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Outline of Japan Arts Council

What is KABUKI ?

It explains what one the kabuki is easily !

Kabuki came into existence around 1603 with the arrival in Kyoto of a troupe of dancing girls led by a certain Izumo-no-Okuni, formerly a shrine maiden.

Their dances created a sensation and were labelled "Kabuki" which, at that time, meant "unorthodox" or "eccentric".

Such troupes of women were subsequently banned as were those of the dancing boys that took their place.

They were succeeded by groups of adult men whose performances developed into Kabuki as it now exists

In the process, the original meaning of the word kabuki changed to become Ka(Song), Bu(Dance), Ki(Technique or Skill).

Kabuki originally consisted of short dances but the repertoire now is huge and is made up of both plays and dances, most of which date from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Originally the principal entertainment of the urban merchant classes, Kabuki is the traditional, popular theater of Japan and continues to flourish and draw large audiences.

Kabuki is also attracting increasing attention abroad and is now regarded as one of the world's great theatrical arts, remarkable for its vigour.

Kabuki Dictionary

It is easy to understand and the language of the kabuki is explained !

Aragoto The masculine "rough style" of acting associated with the Ichikawa Danjuro line of actors and typified by exaggerated movement, makeup, costume and diction.
Bunraku The popular theatre of puppets that developed simultaneously with Kabuki, influencing it greatly.
Edo Period
:1603-1868
An era of peace and also of isolation from the world, the latter the policy of the ruling Tokugawa family which provided fifteen generations of shoguns or military dictators. It was during the Edo Period that Kabuki came into existence and reached its peak.
Geza The slatted musicians room, at the far left of the stage, in which is performed the various types of background music heard during Kabuki plays. Other sound effects are also provided (bells, gongs, drums, bird noise, etc).
Hanamichi "Flower Path", the narrow extension running from the left of the main stage to the back of the auditorium, along which actors make their entrances and exits. A temporary hanamichi is occasionally on the opposite side.
Jidaimono A "period" or history play, usually the first on the programme, set in an era previous to the Edo Period, and portraying the lives of warriors and aristocrats . The majority of such plays were originally written for BUNRAKU.
Kakegoe Appreciative shouts by knowledgeable members of the audience and timed to the actors lines, poses, entrancees,etc., most often shouted are the actors' YAGO and generation number.
Ki Also known as hyoshigi. Wooden blocks struck together to signal the opening and closing of the curtain but also at other times.
Koken Stage assistants who help actors with their costumes and props. They may be dressed completely in black or formal wear.
Meiji Period
:1868-1911
The era of westernisation following the opening of the country and the restoration of the Emperor Mitsuhiro (Meiji).
Mie Poses performed by TACHIYAKU at climactic moments involving a rotating, nodding movement of the head and the crossing of one eye in a powerful glare.
Onnagata Actors who specialise in female roles.
Sewamono "Contemporary Plays" portraying in a realistic way the lives of ordinary people in the Edo Period. Usually the last item on the programme.
Shin-Kabuki "New Kabuki" plays written after 1868 according to the theory and practice of western dramaturgy.
Shosagoto "Dance". The second item on the programme.
Tachimawari "Fight Scene". In traditional Kabuki plays and dances these are stylised and choreographed.
Tachiyaku Actors of male roles.
Tsuke The process of beating two wooden blocks onto a board at the far right of the stage and done so to punctuate such movements as MIE poses, walking, running, and also TACHIMAWARI.
Yago "House Name" Besides their stage names, all Kabuki actors have a house name which they share with other memgers of the same acting house or "ya". The principal yago are Korai-ya, Matsushima-ya, Nakamura-ya, Narikoma-ya, Narita-ya, Otowa-ya, etc., YAGO are often shouted as KAKEGOE.