Kabuki (歌舞伎)

"Kabuki" is a theater peculiar to Japan, and is one of the traditional performing arts. It is designated as an important intangible cultural property. It is on "The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity," which is based on Convention for the Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage, and it is almost guaranteed to be registered as the first World Intangible Heritage in September 2009.

Etymology

The etymology of "Kabuki" is said to be the continuative form of the archaic Japanese verb "kabuku," which is equivalent to the present Japanese word "katamuku" (lean). Strange acts and clothes were called "kabuki," and a man of these features was said to be "kabuki-mono." This background partly explains why the real pleasure of kabuki is said to be "Keren (theatrical) staging."

And so, the Chinese characters "歌舞伎," that reads "Kabuki," are merely the phonetic equivalent, but nevertheless, "歌" (ka) means "singing," "舞" (bu) means "dancing," and "伎" (ki) means "performances (or performers)," so the characters are appropriate for expressing this performing art. Originally, however, not "伎" (ki) but "妓" (ki) was used because of the history of Kabuki's birth, and during the Edo period, both of those characters were confusedly used, and from the Meiji period, only the character "伎" has been used and continues to be used today.

History

Kabuki is said to have originated from "IZUMO no Okuni," who delivered a performance at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine in 1603, and thereby gaining a good reputation in Kyoto. Some say Okuni was "miko" (a shrine maiden), while others say she was a derelict, but neither of them is sure. Okuni showed the dance matched to popular songs at that time, wore men's clothes, and adopted the act of Kabuki-mono, thereby creating the cutting edge entertainment in those days. Around that time, Kabuki was performed on a Noh stage or the like, and "Hanamichi" (a passage running through the audience to the stage) of the present Kabuki theater seems to have its origin in the Noh stage, including the details, such as the structure of the left side of the stage "Hon-hanamichi" (the main hanamichi) and the right side of the stage "Kari-hanamichi" (the secondary hanamichi).

As Okuni became popular, many imitators appeared, including "Yujo-kabuki" (courtesans' Kabuki, or women's Kabuki), performed by "yujo" (prostitutes) & "Wakashu-kabuki" (young men's Kabuki), performed by boy actors who did not undergo genpuku (the coming-of-age ceremony for boys) yet. But the former was banned in 1629 for the reason that it corrupted public morals, and the latter was also banned in 1652 because the Kabuki groups which also engaged in the business of male prostitutes were rampant, so Kabuki became the style of "Yaro-kabuki" (men's Kabuki) that has continued until today. And so, in Kabuki, both the male's role & the female role are acted only by men. Kabuki was sophisticated and completed in the mature culture during the Edo period, and it now forms its peculiar world of beauty.

Kabuki is said to be classified according to its formation process into "Kabuki Odori" (Kabuki Dance) & "Kabuki Geki" (Kabuki Drama). Kabuki Odori lasted until the time of Wakashu-kabuki, and it showed dances matched to the popular songs of those days; Wakashu Kabuki is said to have shown even acrobatics. In some cases, Kabuki Odori also includes the program focusing on dancing created after Wakashu Kabuki; please refer to the article of "Kabuki Buyo" (Kabuki Dance). Meanwhile, Kabuki Geki was produced for the common people during the Edo period, and it sometimes became the drama, just as it is today, possessing the factor of Japanese dancing. Before banning Wakashu Kabuki, the Tokugawa shogunate ordered them to play "impersonation & 'Kyogen' (Noh comedies)," and this also encouraged the development of Kabuki as a drama. In short, the Tokugawa shogunate regarded the performances that centered on dancing as undesirable, since they were accompanied by male prostitution and other undesirable activities. The content of the drama came from historical facts, fiction, events and other topics, and the drama was called "Kabuki Kyogen." This served not only as the equivalent of today's movies & TV dramas, but also as entertainment like a daytime TV variety program to satisfy people's curiosity with its visual & auditory effects. This was not irrelevant to Kabuki's facilitating transition to the theater specialized for Kabuki, what we call the Kabuki-za (Kabuki theater). Through the staging of separating time using a draw curtain, the time flow was naturally introduced into the story, and this enabled a complicated play to be developed. And Hanamichi, the passage running through the audience on which Kabuki actors enter on and depart, provides the audience with the two-dimensional image (or depth) that cannot be experienced in other kinds of theater, and "seri" (a trapdoor) & "chunori" (a flight on wires from the stage over the heads of the audience) provide the audience with the three-dimensional image (or the height), thereby upgrading Kabuki to the higher level of theater.

