classical Japanese dance-drama

Kabuki (かぶき) is a traditional form of Japanese classical drama which started about 400 years ago.[1] It is known for its very stylized acting and the elaborate makeup worn by the actors.

A kabuki performance in 1858
Kabuki theater showing the hanamichi

The word kabuki means "singing and dancing", and also means "to act strange and different, to be outside what is normal". The style of kabuki is not meant to look like real life.[2]

People from around the world are now interested in kabuki. It was recognized by UNESCO in 2006 as an important part of Japan's cultural history.[3]

History change

1603–1629 change

Kabuki theater started during the Edo period (1603–1868). Kabuki was started by a woman, Izumo no Okuni, who performed in the dry river bed in Kyoto in 1603.[4] It was very popular, especially because many of the stories and dance moves were about sex. Many of the women performers were probably prostitutes, and it was thought that kabuki disturbed discipline. This caused women to be banned from performing in kabuki plays in 1629.[5][6] Beautiful young men replaced women in female roles, but in 1652 they were also banned, for the same reason.[5] Kabuki was allowed to continue with adult men playing all the roles, and this style is the one today.

1673–1841 change

It developed into what we now know as kabuki during the Genroku period (1688–1704). During this period, the key aspects were formed, such as conventional character tropes. Kabuki and bunraku began to complement each other.

The popular playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon produced several influential works during this time. His most significant work is The Love Suicides at Sonezaki. It was written for bunraku.

The development of mie pose was also developed during Genroku period.

After the Genroku era, kabuki became popular in Japanese cities, growing rapidly as proper theater with great authors and actors. Bunraku also influenced the stories, directions, content and style. Ballet and theater music, such as Nagauta, Tokiwadubushi and Kiyomotobushi were also influences on the development of kabuki.

1842–1868 change

In the 1840s, repeated drought led to a series of fires. It affected kabuki theaters made of wood. When the area of Nakamura-za was destroyed in 1841, the shōgun refused to allow the theatre to be rebuilt.

After the restoration of the Emperor in 1888, kabuki was influenced by foreign culture, stimulated by the rise of new drama.

Post-war to modern day kabuki change

In the Shōwa period, from 1926 to 1989, performances began in other countries. The Empire Theater in Japan was reconstructed, and renamed the National Theater. In 1954, the East Side Theater was constructed, and kabuki was shown from it on TV. In 1965, kabuki was seen as an important cultural heritage. After World War II, the Japanese came to see that kabuki as an important part of their culture. Many actors became famous people in Japan.

Actors change

Kōshirō Matsumoto VII (1870—1949) as Benkei

Woman kabuki actors are rare though there was onnakabuki. The onnakabuki is woman’s kabuki. Now the men play both male and female roles.

There are famous kabuki actors in Japan such as Danjuro Ichikawa, Ebizo Ichikawa and Koshiro Matsumoto. Danjuro Ichikawa is an especially famous kabuki actor. He started aragoto at the age of 14. The aragoto is a kabuki genre dealing with a brave warrior, a fierce god, or a demon. He also wrote kabuki plays under the name of Hyogo Mimasuya.

The name of a kabuki actor usually is passed on from one generation to the next. Therefore, the name of an actor is passes to the next generation. Kabuki actors do not perform only kabuki but also act in TV drama and movies. Koshiro Matsumoto often appeared on TV.

Theater design change

Kabuki theaters are unique. In the Genroku era, kabuki was influenced by nou or kyougen which were the theater styles before kabuki. In this period there was no roof for audiences, so that if it rained, actors could not perform. In the Edo period, all seats were covered with a roof.

Mawari-butai, a revolving stage, began in the Kyōhō era (1716–1735). Scenes are built on the revolving stage and when a new scene is needed they simply rotate the stage; it makes progress of plays move quickly and easily. Foreign theaters have copied this kabuki invention.

Other unique system is hanamichi or "flower path". This is a walkway which crosses the auditorium at the same height as the stage. Actors can use this walkway to enter or leave the stage. During a play it can become many kinds of places. For example, it can be a river, a road, a corridor and so on.[7]

The most famous theatre in Japan is the Kabuki-za. It was built in Tokyo in 1889.[8] It was built as western-style theater. The interior decorations were Japanese style but the outside was brick walls and it was a three-storied theater at first. The interior decorations and outside changed many time. Kabuki theaters have long histories and they are unique.

