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This article is about Japanese theater. Kabuki_sentence_0

For American political pretense, see Kabuki dance. Kabuki_sentence_1

For other uses, see Kabuki (disambiguation). Kabuki_sentence_2

Not to be confused with Noh. Kabuki_sentence_3

Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki_sentence_4

Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama, the often-glamorous costumes worn by performers, and for the elaborate kumadori make-up worn by some of its performers. Kabuki_sentence_5

Kabuki is considered to have begun in 1603 when Izumo no Okuni formed a female dance troupe to perform dances and light sketches in Kyoto, but developed into an all-male theatrical form after females were banned from kabuki theatre in 1629. Kabuki_sentence_6

This form of theatre was perfected in the late 17th and mid-18th century. Kabuki_sentence_7

In 2005, the "Kabuki theatre" was proclaimed by UNESCO as an intangible heritage possessing outstanding universal value. Kabuki_sentence_8

In 2008, it was inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Kabuki_sentence_9

Etymology Kabuki_section_0

The individual kanji, from left to right, mean sing (歌), dance (舞), and skill (伎). Kabuki_sentence_10

Kabuki is therefore sometimes translated as "the art of singing and dancing". Kabuki_sentence_11

These are, however, ateji characters which do not reflect actual etymology. Kabuki_sentence_12

The kanji of 'skill' generally refers to a performer in kabuki theatre. Kabuki_sentence_13

Since the word "kabuki" is believed to derive from the verb 'kabuku', meaning "to lean" or "to be out of the ordinary", "kabuki" can be interpreted as "avant-garde" or "bizarre" theatre. Kabuki_sentence_14

The expression "kabukimono" (歌舞伎者) referred originally to those who were bizarrely dressed. Kabuki_sentence_15

It is often translated into English as "strange things" or "the crazy ones", and referred to the style of dress worn by gangs of samurai. Kabuki_sentence_16

History Kabuki_section_1

1603–1629: Female kabuki Kabuki_section_2

The history of kabuki began in 1603 when Izumo no Okuni, possibly a miko of Izumo-taisha, began performing with a troupe of female dancers a new style of dance drama, on a makeshift stage in the dry bed of the Kamo River in Kyoto. Kabuki_sentence_17

It originated in the 17th century. Kabuki_sentence_18

Japan was under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate, enforced by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Kabuki_sentence_19

The name of the Edo period derives from the relocation of the Tokugawa regime from its former home in Kyoto to the city of Edo, present-day Tokyo. Kabuki_sentence_20

Female performers played both men and women in comic playlets about ordinary life. Kabuki_sentence_21

The style was immediately popular, and Okuni was asked to perform before the Imperial Court. Kabuki_sentence_22

In the wake of such success, rival troupes quickly formed, and kabuki was born as ensemble dance and drama performed by women — a form very different from its modern incarnation. Kabuki_sentence_23

Much of the appeal of kabuki in this era was due to the ribald, suggestive themes featured by many troupes; this appeal was further augmented by the fact that many performers were also involved in sex work. Kabuki_sentence_24

For this reason, kabuki was also known as "遊女歌舞妓" (lit., "prostitute kabuki") during this period. Kabuki_sentence_25

Kabuki became a common form of entertainment in the red-light districts of Japan, especially in Yoshiwara, the registered red-light district in Edo. Kabuki_sentence_26

The widespread appeal of kabuki often meant that a diverse crowd of different social classes often gathered to watch performances, a unique occurrence that happened nowhere else in the city of Edo. Kabuki_sentence_27

Kabuki theatres became well known as a place to both see and be seen in terms of fashion and style, as the audience - commonly featuring a number of socially-low but economically wealthy merchants - typically used a performance as a way to feature the fashion trends. Kabuki_sentence_28

As an artform, kabuki also provided inventive new forms of entertainment, featuring new music played on the shamisen, clothes and fashion often dramatic in appearance, famous actors and stories often intended to mirror current events. Kabuki_sentence_29

Performances typically lasted from morning until sunset, with surrounding teahouses providing meals, refreshments and place to socialise. Kabuki_sentence_30

