Culture and Recreation


What are the elements of Japanese kabuki?

The most popular traditional form of Japanese drama, kabuki features dance, song, mime, colorful costumes, heavy makeup, and lively, exaggerated movements to tell stories about historical events. The drama had its beginnings in 1575 when Okuni, a woman, founded a kabuki company. In 1603 at Kyoto women danced at the Kitani shrine, playing men’s roles as well as women’s. In October 1629 kabuki became an allmale affair by order of the shogun Iemitsu, who decided that it was immoral for women to dance in public. Just as in Elizabethan England, women’s roles were then performed by men. The performing art became increasingly popular during the 1600s, eclipsing bunraku (puppet theater), in which a narrator recites a story, which is acted by large, lifelike puppets. Today kabuki remains a viable art form, borrowing from other forms of drama to adapt to changing times.


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