KABUKI official website

Kabuki : a wonder of Japanese Culture

Remarkable features unique in Kabuki

There are many remarkable features of kabuki, and the existence of onnagata, the specialists in female roles is one of them. In order to preserve itself, kabuki had to adapt throughout its long history, and since a law was passed in 1629 no real women have appeared on stage. In their place have been specialists in female roles called onnagata, and many people from Japan and abroad marvel at the skill of these actors who have trained for many years to perfect this art. They are not just imitating real women! The onnagata is a special theatrical creation based on artistic convention that has developed over hundreds of years.

Meiboku Sendai Hagi ©Shochiku.

Meiboku Sendai Hagi ©Shochiku.

Another good example of kabuki's unique acting technique is the mie. This is a kind of strong pose struck by male characters in which some powerful emotion or conflict is expressed outwardly in the form of a stop-motion tableau. For greater emphasis, the pose is accompanied by loud beats of the wooden clappers. Such a pose is not realistic in any way and does not seek to be so. Instead, it is a way of embodying visually and aurally a particular feeling, and 'presenting' it to the audience like a picture.

Shibaraku ©Shochiku.

Shibaraku ©Shochiku.

Invisible Men In Black

In modern business life, the word kurogo means someone who prompts others, but come and see where the term originated... in the stagehands dressed in black who help actors with props and costumes. They function as support for the actors onstage, helping them to perform seamlessly so they can always look their best.
Even during the performance you may see special staging techniques that will shock and delight you. Especially in dances, the sudden onstage costume changes can be so quick that you'll wonder how they were done, while in some plays a single actor can quick-change from one character to the next in an instant. In one famous example, a wicked priest suddenly turns into the young hero right before the audience's eyes... it's the same actor, but with a different wig, costume and props. Timed at about 3 seconds, it's the fastest quick-change in the world!

Kurogo ©Shochiku.

Kurogo ©Shochiku.