a performance actually entails. (Okay, so yeah, probably not.)

Bender mentions there is a behind the scenes video which is shown upon deplaning. I tried to find it on the ANA YouTube site in order to learn a little bit more to no avail.




About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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