Until the middle of the Edo period, Kabuki Kyogen created in "Kamigata" (Kyoto and Osaka area) weighed so much. This is indicated, for example, by the number of programs at the time where stories came from "Ningyo Joruri" (traditional Japanese puppet shows) which were mainly played in Kamigata. Afterward in the Bunka-Bunsei era, "Nanboku TSURUYA" created many works of Kabuki Kyogen in Edo. And from the last days of the Edo period to the early Meiji period, "Mokuami KAWATAKE" did the same as Nanboku. This suggests that the Edo's relative position as the cultural center in comparison with Kamigata was raised during and after the later Edo period.

These Kabuki Kyogen were simply called "Shibai" (play) during the Edo period.

And until the Edo period, Kabuki was strongly believed to be a profession occupied by the people of the discriminated class, and the discrimination against them remained deep-rooted.

Elements of drama in Kabuki Kyogen

Kabuki Kyogen programs, created during the Edo period and handed down to the present, are roughly divided into two categories, those borrowed from Ningyo Joruri (also called "Bunraku") & those created as the original Kabuki Kyogen. Kabuki Kyogen, with stories that came from Ningyo Joruri are called "Maruhonmono" (doll theater); in many cases, they are also called "Gidayu-kyogen," but "Gidayu-kyogen" is the name of the Kabuki which uses "Gidayu-bushi" (the musical narrative of the puppet shows), so it differs a bit from Maruhonmono. "Geza" (sound effects in Kabuki) basically produces the atmosphere of the original Kabuki Kyogen.

Kabuki Kyogen is classified according to its drama content into some categories, such as "Jidaimono," which dramatizes the historical facts, and "Sewamono," which portrays the social conditions at the time, and Sewamono is equivalent to today's TV dramas of commercial broadcasting. And there existed some rules called "sekai" (world), which set the basic framework of the stories constituting the background of the program. For example, there existed some sekai, such as "Taiheiki no sekai" (The World of "Taiheiki" [The Record of the Great Peace]), "Heike Monogatari no sekai" (The world of "Heike Monogatari" [The tale of Taira Clan]), "Gikeiki no sekai" (The World of "Gikeiki" [A Military Epic About the Life of Yoshitsune]), "Soga-mono no sekai" (The World of "Soga-mono" [the tale of Soga Brothers]) and "Sumidagawa-mono no sekai" (The World of "Sumidagawa-mono" [the tale of an apostate Hokai]). Even a first-time spectator knew well about the characters of the story, their mutual relations and other details, so spectators found pleasure in how the writer of the popular story developed the drama.

During the Edo period, the performances of Kabuki Kyogen were under control of the authorities, so they obeyed the rules set down by the Tokugawa shogunate that all of the performances should be finished within the daytime; the shogunate was afraid that a gathering of a mob after sunset could develop into disorderly political activities, they say. Therefore, many of the programs created at that time were relatively long, though the time of intermission for rest & stage change was deducted. And so, Kabuki Kyogen was an all day long entertainment even for the audience. Under the circumstances, various spectators began to want the performances of Kabuki Kyogen to satisfy their own tastes, such as one for Jidaimono, or one for Sewamono. And so, many had a complicated story that alternately showed, for example, Jidaimono & Sewamono in a single program, with an intermission in between. Incidentally, it is not common today to perform the whole Kabuki Kyogen program. The performance of the popular scene extracts from the program is called "Midori-kyogen," which is said to have come from the Japanese noun "Yoridorimidori" (being at your choice). The performance of the whole program is called "Toshi-kyogen."

Music of Kabuki

In Kabuki, various kinds of music are used. As is mentioned above, Kabuki is the general term for various genres of stages, such as the program created as the drama from the start, the program whose story comes from Ningyo Joruri, and in addition, the program of dancing. Each of these fields has its own favorite music. Music of Kabuki is roughly divided into song "Nagauta" and the narrative "Joruri" (the dramatic narrative chanted to shamisen accompaniment).

"Nagauta"
"Nagauta" is the music that was developed as an accompaniment of Kabuki. It is often played in the dancing dramas and in dances, such as "Kanjincho" (The List of Contributors) & "Renjishi" (Lion Dancing), and it is sometimes played in Kabuki Geki, such as "Kuruwa Bunsho" (Love Letters from the Licensed Quarter). The players are in charge of background music, and they play the accompaniment & the sound effects in the area (called "Kuromisu") specially set up on the left side of the stage. Their music is called "Kuromisu Ongaku" (Kuromisu Music), or "Geza Ongaku" (Geza Music). They create various sound effects with their instruments, for example, a sound effect of water with a drum, or a sound effect of a temple bell using a gong.

