Kabuki

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is classical Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese dance
Dance
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....

-drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.

The individual kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

 character
Ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Examples of...

s, from left to right, mean sing (歌), dance (舞), and skill (伎). Kabuki is therefore sometimes translated as "the art of singing and dancing." These are, however, ateji
Ateji
In modern Japanese, primarily refers to kanji used phonetically to represent native or borrowed words, without regard to the meaning of the underlying characters. This is analogous to man'yōgana in pre-modern Japanese...

characters which do not reflect actual etymology
Etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

. The kanji of 'skill' generally refers to a performer in kabuki theatre. 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. The expression kabukimono (歌舞伎者) referred originally to those who were bizarrely dressed and swaggered on a street.

1603–1629: Female kabuki



The history of kabuki began in 1603 when Izumo no Okuni
Izumo no Okuni
was the originator of kabuki theater. She was believed to be a miko at the Grand Shrine of Izumo who began performing this new style of dancing, singing, and acting in the dry riverbeds of Kyoto.-Early years:...

, possibly a miko
Miko
is a Japanese term that anciently meant a "female shaman, spirit medium" who conveyed oracles from kami , and currently means a "shrine maiden; virgin consecrated to a deity" who serves at Shinto shrines.-Word:...

 of Izumo Taisha
Izumo Taisha
is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan. No record gives the date of establishment. Located in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, it is home to two major festivals. It is dedicated to the god Ōkuninushi , famous as the Shinto deity of marriage.A style of architecture,...

, began performing a new style of dance drama in the dry riverbeds of Kyoto.
Japan was under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

, enforced by Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Ieyasu
 was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan , which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara  in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu seized power in 1600, received appointment as shogun in 1603, abdicated from office in 1605, but...

.
The name of the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

 derives from the relocation of the Tokugawa regime from its former home in Kyoto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

 to the city of Edo, present-day Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

. Female performers played both men and women in comic playlets about ordinary life. The style was immediately popular, and Okuni was asked to perform before the Imperial Court. 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. Much of its appeal in this era was due to the ribald, suggestive themes featured by many troupes; this appeal was further augmented by the fact that the performers were often also available for prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

. For this reason, kabuki was also written "歌舞妓" (singing and dancing prostitute) during this period.

Kabuki became a common form of entertainment in the ukiyo
Ukiyo
Ukiyo described the urban lifestyle, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects, of Edo-period Japan . The "Floating World" culture developed in Yoshiwara, the licensed red-light district of Edo , which was the site of many brothels, chashitsu tea houses, and kabuki theaters frequented by Japan's...

, or Yoshiwara
Yoshiwara
Yoshiwara was a famous Akasen district in Edo, present-day Tōkyō, Japan.In the early 17th century, there was widespread male and female prostitution throughout the cities of Kyoto, Edo, and Osaka. To counter this, an order of Tokugawa Hidetada of the Tokugawa shogunate restricted prostitution to...

, the registered red-light district in Edo. A diverse crowd gathered under one roof, something that happened nowhere else in the city. Kabuki theaters were a place to see and be seen as they featured the latest fashion trends and current events. The stage provided good entertainment with exciting new music, patterns, clothing, and famous actors. Performances went from morning until sunset. The teahouses surrounding or connected to the theater provided meals, refreshments, and good company. The area around the theatres was lush with shops selling kabuki souvenirs. Kabuki, in a sense, initiated pop culture in Japan.

The shogunate was never partial to kabuki and all the mischief it brought, particularly the variety of the social classes which mixed at kabuki performances. Women’s kabuki, called onna-kabuki, was banned in 1629 for being too erotic. Following onna-kabuki, young boys performed in wakashu
Wakashū
Wakashū , is a historical Japanese term indicating an adolescent boy; more specifically, a boy between the ages at which his head was partially shaven , at which point a boy exited early childhood and could begin formal education, apprenticeship, or employment outside the home,...

-kabuki, but since they too were eligible for prostitution the shogun government soon banned wakashu-kabuki as well. Kabuki switched to adult male actors, called yaro-kabuki, in the mid-1600s.
Male actors played both female and male characters. The theatre remained popular, and remained a focus of urban lifestyle until modern times. Although kabuki was performed all over ukiyo and other portions for the country, the Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za and Kawarazaki-za theatres became the top theatres in ukiyo, where some of the most successful kabuki performances were and still are held.

1629–1673: Transition to yarō kabuki


The modern all-male kabuki, known as yarō kabuki (young man kabuki), was established during these decades. After women were banned from performing, cross-dressed male actors, known as onnagata ("female-role") or oyama
Oyama (Japanese theatre)
Onnagata or oyama , are male actors who impersonate women in Japanese kabuki theatre. The modern all-male kabuki was originally known as yarō kabuki to distinguish it from earlier forms...

