Kabuki-za

Hey, Iroha. What's that white-painted guy shouting?

Tina
Tina
Kabuki
Iroha
Iroha

Yeah, that's a kabuki actor.

Kabuki actors...?

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

Well, Tina hasn't seen kabuki yet.

What is kabuki?

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

Kabuki is a theater unique to Japan, and it is one of the traditional performing arts.

Heh, I see! What kind of theater is this "kabuki"?

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

It's like a Japanese version of a Western musical. There's acting and singing and dancing.

A traditional Japanese musical? Sounds interesting!    
But what is it about those people that makes their face white?           

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

That's a special make-up for kabuki. It's called “Kumadori”(隈取).

It's an exaggeration of the veins and muscles of the face.

Actually, each color has its own meaning. There are also brown shades, which represent ghosts that have been disguised as humans.

What! demons?

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

Yes, because there are legends of yokai(demons) all over Japan.

Also, Kabuki has its own unique acting technique.

What kind of acting techniques are there?

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

Typical examples are "Nirami" and "Mie".

Nirami and Mie

"Nirami" is a behavior that has been handed down from generation to generation in the Ichikawa family, the most famous family of Kabuki actors. The word literally means to glare, but it actually means to look at heaven and earth at the same time..

"Mie" is like a pose for a key moment in the performance. The actor pauses for a moment, then turns his head, pulls back his body and makes a pose as if he is sitting down.

Like this?

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

Oooh, Tina, you're good!

No, no, not so much~!

Tina
Tina

By the way, what kind of Kabuki plays are there?

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

There are two main types of works: "Jidai-mono"(時代物) and "Sewa-mono"(世話物)

Jidai-mono and Sewa-mono

"Jidai-mono" refers to works based on historical facts that took place before the Edo period (1603-1868), and also to works that hypothesize what happened to the nobility, warriors, and priests in the Edo period before the Middle Ages.

"Sewa-mono" works depict the state of affairs in the market in the Edo period.

Iroha
Iroha

Of course, there are many works, but the three great kabuki masterpieces are the most famous of them all.


the three great kabuki masterpieces

~The Three Great Kabuki Masterpieces

Yoshitsune Senbonzakura(義経千本桜), Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, and Kanadehon Chushingura are known as one of the three greatest Kabuki masterpieces.

Yoshitsune Senbonzakura (The Thousand Cherry Trees)

After defeating the Taira clan in the Genpei Gassen (a battle between the powerful warrior clans of the time), Yoshitsune is attacked by his older brother Minamotono Yoritomo(源頼朝) for his life and flees to escape, but the tragedy of the Taira warlords who were actually alive and the people caught up in the battle is depicted in the story.

Since the story is titled "Yoshitsune Senbonzakura", one might think that the protagonist is Minamoto Yoshitsune, but in fact he is not.

The protagonists of this story are the surviving warriors of the Heike clan and the common people who sheltered them from various tragedies caused by Minamotono Yoshitsune's fall from the capital. In addition, although the title of the play is "Senbonzakura" (one thousand cherry blossoms), there is not a single scene in the play in which cherry blossoms are mentioned.

Sugawara denju tenarai kagami

Centering on the "Shoyasu no Hen" incident of the disgraced aristocrat Sugawara Michizane during the Heian period (794-1185), this work depicts Sugawara Michizane and the people around him. The protagonist is Sugawara Michizane, who was modeled after the aristocrat Sugawara Michizane.

Suga Shojojo served as the right-hand minister (a senior official at the court at the time), but was actually exiled to exile by Fujiwara Tokihira, who was modeled on the same Fujiwara no Tokihira who drove Sugawara Michizane to his downfall.

After being exiled, he killed his own son as a substitute for Kan Hide-sai, the son of the Heian-era prime minister, in the famous "Terakoya no Dan" by Shoomaru.

Kanadehon Chushingura

This play is based on the Ako Incident, which took place in the Edo period (1603-1573).

The Ako Incident took place during the Edo period, but this work is set in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). The reason for changing the setting to the Muromachi period is that the Edo period was strict on public morals, and it was not possible to use the historical facts as they were to prevent the people from being influenced by the work's content to stage a coup d'état, so it was necessary to change the setting.

In the work, the lord of the Ako clan, 'Asai Naganori', who couldn't bear the insult and cut down Kira Uenosuke, became 'Sahei Governor Naoyoshi', the younger brother of Ashikaga Takauji, and the cut down Kira Uenosuke became 'Takamusashi Mamoru Shiinao', the steward of Ashikaga Takauji.

So this is one of the three great Kabuki masterpieces. I'd like to see them.

When did Kabuki come into existence?

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

The origin of Kabuki is said to be the Kabuki dance started by a woman named "Okuni". The Kabuki dance was first recorded in 1603, so that must be the beginning of Kabuki.

So, Kabuki has a long history!!

Where can I see Kabuki?

Tina
Tina
Iroha
Iroha

The most famous stage is Kabuki-za in Ginza, Tokyo.

You can also see it at other theaters and movie theaters in Japan.

Let's go to Kabuki-za next time!

Kabuki-za

Yeah, let's go!

Tina
Tina

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