"Gidayu-bushi"
The dramas of Ningyo Joruri progressed in accordance with the performance of Gidayu-bushi (a kind of Joruri), so the programs of Kabuki whose stories came from Ningyo Joruri (for example, "Yoshitsune Senbonzakura" [Yoshitsune and One Thousand Cherry Trees] & "Kanadehon Chushingura" [The Treasury of Loyal Retainers]) are similarly accompanied by Gidayu-bushi. In Ningyo Joruri, the lines of the characters & descriptions of situations are all given by "Tayu" (a narrator) of Gidayu-bushi, while in Kabuki, lines are basically given by actors and Tayu only describes the situation. And so, Gidayu-bushi in Kabuki is occasionally called "Takemoto" (also called "Chobo") to make a distinction between itself and that in Ningyo Joruri. Gidayu-bushi in Gidayu-kyogen is mainly played in the area (called "Yuka") specially set up on the right side of the stage.

"Tokiwazu-bushi" & "Kiyomoto-bushi"
"Tokiwazu-bushi" & "Kiyomoto-bushi" are both a kind of Joruri. In contrast to Gidayu-bushi that developed in Osaka, they developed it in Edo, so they are called "Edo Joruri." Compared to the profound Gidayu-bushi, their characteristic is the witty and polished style of art, and Kiyomoto-bushi additionally possesses a sensitive flavor. They are played in dancing dramas and in dances. To know about Tokiwazu-bushi, such as "Seki no to" (The Door of the Barrier Station) & "Modori Kago" (The Palanquin Returning from Shimabara), or about Kiyomoto-bushi, such as "Michiyuki Tabiji no Hanamuko" (The Bridegroom Accompanying the Journey) & "Yasuna," please refer to the article of "Tokiwazu-bushi" or "Kiyomoto-bushi."

Others
In addition, other kinds of music, such as "Ozatsuma-bushi," "Kato-bushi," and "Shinnai-bushi," are used in some Kabuki programs. "Tomimoto-bushi," a kind of Edo Joruri, was frequently used during the Edo period, but from the modern age, it declined, and it is never played today.

Other than Kuromisu & Yuka, musicians play sitting on a board which placed upon the stage, and their performances are called "Debayashi" or "Degatari." The performances of Tokiwazu-bushi & Kiyomoto-bushi are basically given in this style. Different schools of music are each played solo, and they are sometimes played in concert. And occasionally, the different schools are played by taking turns in a single program, such as the performance of Nagauta after Gidayu-bushi in "Kyoganoko Musume Dojoji" (The Dance of a Maiden at the Dojo-ji Temple, Wearing the Costume Tie-dyed in Kyoto). In the dancing drama "Momijigari" (Viewing Autumnal Trees), Tokiwazu-bushi, Nagauta and Gidayu-bushi are played in concert, which is called "Sanpo-kakeai." And Nagauta & each school of Joruri are not only used in the Kabuki performance, but also used as accompaniment for Japanese dancing. And moreover, each one holds a solo concert occasionally, so they have the aspect of an independent art.

"Gedai"

The title of the Kabuki program is called "Gedai." One theory says that "Geidai" (the title of the performance) was shortened into "Gedai," and the other theory says that "Gedai" has its origin in the short and main title written on the outer part of the picture scroll, which was called "Gedai" from ancient times to the medieval age. Incidentally, the detailed subtitle written on the inner part of the picture scroll was called "Naidai."

Gedai was the expression originally used in Kamigata, and in Edo Kabuki, "Nadai" was used instead. And a theory says Naidai was shortened into Nadai, and this theory makes Nadai in Edo & Gedai in Kamigata come as a pair, so it supports the theory that Gedai originated from the title on the picture scroll.

Traditionally, people in Kabuki have favored odd-numbered Chinese characters as Gedai, considering the odd number as the lucky one because it cannot be "broken" into the same two numbers. And so, the title composed of even-numbered Chinese characters, such as "義経" (Yoshitsune) and "四谷怪談" (Yotsuya Kaidan), was intentionally added odd-numbered Chinese characters, such as "千本櫻" (Senbonzakura) and "東海道"(Tokaido), so Gedai became long, as is exemplified by "義経千本櫻" (Yoshitsune Senbonzakura) and "東海道四谷怪談" (Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan). In addition, fully utilizing phonetic equivalents & arbitrarily used substitutes, Kabuki writers & promoters competed for the best sophisticated Gedai with each other, so most Gedai were composed of 5 or 7 elaborate Chinese characters, which were arbitrarily used as substitutes. Some of them are too difficult for us, living in today's world, to read. Therefore, when a program has the Gedai composed of more than 5 Chinese characters, it is often accompanied by a more familiar common name.