, took over. Young (adolescent) men were preferred for women's roles due to their less masculine appearance and the higher pitch of their voices compared to adult men. In addition, wakashu
Wakashū
Wakashū , is a historical Japanese term indicating an adolescent boy; more specifically, a boy between the ages at which his head was partially shaven , at which point a boy exited early childhood and could begin formal education, apprenticeship, or employment outside the home,...

(adolescent male) roles, played by young men often selected for attractiveness, became common, and were often presented in an erotic context. Along with the change in the performer's gender came a change in the emphasis of the performance: increased stress was placed on drama rather than dance. Performances were equally ribald, and the male actors too were available for prostitution (to both female and male customers). Audiences frequently became rowdy, and brawls occasionally broke out, sometimes over the favors of a particularly handsome young actor, leading the shogunate to ban first onnagata and then wakashu roles. Both bans were rescinded by 1652.

1673–1841: The golden age



During the Genroku
Genroku
was a after Jōkyō and before Hōei. This period spanned the years from September 1688 through March 1704. The reigning emperor was .The years of Genroku are generally considered to be the Golden Age of the Edo Period. The previous hundred years of peace and seclusion in Japan had created relative...

 era, kabuki thrived. The structure of a kabuki play was formalized during this period, as were many elements of style. Conventional character types were established. Kabuki theater and ningyō jōruri, the elaborate form of puppet theater that later came to be known as bunraku
Bunraku
, also known as Ningyō jōruri , is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, founded in Osaka in 1684.Three kinds of performers take part in a bunraku performance:* Ningyōtsukai or Ningyōzukai—puppeteers* Tayū—the chanters* Shamisen players...

, became closely associated with each other, and each has since influenced the other's development. The famous playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon
Chikamatsu Monzaemon
Chikamatsu Monzaemon was a Japanese dramatist of jōruri, the form of puppet theater that later came to be known as bunraku, and the live-actor drama, kabuki...

, one of the first professional kabuki playwrights, produced several influential works, though the piece usually acknowledged as his most significant, Sonezaki Shinju (The Love Suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

s at Sonezaki
), was originally written for bunraku. Like many bunraku plays, it was adapted for kabuki, and it spawned many imitators—in fact, it and similar plays reportedly caused so many real-life "copycat" suicides that the government banned shinju mono (plays about lovers' double suicides) in 1723. Ichikawa Danjūrō I
Ichikawa Danjūrō I
Ichikawa Danjūrō I was an early kabuki actor in Japan. He remains today one of the most famous of all kabuki actors and is considered one of the most influential...

 also lived during this time; he is credited with the development of mie
Mie (pose)
The mie pose , a powerful and emotional pose struck by an actor, who then freezes for a moment, is a distinctive element of aragoto Kabuki performance. Mie means 'appearance' or 'visible' in Japanese, and one of the primary purposes of this convention is to draw attention to a particularly...

poses and mask-like kumadori
Kumadori
is stage makeup worn by kabuki actors, particularly when performing in the bold and bombastic aragoto style. Kumadori makeup generally consists of brightly-colored stripes or patterns over a white foundation, the colors and patterns symbolizing aspects of the actor's character...

 make-up.

1842–1868: The Saruwaka-chō kabuki


Male actors played both female and male characters.

In the 1840s, fires started terrorizing Edo due to repeated drought
Drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

. Kabuki theatres, traditionally made of wood, were constantly burning down, forcing their relocation within the ukiyo. When the area that housed the Nakamura-za was completely destroyed in 1841, the shogun refused to allow the theatre to rebuild, saying that it was against fire code. The shogunate did not welcome the mixing and trading that occurred between town merchants and actors, artists, and prostitutes. The shogunate took advantage of the fire crisis in 1842 to force the Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za, and Kawarazaki-za out of the city limits and into Asakusa
Asakusa
is a district in Taitō, Tokyo, Japan, most famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. There are several other temples in Asakusa, as well as various festivals.- History :...

, a northern suburb of Edo. Actors, stagehands, and others associated with the performances were forced out as well. Those in areas and lifestyles centered around the theatres also migrated, but the inconvenience of the new location reduced attendance. These factors, along with strict regulations, pushed much of kabuki "underground" in Edo, with performances changing locations to avoid the authorities.

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. This period produced some of the gaudiest kabuki in Japanese history. The Saruwaka-machi became the new theatre district for the Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za and Kawarazaki-za theatres. The district was located on the main street of Asakusa, which ran through the middle of the small city. The street was renamed after Saruwaka Kanzaburo, who initiated Edo kabuki in the Nakamura Theatre in 1624.

European artists began noticing Japanese theatrical performances and artwork, and many artists (for example, Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. . Retrieved 6 January 2007...

) were inspired by Japanese wood block prints. This Western interest prompted Japanese artists to increase their depictions of daily life including theatres, brothels, main streets and so on. One artist in particular, Utagawa Hiroshige, did a series of prints based on Saruwaka from the Saruwaka-machi period in Asakusa.