The area surrounding kabuki theatres also featured a number of shops selling kabuki souvenirs. Kabuki_sentence_31

Despite its popularity, the ruling shogunate held unfavourable views of kabuki performances. Kabuki_sentence_32

The crowd at a kabuki performance often mixed different social classes, and the social peacocking of the merchant classes, who controlled much of Japan's economy at the time, were perceived to have entrenched upon the standing of the samurai classes, both in appearance and often wealth. Kabuki_sentence_33

In an effort to clamp down on kabuki's popularity, women's kabuki, known as onna-kabuki, was banned in 1629 for being too erotic. Kabuki_sentence_34

Following this ban, young boys began performing in wakashū-kabuki, which was also soon banned. Kabuki_sentence_35

Kabuki switched to adult male actors, called yaro-kabuki, in the mid-1600s. Kabuki_sentence_36

Adult male actors, however, continued to play both female and male characters, and kabuki retained its popularity, remaining a key aspect of the Edo period urban lifestyle. Kabuki_sentence_37

Although kabuki was performed widely across Japan, the Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za and Kawarazaki-za theatres became the most widely-known and popular kabuki theatres, where some of the most successful kabuki performances were and still are held. Kabuki_sentence_38

1629–1673: Transition to yarō-kabuki Kabuki_section_3

During the time period of 1628–1673, the modern version of all-male kabuki actors, a style of kabuki known as yarō-kabuki (lit., "young man kabuki"), was established, following the ban on women and young boys. Kabuki_sentence_39

Cross-dressing male actors, known as "onnagata" (lit., "female role") or "oyama" took over previously-female or wakashu-acted roles. Kabuki_sentence_40

Young (adolescent) men were still preferred for women's roles due to their less obviously masculine appearance and the higher pitch of their voices. Kabuki_sentence_41

The roles of adolescent men in kabuki, known as wakashu, were also played by young men, often selected for their attractiveness; this became a common practice, and wakashu were often presented in an erotic context. Kabuki_sentence_42

The focus of kabuki performances also increasingly began to emphasise drama alongside dance. Kabuki_sentence_43

However, the ribald nature of kabuki performances continued, with male actors also engaging in sex work for both female and male customers. Kabuki_sentence_44

Audiences frequently became rowdy, and brawls occasionally broke out, sometimes over the favors of a particularly popular or handsome actor, leading the shogunate to ban first onnagata and then wakashū roles for a short period of time; both bans were rescinded by 1652. Kabuki_sentence_45

1673–1841: Genroku period kabuki Kabuki_section_4

During the Genroku period, kabuki thrived, with the structure of kabuki plays formalising into the structure they are performed in today, alongside many other elements which eventually came to be recognised as a key aspect of kabuki tradition, such as conventional character tropes. Kabuki_sentence_46

Kabuki theater and ningyō jōruri, an elaborate form of puppet theater later known as bunraku, became closely associated with each other, mutually influencing the other's further development. Kabuki_sentence_47

The famous playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon, one of the first professional kabuki playwrights, produced several influential works during this time, though the piece usually acknowledged as his most significant, Sonezaki Shinjū (The Love Suicides at Sonezaki), was originally written for bunraku. Kabuki_sentence_48

Like many bunraku plays, it was adapted for kabuki, eventually becoming popular enough to reportedly inspire a number of real-life "copycat" suicides, and leading to a government ban on shinju mono (plays about love suicides) in 1723. Kabuki_sentence_49

Also during the Genroku period was the development of the mie style of posing, credited to kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjūrō I, alongside the development of the mask-like kumadori makeup worn by kabuki actors in some plays. Kabuki_sentence_50

In the mid-18th century, kabuki fell out of favor for a time, with bunraku taking its place as the premier form of stage entertainment among the lower social classes. Kabuki_sentence_51

This occurred partly because of the emergence of several skilled bunraku playwrights in that time. Kabuki_sentence_52

Little of note would occur in the further development of kabuki until the end of the century, when it began to re-emerge in popularity. Kabuki_sentence_53

