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History of Kabuki Theater

Prepared by: Liana Ilka Chase D. Salazar
Allysa Gonzales
Marynor Madamesila
Kabuki Theater
Kabuki (?)
is a classical Japanese dance-drama.
The individual kanji, from left to right, mean sing (), dance (), and skill
( ). Kabuki is therefore sometimes translated as "the art of singing and
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 "avantgarde" or "bizarre" theatre.
History of Kabuki
1603-1629: Female kabuki

The history of kabuki began in 1603 when Izumo no Okuni, possibly a

miko of Izumo Taisha, began performing a new style of dance drama in
the dry riverbeds of Kyoto.
Japan was under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate, enforced by
Tokugawa Ieyasu
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
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 womena 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.[1] For this
reason, kabuki was also called " " (prostitute-singing and
dancing performer) during this period.

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.
Womens kabuki, called onna-kabuki, was banned in 1629 for being too erotic.
Following onna-kabuki, young boys performed in wakash-kabuki, but since they
too were eligible for prostitution, the shogun government soon banned wakashkabuki 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

History of Kabuki Theater
Prepared by: Liana Ilka Chase D. Salazar
Allysa Gonzales
Marynor Madamesila
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.
16291673: Transition to yar-kabuki

The modern all-male kabuki, known as yar-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, 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, wakash (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 wakash roles. Both bans
were rescinded by 1652.

16731841: Golden age

During the Genroku 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 ningy
jruri, the elaborate form of puppet theater that later came to be known as
bunraku, became closely associated with each other, and each has since
influenced the other's development.

18421868: Saruwaka-ch kabuki

History of Kabuki Theater
Prepared by: Liana Ilka Chase D. Salazar
Allysa Gonzales
Marynor Madamesila
In the 1840s, fires started terrorizing Edo due to repeated drought. 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
These factors, along with strict regulations, pushed much of kabuki
"underground" in Edo, with performances changing locations to avoid the

The theatres' new location was called Saruwaka-ch, 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 Nakamuraza, 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.
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 buy, or dancing, in dramas written by Kawatake Mokuami,
who also wrote during the Meiji period to follow.
Kawatake Mokuami 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
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
genres and twists on traditional stories.

Kabuki after the Meiji period

History of Kabuki Theater
Prepared by: Liana Ilka Chase D. Salazar
Allysa Gonzales
Marynor Madamesila

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.
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 regardon 21 April 1887, the Meiji
Emperor sponsored a performance.
After World War II, the occupying forces briefly banned kabuki, which had
strongly supported Japan's war since 1931; however, by 1947 the ban had
been rescinded.

History of Kabuki Theater
Prepared by: Liana Ilka Chase D. Salazar
Allysa Gonzales
Marynor Madamesila