The relocation diminished the tradition's most abundant inspiration for costuming, make-up, and story line. Ichikawa Kodanji IV was one of the most active and successful actors during the Saruwaka-machi period. Deemed unattractive, he mainly performed buyō
Buyo
or is a traditional Japanese performing art, a mixture of dance and pantomime.- Japanese classical dance :******-Video:* * Japanese Dance * *...

, or dancing, in dramas written by Kawatake Mokuami
Kawatake Mokuami
' was a Japanese dramatist of Kabuki. It has been said that "as a writer of plays of Kabuki origin, he was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Japan has ever known." He wrote 150 or so plays over the course of his fifty year career, covering a wide variety of themes, styles, and forms,...

, who also wrote during the Meiji period
Meiji period
The , also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which extended from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.- Meiji Restoration and the emperor :...

 to follow. Kawatake Mokuami
Kawatake Mokuami
' was a Japanese dramatist of Kabuki. It has been said that "as a writer of plays of Kabuki origin, he was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Japan has ever known." He wrote 150 or so plays over the course of his fifty year career, covering a wide variety of themes, styles, and forms,...

 commonly wrote plays that depicted the common lives of the people of Edo. He introduced shichigo-cho (seven-and-five syllable meter) dialogue and music such as kiyomoto. His kabuki performances became quite popular once the Saruwaka-machi period ended and theatre returned to Edo; many of his works are still performed.

In 1868, the Tokugawa shogunate fell apart. Emperor Meiji was restored to power and moved from Kyoto to the new capital of Edo, or Tokyo, beginning the Meiji period. Kabuki returned to the ukiyo of Edo. Kabuki became more radical in the Meiji period, and modern styles emerged. New playwrights created new genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

s and twists on traditional stories.

Kabuki after the Meiji period


Beginning in 1868 enormous cultural changes, such as the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate, the elimination of the samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

 class, and the opening of Japan to the West, helped to spark kabuki's re-emergence. As the culture struggled to adapt to the influx of foreign ideas and influence, actors strove to increase the reputation of kabuki among the upper classes and to adapt the traditional styles to modern tastes. They ultimately proved successful in this regard—on 21 April 1887, the Meiji Emperor sponsored a performance.

After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the occupying forces briefly banned kabuki, which had strongly supported Japan's war since 1931; however, by 1947 the ban had been rescinded.

Kabuki today


The immediate post–World War II era was a difficult time for kabuki. Besides the war's physical devastation, many rejected the styles and thoughts of the past, kabuki among them. Director Tetsuji Takechi
Tetsuji Takechi
was a Japanese theatrical and film director, critic and author. First coming to prominence for his theatrical criticism, in the 1940s and 1950s he produced influential and popular experimental kabuki plays. Beginning in the mid-1950s, he continued his innovative theatrical work in noh, kyōgen and...

's popular and innovative productions of kabuki classics at this time are credited with bringing about a rebirth of interest in kabuki in the Kansai
Kansai
The or the lies in the southern-central region of Japan's main island Honshū. The region includes the prefectures of Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, and Shiga. Depending on who makes the distinction, Fukui, Tokushima and even Tottori Prefecture are also included...

 region. Of the many popular young stars who performed with the Takechi Kabuki, Nakamura Ganjiro III (b. 1931) was the leading figure. He was first known as Nakamura Senjaku, and this period in Osaka
Osaka
is a city in the Kansai region of Japan's main island of Honshu, a designated city under the Local Autonomy Law, the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and also the biggest part of Keihanshin area, which is represented by three major cities of Japan, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe...

 kabuki became known as the "Age of Senjaku" in his honor.

Today, kabuki is the most popular of the traditional styles of Japanese drama—and its star actors often appear in television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 or film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 roles. For example, the well-known onnagata Bandō Tamasaburō V
Bando Tamasaburo V
is a Kabuki actor, and the most popular and celebrated onnagata currently on stage. He has also acted in a handful of films....

 has appeared in several (non-kabuki) plays and movies, often in a female role. Kabuki appears in works of Japanese popular culture
Japanese popular culture
Japanese popular culture not only reflects the attitudes and concerns of the present but also provides a link to the past. Japanese cinema, cuisine, television programs, manga, and music all developed from older artistic and literary traditions, and many of their themes and styles of presentation...

 such as anime
Anime
is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

.

In addition to the handful of major theatres in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, there are many smaller theatres in Osaka and throughout the countryside. The Ōshika Kabuki troupe, based in Ōshika
Oshika, Nagano
is a village located in Shimoina District, Nagano, Japan.As of 2003, the village has an estimated population of 1,432 and a density of 5.77 people per km²...

, Nagano Prefecture
Nagano Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chūbu region of the island of Honshū. The capital is the city of Nagano.- History :Nagano was formerly known as the province of Shinano...