1842–1868: Saruwaka-chō kabuki Kabuki_section_5

In the 1840s, repeated periods of drought led to a series of fires affecting Edo, with kabuki theatres - traditionally made of wood - constantly burning down, forcing many to relocate. Kabuki_sentence_54

When the area that housed the Nakamura-za was completely destroyed in 1841, the shōgun refused to allow the theatre to be rebuilt, saying that it was against fire code. Kabuki_sentence_55

The shogunate, mostly disapproving of the socialisation and trade that occurred in kabuki theatres between merchants, actors and sex workers, took advantage of the fire crisis in the following year, forcing the Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za and Kawarazaki-za out of the city limits and into Asakusa, a northern suburb of Edo. Kabuki_sentence_56

Actors, stagehands, and others associated with the performances were also forced to move in lieu of the death of their livelihood; despite the move of everyone involved in kabuki performance, and many in the surrounding areas, to the new location of the theatres, the inconvenience of the distance led to a reduction in attendance. Kabuki_sentence_57

These factors, along with strict regulations, pushed much of kabuki "underground" in Edo, with performances changing locations to avoid the authorities. Kabuki_sentence_58

The theatres' new location was called Saruwaka-chō, or Saruwaka-machi; the last thirty years of the Tokugawa shogunate's rule is often referred to as the "Saruwaka-machi period", and is well known for having produced some of the most exaggerated kabuki in Japanese history. Kabuki_sentence_59

Saruwaka-machi became the new theatre district for the Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za and Kawarazaki-za theatres. Kabuki_sentence_60

The district was located on the main street of Asakusa, which ran through the middle of the small city. Kabuki_sentence_61

The street was renamed after Saruwaka Kanzaburo, who initiated Edo kabuki in the Nakamura-za in 1624. Kabuki_sentence_62

European artists began noticing Japanese theatrical performances and artwork, and many artists, such as Claude Monet, were inspired by Japanese woodblock prints. Kabuki_sentence_63

This Western interest prompted Japanese artists to increase their depictions of daily life, including the depiction of theatres, brothels, main streets and so on. Kabuki_sentence_64

One artist, Utagawa Hiroshige, produced a series of prints based on Saruwaka from the Saruwaka-machi period in Asakusa. Kabuki_sentence_65

Despite the revival of kabuki in another location, the relocation diminished the tradition's most abundant inspirations for costuming, make-up, and storylines. Kabuki_sentence_66

Ichikawa Kodanji IV, considered one of the most active and successful actors during the Saruwaka-machi period. Kabuki_sentence_67

Deemed unattractive, he mainly performed buyō, or dancing, in dramas written by Kawatake Mokuami, who also wrote during the Meiji era to follow. Kabuki_sentence_68

Kawatake Mokuami commonly wrote plays that depicted the common lives of the people of Edo. Kabuki_sentence_69

He introduced shichigo-cho (seven-and-five syllable meter) dialogue and music such as kiyomoto. Kabuki_sentence_70

His kabuki performances became quite popular once the Saruwaka-machi period ended and theatre returned to Edo; many of his works are still performed. Kabuki_sentence_71

In 1868, the Tokugawa ceased to exist, with the restoration of the Emperor. Kabuki_sentence_72

Emperor Meiji was restored to power and moved from Kyoto to the new capital of Edo, or Tokyo, beginning the Meiji period. Kabuki_sentence_73

Kabuki once again returned to the pleasure quarters of Edo, and throughout the Meiji period became increasingly more radical, as modern styles of kabuki plays and performances emerged. Kabuki_sentence_74

Playwrights experimented with the introduction of new genres to kabuki, and introduced twists on traditional stories. Kabuki_sentence_75

Post-Meiji period kabuki Kabuki_section_6

Beginning in 1868, enormous cultural changes, such as the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate, the elimination of the samurai class, and the opening of Japan to the West, helped to spark kabuki's re-emergence. Kabuki_sentence_76

Both actors and playwrights strove to improve the reputation of kabuki in the face of new foreign influence and amongst the upper classes, partially through adapting traditional styles to modern tastes. Kabuki_sentence_77