Plays change

Famous authors of kabuki plays include Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653–1724), Tsuruya Nanmboku (1755–1829), and Kawatake Mokuami (1816–1893).[9]

Kabuki plays can be put into three main groups Jidaimono, Sewamono and Shosagoto. The Jidaimono are plays which show the world of samurais or court nobles before the Edo period. The government banned performances that showed the history of the Edo period. Sewamono are plays about the lives of the town people in the Edo period. Shosagoto are plays that feature dance.

Gidayu kyogen or Maruhonmono are kabuki plays that were first written as puppet plays. They were turned into kabuki plays when they became famous. Shin kabuki are plays which were written by writers who did not normally write kabuki plays.

Stage makeup change

Kabuki actor's make up: Ichikawa Ebizo as Takemura Sadanoshin, by Sharaku, 1794.

Kabuki makeup helps audiences understand each character's role. It is special and emphasizes beauty of form. If an actor plays the role of a daughter or a man in love, he must apply makeup. First, he rubs grease, which is made of canola oil and perfume, into his face. Second, he paints out eyebrow with grease. Third, he rubs face powder on chest, neck, long hair and spreads powder with sponge. Next, he rubs face powder on face with sponge. Also, he puts rouge on nose, eyes cheek and the outer corner of the eye. He paints his eyebrow from red to black and he rubs lip with red lip stick and traces the outline clearly.

If the actor is playing a brave man, called Aragoto, he paints on rouge with red and black lines, Kumadori, to show brave feelings. Kumadori is a type of kabuki's make up. It was started in 1673 by Danjyurou Ichikawa. It shows the character's role, for example, Sujiguma is one of the kamadori showing a super hero.

Commonly used kabuki words change

Modern Japanese has many words that came from kabuki words. For example, there are three famous words; the first is an ohako. Ohako means skillful things. Japanese often say the ohako is own good tune with karaoke. The ohako is derived from a word from Danjuro Ichikawa. He kept the kabuki plays of his good kabuki in a box. The ohako originated in there.

The second is a nimaime. The nimaime means a good-looking man. The nimaime was written secondarily from the right in the signboard of the kabuki. Therefore, it came to be said so.

The third is a sanmaime. The sanmaime means a comedian. The origin of this word is the same as nimaime, sanmaime was written third from the right in the signboard of the kabuki.

Today change

Audience enjoying a kabuki play

In the 21st century, kabuki actors often perform for people who are not from Japan. The group Heisei Nakamuraza, directed by Nakamura Kanzaburou, have become famous for their performances in foreign countries.[10] They were the first traditional kabuki group to perform in New York City in 2004, with actor Nakamura Kankuro V. They used a tent as a playhouse near the opera house. The audience sat on tatami (Japanese mats). They performed "The Summer Festival: A Mirror of Osaka" with Japanese actors.[11] In July 2008, Heisei Nakamuraza again performed in New York and they played in English.

In Australia, the Za Kabuki group at the Australian National University began performing kabuki drama each year in 1976. This is the longest regular kabuki performance outside of Japan.[12]

Other websites change

References change

  1. "Kabuki" in Frederic, Louis 2002. Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  2. UNESCO cultural heritage: Kabuki theatre
  3. "Kabuki: a world treasure". Trends in Japan. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
  4. Haar, Francils 1971. Japanese theatre in highlight: a pictorial commentary, p83. Westport: Greenwood
  5. 5.0 5.1 Lombard, Frank Alanson 1928. An outline history of the Japanese drama. London: George Allen & Unwin, pp. 287–295.
  6. "Kabuki theatre was originated". www.world-history-education-resources.com. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  7. "Hanamichi: The Kabuki Stage". Invitation to kabuki. Archived from the original on 2011-08-17. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
  8. "Kabuli-za home page". Archived from the original on 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
  9. "Kabuki repertoire". Inviation to Kabuki. Archived from the original on 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2009-01-13.
  10. "Summer Festival:Mirror of Osaka". House of World Culture. Archived from the original on 2008-10-02. Retrieved 2009-08-28.
  11. Louie, Elaine (July 15, 2004). "Currents: Shelter; Kabuki, Under a big top". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2009.
  12. "Za Kabuki". ANU Student's Association. Archived from the original on 2010-06-05. Retrieved 2009-08-28.