, is one example.

Some local kabuki troupes today use female actors in onnagata roles. The Ichikawa Kabuki-za, an all-female troupe, was formed after World War II but was short-lived. In 2003, a statue
Statue
A statue is a sculpture in the round representing a person or persons, an animal, an idea or an event, normally full-length, as opposed to a bust, and at least close to life-size, or larger...

 of Okuni was erected near Kyoto's Pontochō
Pontocho
Pontochō is a Hanamachi district in Kyoto, Japan, known for geisha and home to many geisha houses and traditional tea houses. Like Gion, Pontochō is famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment.-Etymology:...

 district.

Interest in kabuki has spread in the West. Kabuki troupes regularly tour Europe and America, and there have been several kabuki-themed productions of canon
Canon (fiction)
In the context of a work of fiction, the term canon denotes the material accepted as "official" in a fictional universe's fan base. It is often contrasted with, or used as the basis for, works of fan fiction, which are not considered canonical...

ical Western plays such as those of Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

. Western playwrights and novelists have experimented with kabuki themes, an example of which is Gerald Vizenor
Gerald Vizenor
Gerald Robert Vizenor is a Native American writer, and an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, White Earth Reservation. One of the most prolific Native American writers, with over 30 books to his name, Vizenor also taught for many years at the University of California, Berkeley, where...

's Hiroshima Bugi (2004). Writer Yukio Mishima
Yukio Mishima
was the pen name of , a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor and film director, also remembered for his ritual suicide by seppuku after a failed coup d'état...

 pioneered and popularized the use of kabuki in modern settings and revived other traditional arts, such as Noh
Noh
, or - derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent" - is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. Traditionally, a Noh "performance day" lasts all day and...

, adapting them to modern contexts.

The introduction of earphone guides in 1975, including an English version in 1982, helped broaden the art's appeal. As a result, in 1991 the Kabuki-za began year-round performances and, in 2005, began marketing kabuki cinema films.

In Australia, the Za Kabuki
Za Kabuki
Za Kabuki , founded in 1976 at the Australian National University, is the longest running Kabuki troupe outside of Japan. Directed by Mr. Shun Ikeda of the ANU Japan Centre, with a cast and crew consisting mainly of ANU Japanese students, the troupe performs traditional Kabuki plays almost entirely...

 troupe at the Australian National University
Australian National University
The Australian National University is a teaching and research university located in the Australian capital, Canberra.As of 2009, the ANU employs 3,945 administrative staff who teach approximately 10,000 undergraduates, and 7,500 postgraduate students...

 has performed a kabuki drama each year since 1976, the longest regular kabuki performance outside of Japan.

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

Stage design


The kabuki stage features a projection called a hanamichi
Hanamichi
The is an extra stage section used in Japanese kabuki theater. It is a long, raised platform that runs, left of center, from the back of the theater, through the audience, to connect with the main stage. Generally it is used for characters' entrances and exits, though it can also be used for...

(花道; literally, flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

 path), a walkway which extends into the audience and via which dramatic entrances and exits are made. Okuni also performed on a hanamichi stage with her entourage. 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 stages and theaters have steadily become more technologically sophisticated, and innovations including revolving stages and trap doors, were introduced during the 18th century. A driving force has been the desire to manifest one frequent theme of kabuki theater, that of the sudden, dramatic revelation or transformation. A number of stage tricks, including actors' rapid appearance and disappearance, employ these innovations. The term keren
Keren (kabuki)
are stagecraft tricks used in Japanese kabuki theater, making use of trapdoors, revolving stages, and other equipment.Often translated as "playing to the gallery," many drama enthusiasts consider these sorts of adaptations to be demeaning to the art of kabuki...

(外連), often translated playing to the gallery, is sometimes used as a catch-all for these tricks. Hanamichi and several innovations including revolving stage, seri and chunori have all contributed to kabuki play. Hanamichi creates depth and both seri and chunori provide a vertical dimension.

Mawari-butai (revolving stage) developed in the Kyōhō era (1716–1735). The trick was originally accomplished by the on-stage pushing of a round, wheeled platform. Later a circular platform was embedded in the stage with wheels beneath it facilitating movement. The kuraten (“darkened revolve”) technique involves lowering the stage lights during this transition. More commonly the lights are left on for akaten (“lighted revolve”), sometimes simultaneously performing the transitioning scenes for dramatic effect. This stage was first built in Japan in the early eighteenth century.

Seri refers to the stage "traps" that have been commonly employed in kabuki since the middle of the 18th century. These traps raise and lower actors or sets to the stage. Seridashi or seriage refers to trap(s) moving upward and serisage or serioroshi to traps descending. This technique is often used to lift an entire scene at once.


