Country: Japan Category: Culture By: Kiki
Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theatre. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by its performers. The individual kanji characters, 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, characters that do not reflect actual etymology. The word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning "to lean" or "to be out of the ordinary", so kabuki can be interpreted to mean "avant-garde" or "bizarre" theatre. The expression kabukimono referred originally to wild urban gangs of young eccentrics who dressed outrageously and had strange hairstyles.

Kabuki has changed drastically since its earliest incarnations. The history of kabuki began in 1603, when Okuni, a miko (young woman in the service of a Shinto shrine) of Izumo Taisha, began performing a new style of dance drama in the dry river beds of Kyoto. Female performers played both men and women in comic playlets about ordinary life. The style was instantly popular; Okuni was even asked to perform before the Imperial Court. In the wake of such success, rival troupes quickly formed, and kabuki was born as ensemble dance 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 performances put on by many troupes; this appeal was further augmented by the fact that the performers were often also available for prostitution. For this reason, kabuki was also written "歌舞妓" (singing and dancing prostitute) during the Edo Period.

As the popularity of Kabuki grew in the 17th century, woman were banned from performing due primarily to the overt sexuality of their performance and were replaced by young male actors. Along with the change in the performers' gender came a change in the emphasis of the performance: increased stress was placed on drama rather than dance. Their performances were equally ribald, however, and they too were available for prostitution (also to 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 young male actors in 1652.

From 1653, only mature men could perform kabuki, which developed into a sophisticated, highly stylized form called yaro kabuki. This metamorphosis in style was heavily influenced by kyogen comic theater, as mandated by the shogunate. Kyogen was extremely popular at the time.

The yaro was eventually dropped, but all roles in a kabuki play continued to be performed by men. Male actors who specialize in playing women's roles, called onnagata or oyama, emerged and families of onnagata specialists developed. In later years, most onnagata came from these families.

Two major role types developed: aragoto (rough style) was pioneered by Ichikawa Danjūrō (16601704) in Edo, and wagoto (soft style) by Sakata Tōjūrō (16471709) in the Kyoto-Osaka area. Aragoto is a bombastic style of role, in which the actor greatly exaggerates words, gestures, and even costumes and makeup; its name is derived from a word meaning the reckless warrior matter, and its plays emphasize action. In contrast, wagoto features more realistic speech and gestures, and its plays are usually tragic romances.

During the Genroku era, kabuki thrived. The structure of a kabuki play was formalized during this period, as were many elements of stylization. Conventional character types were determined. Kabuki theater and ningyo joruri, the elaborate form of puppet theater that later came to be known as bunraku, became closely associated with each other during this period, and each has since influenced the development of the other. The famous playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon, one of the first professional playwrights of kabuki, produced several influential works, though the piece usually acknowledged as his most significant, Sonezaki Shinju (The Love Suicides at Sonezaki), was originally written for bunraku. Like many bunraku plays, however, it was adapted for kabuki.

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. This occurred partly because of the emergence of several skilled bunraku playwrights in that time. Little of note would occur in the development of kabuki until the end of the century, when it began to re-emerge as a popular art form.

The tremendous cultural changes began in 1868 when the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate, the elimination of the samurai class, and the opening of Japan to the west helped to spark the re-emergence of kabuki. As the culture struggled to adapt to its new lack of isolation, actors strove to increase the reputation of kabuki among the upper classes and to adapt the traditional styles to modern tastes.

Many kabuki houses were destroyed by bombing during World War II, and the occupying forces briefly banned kabuki performances after the war. However, by 1947 the ban had been rescinded, and performances began once more.

The immediate post-World War II era was a difficult time for kabuki. Besides the devastation caused to major Japanese cities as a result of the war, the popular trend was to reject the styles and thoughts of the past, kabuki among them. Director Tetsuji Takechi's popular and innovative productions of the kabuki classics at this time are credited with bringing about a rebirth of interest in the kabuki in the Kansai region. Today, kabuki remains relatively popular and is considered the most popular of the traditional styles of Japanese drama, its star actors often appearing in television or film roles.

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Thta's the best answer of all time! JMHO
December 05, 2016



Thanks for sharing. Your post is a useful conttiburion.
December 05, 2016


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July 17, 2016



What's funny about the bankster-driven drviel from Washington is that very soon they will discover that it will actually have worked to counter purpose: everyone in the US is now much more aware of our huge problems, but how many will believe that this totally BS agreement actually solves ANY of our gynormous systemic problems?What the banksters hoped for was that their kabuki theater would convince Americans that their heroes' (Democrat or Republican, depending on the newspaper you read) have fought harder than they ever have before for their constituents, for their morals', and that the end result is as good as one can hope for public austerity is the only option' and everyone is getting hit! (One of the mainstream articles I tried to read started off saying that Republicans might object because the agreement involves too many cuts to the defense industry AS IF!!!)Rather than convince anyone that things have been heroically improved against all odds, the acting has been so bad that I think everyone will end up convinced that disaster is not only just around the corner: our destruction is planned and has purposefully arrived, and the entire set of politicians and talking heads on the TV are nothing but liars and cheats.How many of the bottom 99% do you think got convinced? In a meltdown as bad as the one we are witnessing, I'd even say you need to be in the top 0.001% to still feel like the system is delivering for you. For the rest, including the small business owners', it's pretty clear you can't succeed unless you sell your soul and join the cabal of leviathan co-dependency (puke).
November 06, 2014

Eileen Schenck

ifornia USA

Would like to obtain the names of Female characters in the plays,
i.e., I believe one to be Fujimusme (with wisteria branch?)
and others.
August 07, 2010
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