Test Your Knowledge of Kabuki Theatre

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What is kabuki?

A form of Japanese theatre that combines dramatic performance with traditional dance

Who founded kabuki?

Izumo no Okuni

What is the meaning of the word kabuki?

To lean or to be out of the ordinary

Why was women's kabuki banned in 1629?

For being too erotic

What are the three main categories of kabuki play?

Jidaimono, sewamono, and shosagoto

What is a hanamichi in kabuki theatre?

A walkway which extends into the audience

What is the difference between jōruri plays and kabuki plays?

Jōruri plays focus on the story and the chanter who recites it, while kabuki places greater emphasis on the actors themselves and their talents

What is Super Kabuki?

A new genre of kabuki productions created by Ichikawa En-ō in 1986

What is a shūmei in kabuki theatre?

A grand naming ceremony held in kabuki theatres when actors take on new stage names

Study Notes

Kabuki: A Classical Japanese Dance-Drama

  • Kabuki is a classical form of Japanese theatre that combines dramatic performance with traditional dance.

  • It originated in the early Edo period and was founded by Izumo no Okuni, who formed a female dance troupe that performed dances and light sketches in Kyoto.

  • Kabuki theatre is known for its heavily stylised performances, its glamorous, highly decorated costumes, and the elaborate kumadori make-up worn by some of its performers.

  • Kabuki theatre was proclaimed by UNESCO as an intangible heritage possessing outstanding universal value in 2005.

  • The word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning "to lean" or "to be out of the ordinary," and can also be interpreted as "avant-garde" or "bizarre" theatre.

  • Kabuki was initially performed by female performers who played both men and women in comic playlets about ordinary life.

  • Women's kabuki, known as onna-kabuki, was banned in 1629 for being too erotic, and kabuki switched to adult male actors, called yaro-kabuki, in the mid-1600s.

  • During the Genroku period, kabuki thrived, and the structure of kabuki plays formalised into the structure they are performed in today, alongside many other elements which eventually came to be recognised as a key aspect of kabuki tradition.

  • In the mid-18th century, kabuki fell out of favour for a time, with bunraku taking its place as the premier form of stage entertainment among the lower social classes.

  • After World War II, the occupying forces briefly banned kabuki, which had formed a strong base of support for Japan's war efforts since 1931.

  • Kabuki once again returned to the pleasure quarters of Edo in the Meiji period, and throughout the period became increasingly more radical, as modern styles of kabuki plays and performances emerged.

  • The post-war period of occupation following World War II posed a difficult time for kabuki, but director Tetsuji Takechi's popular and innovative productions of kabuki classics at this time are credited with sparking new interest in kabuki in the Kansai region.Overview of Kabuki Theatre

  • Kabuki is a traditional style of Japanese drama that has been popular for centuries.

  • It is known for its star actors who often appear in television or film roles and onnagata actors who play female roles.

  • Kabuki has become a part of Japanese popular culture and has been featured in anime.

  • There are many smaller theaters in Osaka and throughout the countryside, and kabuki troupes regularly tour Asia, Europe, and America.

  • Kabuki was inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2005.

  • Ichikawa En-ō created a new genre of kabuki productions called "Super Kabuki" in 1986, which has sparked controversy within the Japanese population.

  • The kabuki stage features a projection called a hanamichi, a walkway which extends into the audience.

  • Kabuki stages and theaters have steadily become more technologically sophisticated, and innovations including revolving stages and trap doors were introduced during the 18th century.

  • Kabuki costumes were groundbreaking new designs to the general public, even setting trends that still exist today.

  • Kabuki makeup provides an element of style easily recognizable even by those unfamiliar with the art form.

  • The three main categories of kabuki play are jidaimono, sewamono, and shosagoto, which respectively focus on historical stories, domestic stories, and dance pieces.

  • Kabuki, like other forms of drama traditionally performed in Japan, was—and sometimes still is—performed in full-day programmes, with one play comprising a number of acts spanning the entire day.Overview of Kabuki Theatre in Japan

  • Kabuki plays typically have five acts, with the first being slow and introducing the characters and plot, while the remaining three are faster-paced and lead up to a dramatic or tragic moment in the third act. The final act is usually short and provides a quick conclusion.

  • Kabuki plays are often adapted from jōruri plays, Noh plays, folklore, or other traditional performing arts.

  • Jōruri plays focus on the story and the chanter who recites it, while kabuki places greater emphasis on the actors themselves and their talents.

  • Kabuki traditions in Edo and Kamigata differed, with Edo kabuki being extravagant and Kamigata kabuki being more natural and realistic.

  • Kabuki actors have stage names that are passed down between generations and hold great honor and importance; actors will often go through several names over the course of their career.

  • Kabuki actors are typically associated with a particular school of acting or theatre.

  • Kabuki has influenced many other art forms, including woodblock prints, books, photography, and oral storytelling.

  • Kabuki performances were often recreated in home-brewed shows called Noson kabuki, which were popular among the laboring class in Japan.

  • Commoners in Edo enjoyed kabuki through bunraku puppet theatre and Kabuki shinpō magazine.

  • Famous kabuki plays were written in the mid-Edo period and were originally written for bunraku theatre.

  • Shūmei, or grand naming ceremonies, are held in kabuki theatres when actors take on new stage names.

How much do you know about Kabuki theatre? Test your knowledge with our Kabuki quiz! Learn about the history and traditions of this classical Japanese dance-drama, from its origins in the Edo period to its UNESCO recognition as an intangible cultural heritage. Discover the different types of kabuki plays, the iconic costumes and makeup, and the famous actors who have graced its stages. Challenge yourself and see how much you know about this unique art form!

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