"Miyakodori Nagare no Shiranami" (Ripples on the River in Edo Made by a Migratory Bird) => "Shinobu no Sota"
"Oto no miya Asahi no Yoroi" (Imperial Prince Moriyoshi's Suppression of Rokuhara Rebels) => "Migawari ondo" (The Scapegoat in the Circle)
"Haji Momiji Ase no Kaomise" (The Man Heavily Sweating Over Myriad Costume Changes) => "Date no juyaku" (A Dandy Playing Ten Roles)
"Karukaya Doshin Tsukushi no Iezuto" (Ishidomaru's Visit to His Father Karukaya Doshin) => "Karukaya Doshin"
"Aoto Zoshi Hana no Nishikie" (The Story of Aoto and the Gorgeous Woodblock Print) => "Shiranami Gonin Otoko" (The Five Bandits)
"Yo wa Nasake Ukina no Yokogushi" (Assignations of Otomi & Yosaburo) => "Kirare Yosa" (Slashed Yosa)
"Ashiya Doman Ouchi Kagami" (A Courtly Mirror of Doman ASHIYA) => "Kuzunoha"

And in Kabuki, Toshi-kyogen is rarely performed, so in usual cases, a popular part ("dan" [Section], "ba" [Scene] or "maku" [Act]) in each program is independently performed instead. In these cases, a name entirely different from the Gedai, the common name, or the part's original name, is occasionally used.

"Shinju-ten Amijima" (Love Suicide at Amijima), "Tenmakamiya uchi no dan" (Section of 'Inside Tenmakamiya') => "Shigure no Kotatsu" (The Coverlet Drenched with Tears)
"Kokusenya Kassen" (The Battle of Coxinga), Section 2, "Shishigajo Romon no ba" (Scene of Tower Gate of Shishiga-jo Castle) => "Romon" (Tower Gate)
"Romon Gosan no Kiri" (The Tower Gate and the Paulownia Crest), Section 2, "Kaeshi, Nanzanji Sanmon no ba" (a change to the Scene of Nanzan-ji Temple Gate) => "Sanmon" (Temple Gate)
"Heike Nyogo no Shima" (Suzaku Palace Which Tokiwa Gozen Pulled Young Men in), Section 2, "Toba no Tsukurimichi no ba" (Scene That the Road to Return to Kyoto Was Opened), plus Section 2, "Kiri, Kikaigashima no ba" (the climax, Scene of Kikaiga-shima Island) => "Shunkan"
"Yoshitsune Senbonzakura" (Yoshitsune and One Thousand Cherry Trees), Section 4, "Michiyuki Hatsune tabi no ba" (Scene of the Journey of Shizuka Gozen) => "Yoshinoyama" (Mt. Yoshino)
"Yoshitsune Senbonzakura," Section 4, "Kiri, Kawatsura Hogan Yakata no ba" (the climax, Scene of Kawatsura Hogan's Palace) => "Shino-kiri" ("Kiri" in Section 4)

Incidentally, "Kaeshi" means the part in a program where the scene is changed with the lights on and with the draw curtain kept open, and "Kiri" means the part of a climax in a program before the curtain is drawn. The Kiri in Section 4 of "Yoshitsune Senbonzakura" was popular for its showy performances, and the scene was performed so frequently that "Shino-kiri" became the synonym for the scene above.

Derivatives of Kabuki

"Ohako" (one's forte)

"Sashigane" (instigation, or incitement)

Small creatures, such as a butterfly or a bird, are made for their own expression on stage with props, and "Koken," or sometimes "Kuroko," (both an assistant to Kabuki actors, and the latter is dressed in black) move those creatures stuck to one end of a long bar. This prop kit was originally called "Sashigane." Please note that a tool of Ningyo Joruri also has a part called "Sashigane," which moves the puppet.

"Kuroko" (a behind-the-scenes supporter)

"Kuromaku" (a power broker, or a string puller)

"Kuromaku" in Kabuki is a black-colored curtain usually used for expressing the night. Kuromaku itself does not mean "evil," but supposedly, "black" was associated with "evil," and people began to use Kuromaku as the word standing for a power broker and the like, for example, "'Kuromaku' in the political community."

