The Footprints of Aso

Kaho Gekijyo Theater


Kaho Gekijyo Theater (Part 2)

At its peak, the Chikuho region was home to 32 playhouses, but they began closing one after the other with the advent of movies and television, which also overlapped with the decline of the region's coal industry. Among the playhouses, the Kaho Gekijyo Theater is the only one remaining in the Japan that held out to the end and still periodically holds performances.

Here, we would like to share a conversation between Manami Ito, current executive director of the NPO Kaho Gekijyo Theater and granddaughter of Takashi Ito, who single handedly restored the Kaho Gekijyo Theater after it was destroyed a second time, and Masatoshi Kinoshita, president of Aso Yoshio Shoji Co., Ltd., which is co-sponsoring a children's camp that is held at the Kaho Gekijyo Theater during the summer.

Manami Ito, Masatoshi Kinoshita

Ito: The connection between Kaho Gekijyo Theater and Aso is very deep, isn't it? Aso established the former Nakaza, financed the reconstruction, and recently helped again in July 2003 when the theater was flooded after torrential rainfall during the rainy season.

Kinoshita: That was a really awful time, wasn't it? From July 19th to the 20th it poured rain nonstop, the Onga River overflowed, and approximately 70% of the stores in Iizuka City were damaged, while several hundred homes were flooded. The Kaho Gekijyo Theater, which stands close to the Onga River, was submersed in 1.5 meters of water, and the damage to the theater was catastrophic.

Ito: The artists from the Kaho Gekijyo Theater held a charity event, the Chikuho Symphony Orchestra put on a charity concert, and many people cheered us on to keep at it and rebuild the theater. Frankly, however, I thought it would be difficult to continue. Yutaka Aso, the chairman of the Aso Group, took the leadership role in the restoration work and immediately set up a "Kaho Gekijyo Theater Restoration Committee," which was a tremendous help.

Kinoshita: Yutaka Aso was also the chairman of the "Kaho Gekijyo Theater Association," and he strongly believed that such a valuable cultural treasure could not be lost. He must have felt it was his mission as a member of the local community and as a local corporation to realize everyone's wishes to restore the Kaho Gekijyo Theater.

Ito: Aso provided support on the financing side as well. Not only did it make a donation to the Restoration Committee, but it also asked other companies to do the same. By making the Kaho Gekijyo Theater into an NPO, it became easier to received public assistance, but without the Restoration Committee it would not have been possible to raise 300 million yen. I am truly grateful.

Kinoshita: No matter how much funds you raise, it is no easy matter to rebuild a theater in such a short time frame of only one year. You must have worked exceedingly hard yourself.

Ito: We have all worked to protect the Kaho Gekijyo Theater, and I really felt the love so many people have for the theater. Even so, we still need to do our part.

Kinoshita: The local citizens must have great pride in the Kaho Gekijyo Theater. The people in attendance at the one-year anniversary celebration of the theater's restoration looked truly happy, which left a lasting impression on me.

Kaho Gekijyo Theater
Iizuka 5-23, Iizuka City
300 yen
(Not available on performance days or the day immediately before and after performances)
January 1, December 31
Parking capacity:
50 cars (Pay parking: 100 yen per car, 500 yen per bus)
* A city parking lot (pay parking) with a capacity of 500 cars is located nearby