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Kabuki is one of the representative traditional theater forms of Japan. It is said to have begun around 1603 when Okuni, a female attendant of the Izumo Shrine, performed Nenbutsu folk dances in Kyoto. They were very popular, but all-female Kabuki came to be outlawed as it was seen as corrupting public morals. Subsequently Kabuki performances came to be enacted by males only. Later, those performances gradually put emphasis on artistry, and were perfected as classical Japanese dance and music.
Even the female roles are played by male actors (onna-gata) in conformity with kabuki's long standing tradition of banning women from the stage. Tamasaburo Bando, for example, the most popular onna-gata in kabuki today, has also been successful overseas. Kabuki names are generally hereditary and actor's children take strict training from a very early age.
Other unique features of kabuki are the use of kabuki makeup (kumadori) and distinctive inventions on stage installations. Hana-michi is a long passageway running directly through the audience at the left of center stage. Principal actors make their entrance and exits along hana-michi and it helps to draw the audience into the performance itself. On the stage, with the mechanisms of a revolving stage and trapdoor, scenes can change without using the curtain and actors can appear from below.
Kabuki's main themes include both tales of war and court life, and everyday psychological conflicts that the townspeople can identify with.
Click here for the places to attend kabuki performances.
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