This endeavour would prove successful, with the Emperor sponsoring a kabuki performance on 21 April 1887. Kabuki_sentence_78

After World War II, the occupying forces briefly banned kabuki, which had formed a strong base of support for Japan's war efforts since 1931; however, by 1947 the ban had been rescinded. Kabuki_sentence_79

Post-war to modern day kabuki Kabuki_section_7

The ensuing period of occupation following World War II posited a difficult time for kabuki; besides the war's physical impact and devastation upon the country, some schools of thought chose to reject both the styles and artforms of pre-war Japan, kabuki amongst them. Kabuki_sentence_80

Director Tetsuji Takechi's popular and innovative productions of kabuki classics at this time are credited with sparking new interest in kabuki in the Kansai region. Kabuki_sentence_81

Of the many popular young stars who performed with the Takechi Kabuki, Nakamura Ganjiro III (b. Kabuki_sentence_82

1931) was the leading figure, first known as Nakamura Senjaku before taking his current name. Kabuki_sentence_83

It was this period of kabuki in Osaka that became known as the "Age of Senjaku" in his honor. Kabuki_sentence_84

Today, kabuki is the most popular of the traditional styles of Japanese drama, with its star actors often appearing in television or film roles. Kabuki_sentence_85

Well-known onnagata actor Bandō Tamasaburō V has appeared in several non-kabuki plays and movies, often in the role of a woman. Kabuki_sentence_86

Kabuki also appears in works of Japanese popular culture such as anime. Kabuki_sentence_87

In addition to the handful of major theatres in Tokyo and Kyoto, there are many smaller theatres in Osaka and throughout the countryside. Kabuki_sentence_88

The Ōshika Kabuki (大鹿歌舞伎) troupe, based in Ōshika, Nagano Prefecture, is one example. Kabuki_sentence_89

Some local kabuki troupes today use female actors in onnagata roles. Kabuki_sentence_90

The Ichikawa Shōjo Kabuki Gekidan, an all-female troupe, debuted in 1953 to significant acclaim, though the majority of kabuki troupes have remained entirely-male. Kabuki_sentence_91

The introduction of earphone guides in 1975, including an English version in 1982, helped broaden the artform's appeal. Kabuki_sentence_92

As a result, in 1991 the Kabuki-za, one of Tokyo's best known kabuki theaters, began year-round performances and, in 2005, began marketing kabuki cinema films. Kabuki_sentence_93

Kabuki troupes regularly tour Asia, Europe and America, and there have been several kabuki-themed productions of Western plays such as those of Shakespeare. Kabuki_sentence_94

Western playwrights and novelists have also experimented with kabuki themes, an example of which is Gerald Vizenor's Hiroshima Bugi (2004). Kabuki_sentence_95

Writer Yukio Mishima pioneered and popularised the use of kabuki in modern settings and revived other traditional arts, such as Noh, adapting them to modern contexts. Kabuki_sentence_96

There have even been kabuki troupes established in countries outside Japan. Kabuki_sentence_97

For instance, in Australia, the Za Kabuki troupe at the Australian National University has performed a kabuki drama each year since 1976, the longest regular kabuki performance outside Japan. Kabuki_sentence_98

In November 2002, a statue was erected in honor of kabuki's founder, Izumo no Okuni and to commemorate 400 years of kabuki's existence. Kabuki_sentence_99

Diagonally across from the Minami-za, the last remaining kabuki theater in Kyoto, it stands at the east end of a bridge (Shijō Ōhashi) crossing the Kamo River in Kyoto. Kabuki_sentence_100

Kabuki was inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2005. Kabuki_sentence_101

Super Kabuki Kabuki_section_8

While still maintaining most of the historical practices of Kabuki, Ichikawa En-ou (市川猿翁) aimed to broaden its appeal by creating a new genre of Kabuki productions called “Super Kabuki” (スーパー歌舞伎). Kabuki_sentence_102

With Yamoto Takeru (ヤマトタケル) as the first Super Kabuki production to premiere in 1986, remakes of traditional plays and new contemporary creations have been brought to local theaters throughout the country, including anime-based productions such as Naruto or One Piece starting from 2014. Kabuki_sentence_103