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 and/or certain parts of the auditorium. This is similar to the wire trick in the stage musical Peter Pan
Peter Pan (1954 musical)
Peter Pan is a musical adaptation of J. M. Barrie's 1904 play Peter Pan and Barrie's own novelization of it, Peter and Wendy. The music is mostly by Mark "Moose" Charlap, with additional music by Jule Styne, and most of the lyrics were written by Carolyn Leigh, with additional lyrics by Betty...

, in which Peter launches himself into the air. It is still one of the most popular keren (visual tricks) in kabuki today; major kabuki theaters, such as the National Theatre
National Theatre of Japan
The is a complex consisting of three halls in two buildings in Hayabusa-chō, a neighborhood in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. The Japan Arts Council, an Independent Administrative Institution of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, operates the National Theatre...

, Kabuki-za and Minami-za, are all equipped with chūnori installations.

Scenery changes are sometimes made mid-scene, while the actors remain on stage and the curtain stays open. This is sometimes accomplished by using a Hiki Dōgu, or small wagon stage. This technique originated at the beginning of the 18th century, where scenery or actors move on or off stage on a wheeled platform. Also common are stagehands rushing onto the stage adding and removing props, backdrops and other scenery; these kuroko
Kuroko
are stagehands in traditional Japanese theatre, who dress all in black.In kabuki, the kuroko serve many of the same purposes as running crew. They move scenery and props on stage, aiding in scene changes and costume changes. They will also often play the role of animals, will-o-the-wisps, or other...

(黒子) are always dressed entirely in black and are traditionally considered invisible. Stagehands also assist in a variety of quick costume changes known as hayagawari (quick change technique).
When a character's true nature is suddenly revealed, the devices of hikinuki or bukkaeri are often used. This involves layring one costume over another and having a stagehand pull the outer one off in front of the audience.

Performance


The three main categories of kabuki play are jidai-mono (時代物, historical
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, or pre-Sengoku period
Sengoku period
The or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference...

 stories), sewa-mono (世話物, domestic, or post-Sengoku stories) and shosagoto (所作事, dance pieces).

Jidaimono, or history plays, were set within the context of major events in Japanese history. Strict censorship laws during the Edo period prohibited the representation of contemporary events and particularly prohibited criticising the shogunate or casting it in a bad light, although enforcement varied greatly over the years. Many shows were set in the context of the Genpei War
Genpei War
The was a conflict between the Taira and Minamoto clans during the late-Heian period of Japan. It resulted in the fall of the Taira clan and the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate under Minamoto Yoritomo in 1192....

 of the 1180s, the Nanboku-chō
Nanboku-cho
The , spanning from 1336 to 1392, was a period that occurred during the formative years of the Muromachi bakufu of Japan's history.During this period, there existed a Northern Imperial Court, established by Ashikaga Takauji in Kyoto, and a Southern Imperial Court, established by Emperor Go-Daigo in...

 Wars of the 1330s, or other historical events. Frustrating the censors, many shows used these historical settings as metaphors for contemporary events. Kanadehon Chūshingura
Kanadehon Chūshingura
Chūshingura is an 11-act bunraku puppet play composed in 1748. It is one of the most popular Japanese plays, ranked with Zeami's Matsukaze, although the vivid action of Chūshingura differs dramatically from Matsukaze...

, one of the most famous plays in the kabuki repertoire, serves as an excellent example; it is ostensibly set in the 1330s, though it actually depicts the contemporary (18th century) affair of the revenge of the 47 Ronin.

Unlike jidaimono which generally focused upon the samurai class, sewamono focused primarily upon commoners, namely townspeople
Chonin
was a social class that emerged in Japan during the early years of the Tokugawa period. The majority of chōnin were merchants, but some were craftsmen, as well. Nōmin were not considered chōnin...

 and peasants. Often referred to as "domestic plays" in English, sewamono generally related to themes of family drama and romance. Some of the most famous sewamono are the love suicide
Shinju
Shinju can mean the following things:*Shinjū, Double suicide in Japanese theatre*Shinju , a form of breast bondage*Shinjū , a 1994 fiction book by Laura Joh Rowland...

 plays, adapted from works by the bunraku playwright Chikamatsu; these center on romantic couples who cannot be together in life due to various circumstances and who therefore decide to be together in death instead. Many if not most sewamono contain significant elements of this theme of societal pressures and limitations.

Important elements of kabuki include the mie
Mie (pose)
The mie pose , a powerful and emotional pose struck by an actor, who then freezes for a moment, is a distinctive element of aragoto Kabuki performance. Mie means 'appearance' or 'visible' in Japanese, and one of the primary purposes of this convention is to draw attention to a particularly...

(見得), in which the actor holds a picturesque pose to establish his character. At this point his house name (yagō
YAGO
YAGO was an early LAN startup acquired by Cabletron Systems in the mid-1990s, fueling its growth into Gigabit Ethernet switching and ultimately being re-spun off into the entity Riverstone Networks....

