Kabuki: The Japanese Art of Song and Dance

Literally translated, Kabuki means the art of dance and singing. This tradition of theatre dates back to the early seventeenth century in Kyoto and started with young women acting in plays which simply dramatized daily living.

For years Kabuki served as a form of entertainment and an art across Japan. Actors and actresses dance on a stage which extends into the audience. This extension is called ‘hanamichi’. Kabuki plays are known for their quirky story lines and highly exaggerated emotion. To add to the drama and surreal stories, stages often have trap doors, wires which allow actors to ‘glide’, and secret entrances and exits.

Kabuki plays hardly ever last only a few hours. Often, plays depicting a period in history, or a period story can go on for up to ten hours.

Did you know? In 1692, a law was passed by which women were not allowed to act in Kabuki plays as it was seen as demeaning. This law was in place for almost three hundred years till the end of the Second World War in 1945!

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