Super Kabuki has sparked controversy within the Japanese population regarding the extent of modification of the traditional art form. Kabuki_sentence_104

Some say that it has lost its 400-year long history, while others consider the adaptations necessary for contemporary relevance. Kabuki_sentence_105

Regardless, since incorporating more advanced technology in the new stage sets, costumes, and lighting, Super Kabuki has regained interest from the young demographic. Kabuki_sentence_106

Elements Kabuki_section_9

Stage design Kabuki_section_10

The kabuki stage features a projection called a hanamichi (花道) (lit., "flower path"), a walkway which extends into the audience and via which dramatic entrances and exits are made. Kabuki_sentence_107

Okuni also performed on a hanamichi stage with her entourage. Kabuki_sentence_108

The stage is used not only as a walkway or path to get to and from the main stage, but important scenes are also played on the stage. Kabuki_sentence_109

Kabuki stages and theaters have steadily become more technologically sophisticated, and innovations including revolving stages and trap doors were introduced during the 18th century. Kabuki_sentence_110

A driving force has been the desire to manifest one frequent theme of kabuki theater, that of the sudden, dramatic revelation or transformation. Kabuki_sentence_111

A number of stage tricks, including actors' rapid appearance and disappearance, employ these innovations. Kabuki_sentence_112

The term keren (外連), often translated as playing to the gallery, is sometimes used as a catch-all for these tricks. Kabuki_sentence_113

The hanamichi, and several innovations including revolving stage, seri and chunori have all contributed to kabuki. Kabuki_sentence_114

The hanamichi creates depth and both seri and chunori provide a vertical dimension. Kabuki_sentence_115

Mawari-butai (revolving stage) developed in the Kyōhō era (1716–1735). Kabuki_sentence_116

The trick was originally accomplished by the on-stage pushing of a round, wheeled platform. Kabuki_sentence_117

Later a circular platform was embedded in the stage with wheels beneath it facilitating movement. Kabuki_sentence_118

The kuraten ("darkened revolve") technique involves lowering the stage lights during this transition. Kabuki_sentence_119

More commonly the lights are left on for akaten ("lighted revolve"), sometimes simultaneously performing the transitioning scenes for dramatic effect. Kabuki_sentence_120

This stage was first built in Japan in the early eighteenth century. Kabuki_sentence_121

Seri refers to the stage "traps" that have been commonly employed in kabuki since the middle of the 18th century. Kabuki_sentence_122

These traps raise and lower actors or sets to the stage. Kabuki_sentence_123

Seridashi or seriage refers to trap(s) moving upward and serisage or serioroshi to traps descending. Kabuki_sentence_124

This technique is often used to lift an entire scene at once. Kabuki_sentence_125

Chūnori (riding in mid-air) is a technique, which appeared toward the middle of the 19th century, by which an actor's costume is attached to wires and he is made to "fly" over the stage or certain parts of the auditorium. Kabuki_sentence_126

This is similar to the wire trick in the stage musical Peter Pan, in which Peter launches himself into the air. Kabuki_sentence_127

It is still one of the most popular keren (visual tricks) in kabuki today; major kabuki theaters, such as the National Theatre, Kabukiza and Minamiza, are all equipped with chūnori installations. Kabuki_sentence_128

Scenery changes are sometimes made mid-scene, while the actors remain on stage and the curtain stays open. Kabuki_sentence_129

This is sometimes accomplished by using a Hiki Dōgu, or "small wagon stage". Kabuki_sentence_130

This technique originated at the beginning of the 18th century, where scenery or actors move on or off stage on a wheeled platform. Kabuki_sentence_131

Also common are stagehands rushing onto the stage adding and removing props, backdrops and other scenery; these kuroko (黒子) are always dressed entirely in black and are traditionally considered invisible. Kabuki_sentence_132

Stagehands also assist in a variety of quick costume changes known as hayagawari ("quick change technique"). Kabuki_sentence_133

