Performer in the enigmatic performance troupe, Yuranza (Photo: Yuranza)
- 6 min read


Unveiling The Mystery

Beyond world-class cuisines and arctic-to-jungle landscapes, journeying in Japan is also about wholehearted people, vibrant performances and rich cultures, which the Yuranza performing arts troupe perfectly embodies. Details about Yuranza are scarce, even in Japanese, so let’s delve into their world and see how they can enrich your experience.

Intriguing Performances

A hidden gem, the enigmatic performance troupe Yuranza creates one-time-only unique performances that will leave you wanting more! Hotel owners, international conference organisers, luxury travel agents, and others may seed the creation of a performance with a single word/theme but also may request a full adaptation to a unique venue, the surrounding nature, historical anecdotes, local legends, and colours/motifs of a village or prefecture. Unlike in Japanese traditional performing arts (bunraku, kabuki, nohgaku), Yuranza’s audience may witness a hyperlocal story connecting Japan to a specific trade or country.

Stage before a concert at The Mountain Plaza ®
Stage before a concert at The Mountain Plaza ® (Photo: Yuranza)
Yuranza performers and audience at The Mountain Plaza ®
Yuranza performers and audience at The Mountain Plaza ® (Photo: Yuranza)

In January 2024, Yuranza’s artists created a captivating “Soil & 5 Grains (wheat, rice, beans, foxtail millet, proso millet)” performance from scratch in two days for a food tour that included a temple stay at Kakurinbo in the Minobu countryside. They performed the show before Buddhist statues and under golden decorations of heavens, with a faint fragrance of incense in the air. During this private show, stage actor Ryo Yoshimi, dancer Oriha Kato, shamisen player Tetsuya Okano, and taiko player Shunichiro Kamiya were joined by a local priest swinging and rotating a matoi pole, which is normally wielded during local matsuri (festivals).

Background during Soil & Grain - Buddhist statues inside Kakurinbo temple hall
Background during Soil & Grain - Buddhist statues inside Kakurinbo temple hall
Stage actor Ryo Yoshimi, dancer Oriha Kato, taiko player Shunichiro Kamiya, and (hidden) shamisen player Tetsuya Okano at Kakurinbo
Stage actor Ryo Yoshimi, dancer Oriha Kato, taiko player Shunichiro Kamiya, and (hidden) shamisen player Tetsuya Okano at Kakurinbo

Shrouded In Secrecy

A certain mystique surrounds the troupe, whose composition is ever changing. From all over Japan, these men and women may embody a personality, read a letter, dance, or play a traditional musical instrument, such as a koto (Japan’s national instrument), taiko drum (popular worldwide), shamisen (using a plectrum on 3 strings), or shinobue transverse bamboo flute (producing high-pitch sounds). Check out the official website and Facebook to discover their specialities, styles, motivations, and backgrounds.

Beating a large drum
Beating a large drum (Photo: Yuranza)
Performing a traditional Japanese dance
Performing a traditional Japanese dance (Photo: Yuranza)
Playing a shamisen
Playing a shamisen (Photo: Yuranza)

Shunichiro Kamiya, performance leader and stage director, was the first Japanese instrumentalist ever invited to perform at Burning Man. He gave 1,000+ performances while touring in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Myanmar, Spain, and the USA at venues like the Boston Symphony Hall and BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). A drummer since 10 years old, he became a member of Drum Tao, then Kodo, and gathered 32 performers under the “Matoi-no-kai” label for the benefit of current and future generations. He composes music, performs, and leads workshops. Check out his reels on Instagram.

Performance leader of Yuranza: Shunichiro Kamiya
Performance leader of Yuranza: Shunichiro Kamiya (Photo: Yuranza)

Masahiro Tozawa founded Yuranza after spotting tears of joy at a live event and quickly quit his job to focus on making people happy through music! Being a believer of the PERMA model of positive psychology (positive emotions + engagement + relationships + meaning + accomplishments), he feels that music is not just for live entertainment, but a tool to make all people happy. Therefore, he strives to develop Japan’s musical culture, notably through the rebranding of Japanese traditional instruments, while revitalising local communities. Why did he choose the name Yuranza (遊覧座)? It reflects the founder’s spirit, meaning “the troupe that gives pleasure” (遊覧 = pleasure, 覧 = watch, 遊 = play, 座 = troupe).