, 屋号) is sometimes heard in loud shout (kakegoe
Kakegoe
Kakegoe can be literally translated as "hung voice" or "a voice you hang." The "hanging" part is probably meant to be taken in an abstract sense to mean "ornament" or "decoration," as it is the same Japanese verb used when talk about kakemono. Kakegoe, therefore, refers to an auxiliary pitched or...

, 掛け声) from an expert audience member, serving both to express and enhance the audience's appreciation of the actor's achievement. An even greater compliment can be paid by shouting the name of the actor's father. Keshō, kabuki makeup, provides an element of style easily recognizable even by those unfamiliar with the art form. 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
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

 or supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 mask
Mask
A mask is an article normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance or entertainment. Masks have been used since antiquity for both ceremonial and practical purposes...

s. 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.

Play structure


Kabuki, like other traditional forms of drama in Japan and other cultures, was (and sometimes still is) performed in full-day programs. Rather than attending for 2–5 hours, as one might do in a modern Western-style theater, audiences "escape" from the day-to-day world, devoting a full day to entertainment. Though some individual plays, particularly the historical jidaimono
Jidaimono
Jidaimono are Japanese kabuki or jōruri plays that feature historical plots and characters, often famous samurai battles. These are in contrast to sewamono , contemporary plays, which generally focus on commoners and domestic issues...

, might last an entire day, most were shorter and sequenced with other plays in order to produce a full-day program.

The structure of the full-day program, like the structure of the plays themselves, was derived largely from the conventions of bunraku and Noh, conventions which also appear in other traditional Japanese arts. Chief among these is the concept of jo-ha-kyū
Jo-ha-kyu
is a concept of modulation and movement applied in a wide variety of traditional Japanese arts. Roughly translated to "beginning, break, rapid", it essentially means that all actions or efforts should begin slowly, speed up, and then end swiftly...

(序破急), which states that dramatic pacing should start slow, speed up, and end quickly. 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 program.

Nearly every full-length play occupies five acts. The first corresponds to jo, an auspicious and slow opening which introduces the audience to the characters and the plot. The next three acts correspond to ha, speeding events up, culminating almost always in a great moment of drama or tragedy in the third act and possibly a battle in the second and/or fourth acts. The final act, corresponding to kyu, is almost always short, providing a quick and satisfying conclusion.
While many plays were originally written 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. While jōruri plays tend to have serious, emotionally dramatic, and organized plots, plays written specifically for kabuki generally have looser, sillier plots. One of the crucial differences in the philosophy of the two forms is that jōruri focuses primarily on the story and on the chanter who recites it, while kabuki focuses more on the actors. 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. It was not uncommon in kabuki to insert or remove individual scenes from a day's schedule in order to cater to the talents or desires of an individual actor—scenes he was famed for, or that featured him, would be inserted into a program without regard to plot continuity.

Kabuki traditions in Edo
Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...

 and in Kamigata
Kamigata
Kamigata is a region of Japan referring to the cities of Kyoto and Osaka; the term is used particularly when discussing elements of Edo period urban culture such as ukiyo-e and kabuki, and when making a comparison to the urban culture of the Edo/Tokyo region.Kabuki, ukiyo-e, and many of the other...

 (the Kyoto-Osaka region) were quite different. Through most of the Edo period, kabuki in Edo was defined by extravagance and bombast, as exemplified by stark makeup patterns, flashy costumes, fancy keren
Keren (kabuki)
are stagecraft tricks used in Japanese kabuki theater, making use of trapdoors, revolving stages, and other equipment.Often translated as "playing to the gallery," many drama enthusiasts consider these sorts of adaptations to be demeaning to the art of kabuki...

(stage tricks), and bold mie
Mie (pose)
The mie pose , a powerful and emotional pose struck by an actor, who then freezes for a moment, is a distinctive element of aragoto Kabuki performance. Mie means 'appearance' or 'visible' in Japanese, and one of the primary purposes of this convention is to draw attention to a particularly...

(poses). Kamigata kabuki, meanwhile, was much calmer and focused on naturalism and realism in acting. Only towards the end of the Edo period in the 19th century did the two regions adopt one another's styles to any significant degree. For a long time, actors from one region often failed to adjust to the styles of the other region and were unsuccessful in their performance tours of that region.

Famous plays


  • Kanadehon Chūshingura
    Kanadehon Chūshingura
    Chūshingura is an 11-act bunraku puppet play composed in 1748. It is one of the most popular Japanese plays, ranked with Zeami's Matsukaze, although the vivid action of Chūshingura differs dramatically from Matsukaze...

    (Treasury of Loyal Retainers) is the famous story of the Forty-seven Ronin
    Forty-seven Ronin
    The revenge of the , also known as the Forty-seven Samurai, the Akō vendetta, or the took place in Japan at the start of the 18th century...

