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The Face of Tokyo Kabuki Kabuki-za

The Kabuki-za Kabuki theater is only minutes down the street from Ginza 4-chome crossing, almost close enough to hear the Wako clock chime. The theater is not the only place to see Kabuki in Tokyo, but boasts a history dating back to 1889, during which time it has been rebuilt twice, once after the Great Earthquake and once after the war. The chunky theater, with its peaked, gray-tiled gables, creamy white façade, and rows of red lanterns, fits the contemporary Japanese business landscape like a Kabuki actor might fit a commuter crowd. Note the bird crest adorning the lanterns and drapes everywhere. The design was a favorite of the original architect and has become the symbol of the Kabuki-za.

You can hear the chimes of the Wako Clock from the Kabukiza. Kabuki is traditional drama performed to the accompaniment of songs and music. It’s performed by men only, wearing gorgeous costumes. The reason it is male-only is that female roles used to be played by courtesans, and the shogunate regarded this as immoral, so prohibited them from performing. Kabuki actors wear exaggerated make-up to intensify their facial expressions. Hanamichi is the raised platform which extends from the stage out through the audience. Actors on the Hanamichi can come into close contact with the audience there. Men dressed in black appear on the stage to assist the Kabuki actors. They wear black in order to make themselves invisible. Kabuki is a combination of drama, dancing, and music, so foreign tourists often nickname it “Japanese opera”

Why Does Kabuki use female impersonators ?

Kabuki was originally a dramatic dance performed by both males and females. It was started by a woman called Izumo-no Okuni in Kyoto in 1603. As Kabuki gained popularity, courtesans in Kyoto began to copy it, but the shogunate, afraid that social morals would be undermined, banned women from performing in Kabuki. Later, even Wakasyu-Kabuki, in which only young men performed, was similarly prohibited. Today, Kabuki is performed only by men.


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