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Kabuki

Kabuki

Kabuki is a theatrical and dramatic art form from Japan, one that is highly stylized and features in various forms of Japanese entertainment, both ancient and modern.   The dances of Kabuki are captivated, and often captured on shunga images.  Kabuki includes a variety of instruments, such as the drums, flutes, stringed instruments and wooden clappers, and it’s not only the music.  There is dialogue, action which is often quite intense, and dance.

Kabuki was performed at all times of the day for people’s entertainment, very often included at lunch and tea times.  The artists would perform to admiring merchants, artisans and men and women of leisure, and these people would often become patrons of the arts.

A kabuki theatre showing different dancers

Kabuki theatre by Yoshikazu

Kabuki was started by groups of women in the early 1600s.  The shunga images do not only show women performing Kabuki, they do show men too.  But the dance and entertainment form began with women who would practice on the bank of the Kamo River in Kyoto.  The art form grew into a colorful art form but when the police accused the women of being sex workers, men took over the male and the female roles.

Images of Kabuki are popular.  They are vibrant, colorful, featuring men and women, often a little risky, always entertaining.  The art of Kabuki has not changed much today, with the actors wearing thick make up to represent their characters, with red facial stripes signifying youth, and blue signifying something negative.

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