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An Introduction To Kabuki: The Traditional Japanese Theater


Kabuki has a history of over 400 years. It is an important theatrical art in Japan, and one that almost everyone knows about. We will be covering the basics on what kind of theater it is, who the actors are, and how it came to be. Kabuki actors are named for their stage names; they don't usually have last names because these were not given at birth or decided upon by their families, but chosen later when they made the decision to become an actor.
The most famous kabuki actor is Ichikawa Danjuro, who lived from 1660 to 1704. He was the most popular actor of his time and is still known today as one of the greatest actors in Japanese history.



The Origins of Kabuki


The origin of "Kabuki" is unclear, and there are many different theories out there. The most common belief is that the word is derived from an old form of the verb kabuku, which means “to be startled or confused”. “Kabuki” may have been a battle cry in ancient times, used to confuse enemies in battle. It may also have been used as a term for “vulgar” dance in the early Edo Period (around 1603).


In the late 17th century, Kabuki was known as bugaku, which

means “dance of the court”. Bugaku was a type of dance performed at the Imperial Court, and it is said that bugaku and kabuki are related.


In 1603, the Tokugawa Shogunate put an end to the feudal system and established a centralized government. The kabuki theater was originally a form of entertainment for the common people, but as it became more popular, it also attracted samurai and noblemen. In 1629, "Sarugaku" was banned by the Tokugawa Shogunate, but kabuki continued to be performed in certain places.


The art of kabuki was developed under the guidance of Okuni, a female entertainer who had been

a popular dancer in the "Sarugaku" period. Okuni was known as a talented and intelligent woman, and she created a new style of dance which later became kabuki.


The first kabuki theater was built in1603 in the Asakusa district of Edo. The kabuki theater was known as a "machi-no-eki" (city theater). This type of theater featured kabuki and other types of entertainment, such as puppetshows and acrobatics.


The kabuki theater was a very popular form of entertainment in Edo, and it is said that over one million people would visit the city theaters each year. Kabuki became so popular that it was eventually banned by the government. The government believed that kabuki was causing too much excitement and chaos in the city. In 1629, a ban on kabuki was issued.


In spite of this ban, kabuki theater continued to be popular. Many people were still willing to risk punishment by the government in order to see kabuki performances.


In 1652, the ban on kabuki was lifted. Kabuki theater continued to be very popular until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.


Kabuki theater was an important part of Japanese culture during the Edo period. It had a large influence on Japanese literature, music, and art. Kabuki actors were admired by many people. They were also respected by the government. Kabuki theater was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Japan during this time period.


Kabuki Theater in Modern Times


In modern times, kabuki theater is still very popular. It is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Japan. Kabuki actors are still admired by many people. Many Japanese people go to kabuki theaters to see their favorite actors perform.


The Structure of Kabuki


Kabuki is one of Japan’s most popular and enduring theatrical forms. It is known for its elaborate make-up, large-scale stage sets, and its exaggerated expressions.


Throughout the years, kabuki has developed a highly structured format. The play begins with a curtain call, which is followed by an entrance song and dance.

The first act follows, which contains multiple scenes and ends in a blackout.

Act two is much shorter than act one and includes only two or three scenes and no blackout.

Act three is shorter still, ending in another blackout before the curtain call.Actors wear elaborate costumes and make-up, which are changed several times throughout the play. Actors wear a different wig for each character they portray. Wigs are made from human hair or synthetic materials. The wigs are carefully styledand colored to match the hair of the character.


The actors use stylized gestures and exaggerated facial expressions to convey emotion. They speak in a formal, poetic language with elaborate rhyming schemes and frequent use of alliteration. In some plays, the actors wear masks.


Types of Kabuki Plays


There are many different kinds of kabuki plays that are still performed today. Kyogen is a traditional form of comic theater that is performed before the mainkabuki play. The main kabuki plays are divided into jidaimono (historical plays), sewamono (domestic plays), and shosagoto (dance-dramas). Jidaimono, which are the most popular kabuki plays, are based on historical events and take place in ancient Japan. They include elements of fantasy and supernatural beings such as ghosts, demons, and gods. The sewamono plays are set in contemporary times and often deal with themes of romance and revenge. The shosagoto plays are dance-dramas that include elements of music, singing, and dancing.


Kabuki is performed in a theater called the kabukiza. The stage is a flat area that is raised above the audience. It is surrounded by a wooden wall, called the kabuki-za maru, which rises about four feet above the stage. The front of the stage is covered with a curtain called the hanamichi.



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