    , led by Oishi Kuranosuke, who track down their enemy and exact revenge upon him before committing seppuku
    Seppuku
    is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. Part of the samurai bushido honor code, seppuku was either used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies , or as a form of capital punishment...

     as required by their code of honor upon the death of their lord, Lord Takuminokami of the Asano clan.

  • Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura
    Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura
    Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura , or Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees, is a Japanese play, one of the three most popular and famous in the Kabuki repertoire...

    (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees) follows Minamoto no Yoshitsune
    Minamoto no Yoshitsune
    was a general of the Minamoto clan of Japan in the late Heian and early Kamakura period. Yoshitsune was the ninth son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, and the third and final son and child that Yoshitomo would father with Tokiwa Gozen. Yoshitsune's older brother Minamoto no Yoritomo founded the Kamakura...

     as he flees from agents of his brother Yoritomo
    Minamoto no Yoritomo
    was the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan. He ruled from 1192 until 1199.-Early life and exile :Yoritomo was the third son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, heir of the Minamoto clan, and his official wife, a daughter of Fujiwara no Suenori, who was a member of the...

    . Three Taira clan
    Taira clan
    The was a major Japanese clan of samurai in historical Japan.In reference to Japanese history, along with Minamoto, Taira was a hereditary clan name bestowed by the emperors of the Heian Period to certain ex-members of the imperial family when they became subjects...

     generals supposed killed in the Genpei War
    Genpei War
    The was a conflict between the Taira and Minamoto clans during the late-Heian period of Japan. It resulted in the fall of the Taira clan and the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate under Minamoto Yoritomo in 1192....

     figure prominently, as their deaths ensure a complete end to the war and the arrival of peace, as does a kitsune
    Kitsune
    is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume...

    named Genkurō
    Genkuro
    Genkurō is a shape-changing kitsune character who features prominently in the famous jōruri and kabuki play Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura ....

    .

  • Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami
    Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami
    is a Japanese bunraku and kabuki play jointly written by Takeda Izumo I, Takeda Izumo II, Namiki Sōsuke and Miyoshi Shōraku. Along with Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura and Kanadehon Chūshingura, it is one of the three most famous and popular plays in the kabuki repertoire...

    (Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy) is based on the life of famed scholar Sugawara no Michizane
    Sugawara no Michizane
    , also known as Kan Shōjō , a grandson of Sugawara no Kiyotomo , was a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period of Japan...

     (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
    Tenjin (kami)
    In Japanese mythology and folklore, is the Shinto kami of scholarship, the deification of a scholar, poet, and politician named Sugawara no Michizane. Ten means sky and jin means god or deity...

    , kami
    Kami
    is the Japanese word for the spirits, natural forces, or essence in the Shinto faith. Although the word is sometimes translated as "god" or "deity", some Shinto scholars argue that such a translation can cause a misunderstanding of the term...

    (divine spirit) of scholarship, and worshipped in order to propitiate his angry spirit.


Major theatres in operation



  • Akita
    Akita, Akita
    is the capital city of Akita Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan.As of June 11, 2005, with the merger of the former Kawabe District , the city has an estimated population of 323,310 and density of...

    • Kosaka
      Kosaka, Akita
      is a town located in Kazuno District, Akita, Japan.As of 2011, the town has an estimated population of 6,046 and a density of 29.9 persons per km². The total area is 178.00 km²....

  • Tokyo
    Tokyo
    , ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

    • Kabukiza (Closed for rebuilding—reopening in 2013)
    • Meiji-za
      Meiji-za
      The is a theatre in Chūō, Tokyo, Japan. It was originally constructed in 1873. It presents kabuki and Western stage plays....

    • Shinbashi Enbujō
      Shinbashi Enbujo
      The ' is a theatre in the Ginza neighborhood of Tokyo, Japan. It is a major kabuki venue, though other types of performances take place there as well....

    • National Theater
  • Kyoto
    Kyoto
    is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

    • Minami-za
      Minami-za
      is the primary kabuki theatre in Kyoto, Japan. It was founded in 1610 as Shijō Minami-za. The current building with 1,086 seats was built in 1929.- External links :*...

  • Osaka
    Osaka
    is a city in the Kansai region of Japan's main island of Honshu, a designated city under the Local Autonomy Law, the capital city of Osaka Prefecture and also the biggest part of Keihanshin area, which is represented by three major cities of Japan, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe...

    • Shin-Kabuki-za
    • Osaka Shōchiku-za
  • Nagoya
    • Misono-za
      Misono-za
      The is a theatre in the city of Nagoya, central Japan. It was originally constructed in 1800's and presents kabuki and Western stage plays.- External links :*...