Yuranza founder Masahiro Tozawa
Yuranza founder Masahiro Tozawa (Photo: Yuranza)

A Glimpse Into The Enchantment

Put your headphones on, and enjoy two minutes of harmonious excerpts of Yuranza’s open-air concert in coastal Mihama-cho (Aichi countryside). With its 60 tons of terracotta, The Mountain Plaza ® open-air amphitheatre blends the melody of traditional/modern musical instruments and diverse sounds of surrounding nature—swaying trees, whispering wind, whirring insects, and birdsongs.

Keep your headphones on for one more minute to get a feeling of Soil & 5 Grains. During this immersive experience, the thunderous beats of the colossal taiko drum shook the audience from head to toes, and the dramatic voice of the stage actor moving in lights and shadows accompanied an emotional storytelling. This performance was also participative, with the audience playing an easy rhythm on a simple musical instrument during specified periods. For context, learn more about the area’s unusual geography, ground and food in the “Whispers of Time & Wisdom in Minobu” article.

Audience playing music during Soil & 5 Grains
Audience playing music during Soil & 5 Grains (Photo: Yuranza)

The Quest To Experience Yuranza

First, check announcements on their website. As Expo 2025 approaches, public events promoting Japanese regions, cultures and products may be scheduled off-the-beaten-path in Kansai, at resorts nationwide, or at exhibition/convention centres, such as Tokyo Big Sight, Makuhari Messe or Intex Osaka. Yuranza may perform in various areas of Japan. Among them, the towns of Minobu and Mihama, mentioned in this article, are most likely to have ongoing performances.

Setting during an open-air concert
Setting during an open-air concert (Photo: Yuranza)
Taiko performer during an open-air concert
Taiko performer during an open-air concert (Photo: Yuranza)

Yuranza also organises taiko workshops that introduce basic drumming techniques and game-based, team-building activities all over Japan. By splitting into teams, learning each other’s rhythm, and combining the sounds like an orchestra, the participants can share a meaningful experience as individuals, as small teams, and as one big team with a common achievement. Among others, the instructor, Shunichiro Kamiya, also teaches kids and nursing home residents with reduced abilities. Blind individuals and wheelchair users are welcome too. Communication is mostly non-verbal but trusted interpreters can support in English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Move, sweat, forget work and your worries, and enjoy!

Japanese drums
Japanese drums (Photo: Yuranza)

School trip organisers, families with young children, and other tourists interested in Japanese culture and performing arts may ask travel agents to plan private or group tours including a show and workshop by Yuranza.

Employees of multinationals can suggest Japan as the next location for team-building activities, incentive tours or board meetings by sharing information about corporate workshops and Yuranza performances with the HR manager and business trip organiser.

Researchers and PhD students with papers accepted at academic conferences in Japan can suggest Yuranza to organisers for an exciting show during the welcome party and for optional workshops after the talks or in parallel with long demo sessions. Yuranza seems very flexible for MICE events.

Team-building workshop
Team-building workshop (Photo: Yuranza)

Embrace The Unknown, And Enjoy Your Encounter

Despite living in Japan for 20 years and exploring it as an inbound tourism and hospitality professional, I was surprised and fascinated by Yuranza’s night performance at Kakurinbo. In regards to performances in Japan, the show instantly secured a place in my Top 3. Soil & 5 Grains was innovative, great for tourists and residents alike, and one can’t help but admire the powerful energy and endless stamina of drummer Shunichiro Kamiya.

Yuranza's performances are more than concerts. They are almost adventures in themselves, sure to be unforgettable for international travellers. You’ll never know what to expect and will certainly want more afterwards. The icing on the cake is that you’ll typically have the chance to take individual and group photos with the troupe. Check them out!

Yuranza artists in residence and audience at Kakurinbo
Yuranza artists in residence and audience at Kakurinbo (Photo: Yuranza)
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