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Kabuki Theater Basics

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Kabuki Theater Basics

Post  AnaIkimaru on Sun Aug 23, 2009 8:56 am

Taken from the collumn written by Shizuko Mishima:

Kabuki, one of Japanese traditional entertainments, originated in the 17th century. It was developed by merchants during Edo Era as a way to express their emotions. Although many women played female roles in early times, the Tokugawa Shogun banned appearance of women in Kabuki plays in the early 17th century. As a result, all female roles are played by male actors called Onna-gata and the beauty of the Onna-gata became one of the most distinctive features in Kabuki performances.

Part of the excitement of watching Kabuki comes from the audience. During a play, the audience shouts the names of actors during short pauses. The timing of the shout must be just right. It's an interesting phenomena. Other interesting things to notice during Kabuki are the colorful and gorgeous costumes and make-up which the actors wear. Also, you might want to pay attention to how the stage is equipped. When shifting scenes in a play, the stage revolves. This is called Mawari-butai and is one of the famous characteristics of Japanese Kabuki.

You will also see people dressed all in black on the stage. They are called Kuroko, and their jobs are to take care of props and actors. When they appears on the stage, the audience is supposed to treat them as invisible. Also, the traditional Japanese music that accompanies Kabuki performances might interests you. The musicians rotate in and out of sight on the stage, which carries them.

Most of Kabuki plays were written during 17th-18th century, so the language is hard to understand, even for Japanese people. There are about 300 plays in the conventional kabuki repertoire. In the Kabuki-za theater in Tokyo, you can buy English programs or rent earphones with which you can listen to the explanations of performances in English.

Kabuki performances are held year around in the Kabuki-za in Ginza, Tokyo except for August. You can buy tickets at the theater box office or reserve on the phone at 03-5565-6000. A Kabuki performance consists of many acts and usually lasts about 5 hours, including intermissions. If you are new to Kabuki, or don't have much time, you can view one act from the 4th floor of the Kabuki-za. (*English earphone guide services are not available here.) The tickets for one act are called Makumi. Makumi tickets are not sold in advance, but are available 20 minutes before each act. *It's announced that the Kabukiza Theater will be renewed into a new complex by 2013.

More Places to See Japanese Kabuki:

To find out more information, please check out the following links:

Kabuki-za of Ginza, Tokyo:

Kokuritsu Gekijo National Theater of Japan

Tokyo Shinbashi Enbu-jo

Osaka Shochiku-za

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