  • Fukuoka
    Fukuoka, Fukuoka
    is the capital city of Fukuoka Prefecture and is situated on the northern shore of the island of Kyushu in Japan.Voted number 14 in a 2010 poll of the World's Most Livable Cities, Fukuoka is praised for its green spaces in a metropolitan setting. It is the most populous city in Kyushu, followed by...

    • Hakata-za
      Hakata-za
      The is a kabuki theatre in Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. It was originally constructed in 1996....

  • Kotohira
    • Kanamaru-za


See also


  • Theatre of Japan
    Theatre of Japan
    Traditional Japanese theatre includes kabuki, noh and bunraku.-Traditional form of theater:There are four major forms of traditional Japanese theater that are famous around the world. These are Noh, Kyogen, Kabuki, and Bunraku, or puppet theater....

  • Kanteiryū, a lettering style invented to advertise kabuki and other theatrical performances
  • Kyōgen
    Kyogen
    is a form of traditional Japanese comic theater. It developed alongside Noh, was performed along with Noh as an intermission of sorts between Noh acts, on the same Noh stage, and retains close links to Noh in the modern day; therefore, it is sometimes designated Noh-kyōgen...

    , a traditional form of Japanese comic theatre that influenced the development of kabuki.
  • Noh
    Noh
    , or - derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent" - is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. Traditionally, a Noh "performance day" lasts all day and...

    , a traditional form of Japanese theatre
  • Bunraku
    Bunraku
    , also known as Ningyō jōruri , is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, founded in Osaka in 1684.Three kinds of performers take part in a bunraku performance:* Ningyōtsukai or Ningyōzukai—puppeteers* Tayū—the chanters* Shamisen players...

    , a traditional Japanese puppet theatre from whose scripts many kabuki plays were adapted
  • Kabuki actor lines, such as
    • Ichikawa Danjūrō
      Ichikawa Danjuro
      is a stage name taken on by a series of Kabuki actors of the Ichikawa family. Most of these were blood relatives, though some were adopted into the family. It is a famous and important name, and receiving it is an honor...

    • Ichikawa Ebizō
      Ichikawa Ebizo
      Ichikawa Ebizō is a stage name taken on by a series of Kabuki actors of the Ichikawa family. Most of these were blood relatives, though some were adopted into the family...

    • Matsumoto Kōshirō
      Matsumoto Koshiro
      Matsumoto Kōshirō is the stage name of a line of kabuki actors in Japan. Most of these were blood relatives, though some were adopted into the family....

    • Nakamura Kanzaburō
      Nakamura Kanzaburo
      Nakamura Kanzaburō is a stage name taken on by a series of Kabuki actors of the Nakamura family. Most of these were blood relatives, though some were adopted into the family. Kanzaburō, like other actors' names, is bestowed at grand naming ceremonies called shūmei in which a number of actors...

  • Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, a 1991 comedic superhero film
    Superhero film
    A superhero film, superhero movie, or superhero motion picture is: action, fantasy and science fiction film; that is focused on the actions of one or more superheroes, individuals who usually possess superhuman abilities relative to a normal person and are dedicated to protecting the public...

     directed by Lloyd Kaufman
    Lloyd Kaufman
    Lloyd Kaufman is an American film director, producer, screenwriter and occasional actor. With producer Michael Herz, he is the co-founder of Troma Entertainment film studio, and the director of many of their feature films, including The Toxic Avenger and Tromeo and Juliet. Kaufman also serves as...

     and Michael Herz
    Michael Herz (producer)
    Michael Herz is an American film producer, director and screenwriter. With Lloyd Kaufman, the two are the co-founders of Troma Entertainment, the world's longest running independent film studio, known for their comedic horror films, including the cult favorite Toxic Avenger series and the...

     and distributed by Troma Entertainment
    Troma Entertainment
    Troma Entertainment is an American independent film production and distribution company founded by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz in 1974.The company produces low-budget independent movies that play on 1950s horror with elements of farce...

    .
  • Kabuki Quantum Fighter
    Kabuki Quantum Fighter
    is a 1990 action video game developed by Human Entertainment and published by the defunct American publishing arm of HAL Laboratory for the Nintendo Entertainment System.-Synopsis:...

    , a 1990 video game for the NES
    Nintendo Entertainment System
    The Nintendo Entertainment System is an 8-bit video game console that was released by Nintendo in North America during 1985, in Europe during 1986 and Australia in 1987...

    .
  • Kabuki Rocks
    Kabuki Rocks
    is a Kabuki-based role-playing video game developed by RED and published by Atlus, which was released exclusively in Japan in 1994.-External links:* at superfamicom.org* at super-famicom.jp -See also:...

    , a 1994 video game for the Super NES
    Super Nintendo Entertainment System
    The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is a 16-bit video game console that was released by Nintendo in North America, Europe, Australasia , and South America between 1990 and 1993. In Japan and Southeast Asia, the system is called the , or SFC for short...

    .

External links