Kabuki, Japanese traditional dance drama

Hearing about Japan, Kabuki is one of the very first words that come to our mind. Kabuki has a long history as it has gone through many technological and timely changes. Kabuki shows are now conducted in special theatres. Sometimes small performances will be conducted by various cities. I got a chance to watch a free Kabuki performance conducted by Gifu city.

A Brief history of Kabuki

Kabuki is the most famous Japanese classical dance drama. It is said to be originated from Kyoto, the previous capital of Japan. During the ancient times, the performers were only ladies. But currently, all the roles are played by males. Kabuki theatres are present in big cities associated with tea houses, food courts, etc. which also holds some souvenir shops and other attractions. From its ancient form, Kabuki has made timely advancements in performances, clothing, music, stage arrangements, appearance etc. incorporating technology. The stories are told through music and it will be only a part of some long story.

Usually, the stories fall into three main categories: Jidaimono which are the historical Samurai stories, Sewamono which tells the story of current society – either comic or love story and Shosagoto which gave importance to the dance. The Kabuki artists nowadays become popular in TV shows also.

Kabuki stage

The Kabuki stage has a path extending out to the audience which is called Hana Michi (flower path). It is the entry path for the actors during the ancient times. But as technology developed, the stage arrangements and actors’ entry also made advancements including rotating stage, sudden appearance or disappearance of the actors, and flying artists. Mawaributai is a rotating circular stage while Seri an arrangement which brings the artists or sometimes an entire scene onto the stage as a whole. Special threads are used to hang the artists on the stage to make the characters fly on the stage which is called Chunori.

As the artist show up on the stage, the audients will shout his name to encourage him. There will be music playing in the background which uses small drums and Shamisen-a three string musical instrument.


The makeup ( Keshou) for Kabuki mainly uses rice flour as the base. Based on the characters, different colours are used to complete the rest of the makeup. Red lines for good characters and heroes, Blue or Black lines are for negative roles, for supernatural characters green lines are used and the Purple colour is used for showing nobility. These lines are called Kumadori.

Where to watch?

Usual theatre performances will conduct two or three different shows per day with entry tickets. Sometimes local performances will be carried out on special stages in different cities. For small troupe, people used to throw money wrapped in papers on to the stage. They might not be having any entry tickets for the show.