"Nimaime" (a handsome man) & "Sanmaime" (a man of laughingstock)

Originally, on the list of casts that made up a troupe, the leading actor who played a prudent and reasonable man with dignity was called "Ichimaime," the actor who played a handsome man popular with women was called "Nimaime," and the actor who played a humorous man was called "Sanmaime." And today, "Nimaime" & "Sanmaime" are used as common words in our daily life.

"Makugire" (the ending) & "Ozume" (the final stage) & "Daidanen" (a grand finale)

Originally, the closing of a draw curtain at each scene (act) was called "Makugire," the climax around when Toshi-kyogen was reaching the final scene was called "Ozume," and the happy ending after troubles' complete and peaceful settlement was called "Daidanen."
And today, these words are used like, "Difficult case as it was, it came to a quick 'Makugire,'" "This week, the baseball pennant race came to an 'Ozume,'" and "The story comes to 'Daidanen.'"

Kabuki during and after the Meiji period

During and after the Meiji period, Kabuki was still quite popular, but it also began to be criticized from intellectuals and others as inappropriate content for a civilized country. Movements calling for innovation of Kabuki emerged from the inside & outside of the Kabuki community, and the form of the performances was transformed as the time went by. Criticisms were that the plots were absurd and premodern-style, and that the visually eccentric choreography (what is called "Keren"), such as "chunori" (a flight on wires from the stage over the heads of the audience) & "hayagawari" (a quick change of costume), were not orthodox, and so on.

Under these criticisms, a reform campaign of the style of Kabuki, which is called Theater Reform Campaign, was advanced during and after the Meiji period. Politicians became involved in this campaign, because the campaign coincided with the Meiji Government's purpose of establishing a theater suitable for the upper & middle classes of a civilized country to watch. This campaign achieved one good result, the opening of the Kabuki-za (Kabuki theater), which impacts today's theaters. And the establishment of a new styling Japanese theater, called "Shinpa-Geki" (a New-School Play), can be said to be another good result.

In such a campaign, some Kabuki programs were created anew, and their first ones were "Katsureki-mono" (a historical drama), which faithfully performed the historical facts, & "Zangiri-mono" (the plays the cropped hair people appeared), which portrayed new western-style customs, both made by experienced writers, including Mokuami KAWATAKE, or by intellectuals, including Ochi FUKUCHI, but they failed. Afterward, under the influence of Theater Reform Campaign, many works, called "Shin Kabuki" (New Kabuki), were born from the Meiji period to the prewar age of the Showa period. The most important works of Shin Kabuki are "Kiri Hitoha" (A Single Paulownia Leaf) & "Hototogisu Kojo no Rakugetsu" (The Sinking Moon Over the Lonely Castle Where the Cuckoo Cries) both by "Shoyo TSUBOUCHI," "Musuko" (Son) by "Kaoru OSANAI," "Shuzenji Monogatari" (The Tale of Shuzen-ji Temple) & "Toribeyama Shinju" (Love Suicides on Mt. Toribe) both by "Kido OKAMOTO," "Imayo Satsuma Uta" (Modern Style Satsuma Songs) by Onitaro OKA, "Genroku Chusingura" (The 47 Ronin) by Seika MAYAMA, "Saigo to Buta Hime" (Saigo and His Favorite Fat Woman) by Daigo IKEDA. But on the whole, they could not gain the Kabuki lovers' favor, and there are not many of these works that are performed today.

And the ninth "Danjuro ICHIKAWA" & the fifth "Kikugoro ONOE," both great Kabuki actors during the Meiji period, tidied up the classical style of Kabuki acting. During the Taisho period, old Kabuki works were re-evaluated through, for example, the revival of hidden classics by the second "Sadanji ICHIKAWA," and the completion of wagoto, the performances in a love scene by the first "Ganjiro NAKAMURA" in Kamigata. During the Showa period, many great actors were active, such as the sixth "Kikugoro ONOE," the first "Kichiemon NAKAMURA," the fifteenth "Uzaemon ICHIMURA," the second "Enjaku JITSUKAWA" and the third "Baigyoku NAKAMURA," and they had a great impact on today's Kabuki. However, as the Pacific War intensified, Kabuki performances became difficult owing to the authorities' regulations, such as the closure of theaters & the restriction on performance programs, and casualties & property damages in the Kabuki community, such as the theaters' burning down by air raids, piled up.

And then, after the war, the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers began to regulate Kabuki for the reason that it was feudalistic and not suitable for democracy. But Faubion Bowers, a Japanophile & the adjutant of Douglas MacArthur, made every effort to protect Kabuki, so Kabuki passed the crisis. The revival of Kabuki was symbolized by the event in November 1947 at Tokyo-gekijo Theater, that is, the presentation of a whole play of Kanadehon Chusingura, in which all major Kabuki actors in Japan appeared.

In 1950s, as Japanese people became better off, their recreation began to be diversified. The professional baseball & the leisure industry became popular, and the development of the movies & the television broadcasting began to be seen, so Kabuki slipped out of the central part of recreation that it occupied in the past. And the transformation age of the Kabuki community started, which was symbolized by some incidents, such as Kabuki actors' going into the film world, the slump of Kabuki in Kansai area, and the disappearance of the low-class theater.

Under such a transformation, Kabuki's popularity took a turn for the better when the heir succeeded to the eleventh "Danjuro ICHIKAWA" in 1963. Besides Danjuro, many actors were active, such as the sixth "Utaemon NAKAMURA," the second "Shoroku ONOE," the second "Ganjiro NAKAMURA," the seventeenth "Kanzaburo NAKAMURA," the seventh "Baiko ONOE," the first "Hakuo MATSUMOTO," the thirteenth "Nizaemon KATAOKA," the seventeenth "Uzaemon ICHIMURA." Kabuki performances in Japan became active again, and were also carried out in European and American countries.

From 1960s to 1970s, when Kabuki was in its postwar prime, new movements emerged one after another. Especially, recognition of the importance of the original Kabuki style spread, which tended to be underestimated during and after the Meiji period. In 1965, Kabuki received the overall designation as an important intangible cultural property, whose holder is the Organization for the Preservation of Kabuki, and National Theater opened, and moreover, performances, such as the whole play of revived Kyogen, went well. After that, there was the opening of the Osaka Shochiku-za Theater in Osaka, which was remodeled from a movie theater, and the Hakata-za Theater in Fukuoka, so Kabuki performances became more prosperous. And moreover, the third "Ennosuke ICHIKAWA" energetically performed revived Kyogen, into which he fully reintroduced the factors of Keren that were once despised; Ennosuke sought to improve Kabuki as the theater, so he tried a much more boldly staged Kabuki, called Super Kabuki. Recently, some trials were also made, such as Cocoon Kabuki by the eighteenth Kanzaburo NAKAMURA, the performances of Heisei Nakamura-za Theater, and the Kabuki revival project in Kansai area by the fourth "Tojuro SAKATA" and others. We could say these activities also pursued the original style of Kabuki & its modern innovation at the same time. Even in direction, modern theater directors, such as "Hideki NODA," "Yukio NINAGAWA," "Kazumi KUSHIDA," "Koki MITANI" and "Efu WAKAGI," were invited, thereby adding the modern theater flavor to Kabuki performances.

Kabuki performances today are not entirely the same as those during the Edo period, which is simply exemplified by the theater facilities in each time. Under this change, the Kabuki community continues to try performing Kabuki as a modern drama while placing the long-established traditional performance style at its center. These performance activities earn Kabuki a good reputation as the traditional performing arts living in today's world.

The Organization for the Preservation of Kabuki

The corporation of the Organization for the Preservation of Kabuki is a group of members who are the most highly-skilled of all people involved in Kabuki. The group holds the overall designation as the important intangible cultural property. The number of its active members as of October 25, 2007, is 162. Well-known members include the eighteenth Kanzaburo NAKAMURA & the eleventh "Ebizo ICHIKAWA."

"Jishibai"

For details, please refer to the article of "Shiroto Kabuki" (amateur Kabuki).

In addition to the plays by the expert performers, local residents all over Japan perform plays in the name of, for example, the festival ritual dedicated to a god, following the tradition from the Edo period. These plays are called "Jishibai," and in most cases, their content is either Kabuki or Ningyo Joruri. In Kabuki, various plays exist, such as Farmers' Kabuki, performed in farming areas, and the play on a Hikiyama festival float, performed in urban areas' Hikiyama-matsuri Festival. Many Jishibai programs overlap with those of expert performers, which indicates that Jishibai is strongly influenced by the experts' performances. But there also exist some originally developed performances, including those having their own original programs.

Supplement

Kabuki is difficult for today's Japanese to understand when they see the play for the first time, so it is said that they can understand Kabuki more deeply and more easily if they check out the story's content beforehand.