Kabuki – The Bizarre Japanese Theater

[ADS] Advertisement

Kabuki it is a form of traditional Japanese theater, which is known for its highly stylized performances, costumes and scenography. The name Kabuki  (歌舞伎) means singing (ka) (歌), dance (bu) (舞) and ability (ki) (伎), thus kabuki it is “the art of singing and dancing”.

 however, these ideograms have a double meaning. It is believed, in fact, that the kabuki derives from the verb kabuku, meaning something “out of the ordinary”, from which the sense of “avant-garde” theater or “bizarre” theater emerges. 

Origin of the Kabuki

Its remote origin was in the 17th century, when religious themes were parodyed with sensual dances. O Kabuki was started by a woman known as Izumo no Okuni who gained prominence for her innovative performances. It is believed that she was a Miko (priestess). The early years of Kabuki’s life were dominated by the performance of women. But the erotic appeal of some Kabuki plays, the shameless prostitution of some actresses, made the style an affront to the morality of the society of the time, bearing the name of yûjyo kabuki (kabuki of prostitutes). The performances went very wild, causing the Kabuki to be banned by Shogun in 1629.


To circumvent the ban, the show was then staged by boys who played female roles. At the same time, theater kabuki it has become a popular show that combines realism and formalism, music and dance, mime, staging and costumes, implying a constant integration between the actors and the audience. Over time the tradition of men who play female roles has become one of the defining characteristics of Kabuki.

But the same story is repeated, the boys in kimonos dressed as women, became a success. Causing irresistible fascination for the audience of male admirers and constituting preludes to homosexuality and prostitution. Again the government banned young boys on stage, now adult men have to continue this bizarre theater.

Golden years

The period from 1673 to 1841 is often referred to as the golden years of Kabuki. It became the predominant form of entertainment in Japan during this time. Performances began to take place every day, traders took advantage of this theater to profit from food and drinks, conversations revolved around Kabuki, artists made their paintings and portraits of this style of art. It really was a golden year for Kabuki.

Kabuki Images

The decline

At the end of the 19th century, Kabuki started to lose its fame, due to Westernization in the era Meiji. During World War II, kabuki was used as a tool for nationalist propaganda. After the war, Americans banned kabuki, probably for arousing homosexual desires.

But over time Kabuki started to gain fame again, appearing in the media, in films, as part of traditional Japanese culture. Today it is possible to find some pieces in some places in Japan, mainly attracting curious tourists ...

Below we will leave some videos for you to see this bizarre theater. Is that you? What do you think of this bizarre theater?

The video below shows a dance.


The video below shows a presentation.

The video below shows the preparation of the artists, and a modern presentation in Roppongi.

Share This Article: