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Sumo wrestling. The Tsukiji fish market. Kabuki theater.

On a trip to Tokyo, I went for that classic tourist trio.

The fish market was a dawn whirl of tuna auctions, scurrying traders and impeccably fresh sushi eaten at 6:30 a.m. at a tiny market-restaurant counter.

The sumo wrestlers — jaw-droppingly mountainous and nearly naked — grappled and grunted just a few feet away from me at their early-morning training.

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At an elegant theater, the traditional Japanese drama of Kabuki gave an afternoon glimpse of a more restrained, and classic, aspect of Japanese culture.

The highly stylized Kabuki dance-drama, often focused on tragic love, is more than 400 years old. Men and boys, in ornate costumes and makeup, usually play both the female and male characters.

Kabuki devotees flock to the all-day presentations. Newbies, like me, can stay an hour or two at a shorter program. And even understand the plot, thanks to the earphone English translation at theaters such as Kabukiza, a major Kabuki theater in Tokyo.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at