When a character's true nature is suddenly revealed, the devices of hikinuki and bukkaeri are often used. Kabuki_sentence_134

This involves layering one costume over another and having a stagehand pull the outer one off in front of the audience. Kabuki_sentence_135

The curtain that shields the stage before the performance and during the breaks is in the traditional colours of black, red and green, in various order, or white instead of green, vertical stripes. Kabuki_sentence_136

The curtain consists of one piece and is pulled back to one side by a staff member by hand. Kabuki_sentence_137

An additional outer curtain called doncho was not introduced until the Meiji era following the introduction of western influence. Kabuki_sentence_138

These are more ornate in their appearance and are woven. Kabuki_sentence_139

They depict the season in which the performance is taking place, often designed by renowned Nihonga artists. Kabuki_sentence_140

Appearances Kabuki_section_11

Since feudal laws in 17th century Japan prohibited replicating samurai’s or nobility’s looks or the use of luxurious fabrics, the kabuki costumes were groundbreaking new designs to the general public, even setting trends that still exist today. Kabuki_sentence_141

Although the earliest Kabuki costumes had not been preserved, separate otoko and onnagata Kabuki costumes today are made based on written records called ukiyo-e and in collaboration with those whose families have been in the Kabuki industry for generations. Kabuki_sentence_142

The kimonos the actors wear for their costumes are typically made with vibrant colors and multiple layers. Kabuki_sentence_143

To correspond to Japanese beauty standards back then, otokos and onnagatas both wear hakamas, which are pleated trousers, and paddings at the midriff to create a rectangular-shaped torso. Kabuki_sentence_144

Kabuki makeup provides an element of style easily recognizable even by those unfamiliar with the art form. Kabuki_sentence_145

Rice powder is used to create the white oshiroi base for the characteristic stage makeup, and kumadori enhances or exaggerates facial lines to produce dramatic animal or supernatural masks. Kabuki_sentence_146

The color of the kumadori is an expression of the character's nature: red lines are used to indicate passion, heroism, righteousness, and other positive traits; blue or black, villainy, jealousy, and other negative traits; green, the supernatural; and purple, nobility. Kabuki_sentence_147

Another special feature of Kabuki costumes is the katsura, or the wig. Kabuki_sentence_148

Each actor has a different katsura for every role and has a copper base that is custom-made to fit his head perfectly. Kabuki_sentence_149

Most of the time, real human hair is hand-sewn onto a silk fabric, but some types of katsuras require other imported materials such as yak hair or horse hair. Kabuki_sentence_150

Performance Kabuki_section_12

Play structure and performance style Kabuki_section_13

Kabuki, like other forms of drama traditionally performed in Japan - and sometimes still is - performed in full-day programmes, with one play comprising a number of acts spanning the entire day. Kabuki_sentence_151

However, these plays - particularly sewamono - were commonly sequenced with acts from other plays in order to produce a full-day programme, as the individual acts in a kabuki play commonly functioned as stand-alone performances in and of themselves. Kabuki_sentence_152

Sewamono plays, in contrast, were generally not sequenced with acts from other plays, and genuinely would take the entire day to perform. Kabuki_sentence_153

The structure of a full-day performance was derived largely from the conventions of both bunraku and Noh theatre. Kabuki_sentence_154

Chief amongst these was the concept of jo-ha-kyū (序破急), a pacing convention in theatre stating that the action of a play should start slow, speed up, and end quickly. Kabuki_sentence_155

The concept, elaborated on at length by master Noh playwright Zeami, governs not only the actions of the actors, but also the structure of the play, as well as the structure of scenes and plays within a day-long programme. Kabuki_sentence_156

Nearly every full-length play occupies five acts. Kabuki_sentence_157

The first corresponds to jo, an auspicious and slow opening which introduces the audience to the characters and the plot. Kabuki_sentence_158

The next three acts correspond to ha, where events speed up, culminating almost always in a great moment of drama or tragedy in the third act, and possibly a battle in the second or fourth acts. Kabuki_sentence_159

The final act, corresponding to kyū, is almost always short, providing a quick and satisfying conclusion. Kabuki_sentence_160

While many plays were written solely for kabuki, many others were taken from jōruri plays, Noh plays, folklore, or other performing traditions such as the oral tradition of the Tale of the Heike. Kabuki_sentence_161

While jōruri plays tend to have serious, emotionally dramatic, and organised plots, plays written specifically for kabuki generally have looser, more humourous plots. Kabuki_sentence_162

One crucial difference between jōruri and kabuki is a difference in storytelling focus; whereas jōruri focuses on the story and on the chanter who recites it, kabuki has a greater focus on the actors themselves. Kabuki_sentence_163

A jōruri play may sacrifice the details of sets, puppets, or action in favor of the chanter, while kabuki is known to sacrifice drama and even the plot to highlight an actor's talents. Kabuki_sentence_164

It was not uncommon in kabuki to insert or remove individual scenes from a day's schedule in order to cater to an individual actor — either scenes he was famed for, or that featured him, would be inserted into a program without regard to plot continuity. Kabuki_sentence_165

Certain plays were also performed uncommonly as they required an actor to be proficient in a number of instruments, which would be played live onstage, a skill that few actors possessed. Kabuki_sentence_166

Kabuki traditions in Edo and the Kyoto-Osaka region (Kamigata) differed; throughout the Edo period, Edo kabuki was defined by its extravagance, both in the appearance of its actors, their costumes, stage tricks and bold mie poses. Kabuki_sentence_167

In contrast, Kamigata kabuki focused on natural and realistic styles of acting. Kabuki_sentence_168

Only towards the end of the Edo period did the two styles begin to merge to any significant degree. Kabuki_sentence_169

Before this time, actors from different regions often failed to adjust their acting styles when performing elsewhere, leading to unsuccessful performance tours outside of their usual region of performance. Kabuki_sentence_170

Famous plays Kabuki_section_14

While there are many famous plays known today, many of the most famous were written in the mid-Edo period, and were originally written for bunraku theatre. Kabuki_sentence_171


  • Kanadehon Chūshingura (Treasury of Loyal Retainers) is the famous story of the Forty-seven rōnin, led by Oishi Kuranosuke, who exact revenge on their enemy before committing suicide upon the death of their master, Lord Takuminokami of the Asano clan. This story is one of the most popular traditional tales in Japan, and is based on a famous episode in 18th-century Japanese history.Kabuki_item_0_0
  • Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees) follows Minamoto no Yoshitsune as he flees from agents of his brother Yoritomo. Three Taira generals supposed killed in the Genpei War figure prominently, as their deaths ensure a complete end to the war and the arrival of peace, as does a kitsune named Genkurō.Kabuki_item_0_1
  • Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami (Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy) is based on the life of famed scholar Sugawara no Michizane (845–903), who is exiled from Kyoto, and upon his death causes a number of calamities in the capital. He is then deified, as Tenjin, kami ("divine spirit") of scholarship, and worshipped in order to propitiate his angry spirit.Kabuki_item_0_2

Actors Kabuki_section_15

Every kabuki actor has a stage name, which is different from the name they were born with. Kabuki_sentence_172

These stage names, most often those of the actor's father, grandfather, or teacher, are passed down between generations of actors' lineages, and hold great honor and importance. Kabuki_sentence_173

Many names are associated with certain roles or acting styles, and the new possessor of each name must live up to these expectations; there is the feeling almost of the actor not only taking a name, but embodying the spirit, style, or skill of each actor to previously hold that name. Kabuki_sentence_174

Many actors will go through at least three names over the course of their career. Kabuki_sentence_175

Shūmei (襲名) (lit., name succession) are grand naming ceremonies held in kabuki theatres in front of the audience. Kabuki_sentence_176

Most often, a number of actors will participate in a single ceremony, taking on new stage-names. Kabuki_sentence_177

Their participation in a shūmei represents their passage into a new chapter of their performing careers. Kabuki_sentence_178

Kabuki actors are typically part of a school of acting, or are associated with a particular theatre. Kabuki_sentence_179

Major theatres in operation Kabuki_section_16


See also Kabuki_section_17


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabuki.