Genre: Kabuki (歌舞伎) theater terms

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The term kabuki is made up of three kanji characters: 歌舞伎. 歌 means 'song', 舞 means 'dance' and 伎 means 'skill'. Below is a list of some of the terms which can be found on other web pages at this site.

Akuba (悪婆): "An evil middle-aged woman in sewamono drama, who indulges in extortion, blackmail or murder. She is usually a clever person, who can bluff, fight and swindle. She is also often possessed with a certain sense of loyal chivalry." Quoted from Kabuki21.

Aragotoshi (荒事師): an actor who specializes in ruffian roles. "The traditional classification of tachiyaku includes the aragotoshi... such as Kamakura Gongorō in Shibaraku..." Leiter, p. 633.

Atari kyōgen (当り狂言): A big-hit play. "It served as an announcement of a popular play in current production and as advertising to drum up even bigger audiences for the remaining run of the play." Source: Osaka Prints

Budōgoto (武道事): Literally 'martial matters'; a role which includes fighting with swords and such and which can also involve the playing of a wounded character.

Chūnori (宙乗り): midair stunt;  aerial stunts. This is a form of keren.

Chūshibai (中芝居): a middle-sized kabuki theater. Also referred to as a hamashibai (浜芝居) or riverbank theater.

Dekata (出方): "Usher working for a shibai jaya in a Edo Kabuki theater. Dekata were also in charge of delivering some food or sake to their clients during the Kabuki performances. Dekata disappeared in the Kabuki world during the Meiji era but this kind of work still exists and you can see working dekata during the sumô tournaments." Quoted from Kabuki21.

Dōkegata (道化方): a comic actor

Fukeoyama (老女方): An actor who specializes in playing the roles of old women.

Fukeyaku (老役): The general description of actors playing the roles of old people. It applies to either male or female roles.

Gōrunden kombi (ゴールデンコンビ): a "golden combination" or the pairing of a famous set of kabuki actors.

Hama shibai (浜芝居): "Minor theaters in Ōsaka. The most famous ones were the Wakadayū no Shibai, the Kadomaru no Shibai and the Takeda no Shibai. Hama shibai means literally shore theater. The theaters in Ōsaka were almost all located on the famous Dōtonbori street, which ran along a canal. The minor theaters were originally built on the water side (the shore) and the major ones on the opposite side of the Dōtonbori. Later on, the ones on the shore moved to the opposite side of the Dōtonbori but the expression hama shibai remained." Quoted from Kabuki21.

Hanamichi (花道): a passage through an audience to the stage

Handōgataki (半道敵): a comical and ludicrous villain

Hayagawari (早替り): The term for an actor who makes quick changes into different costumes.

Hengemono (変化物): Quick change performances.

Honmizu (本水): Spectacular water effects on stage.

Hyōbanki (評判記):A handbook published at the beginning of the year rating actors and performances.

Jidaimono (時代物): 'period plays', i.e., historical plays.

Jitsuaku (実悪): literally 'pure evil'. Often played by an evil samurai. A sub-category of katakiyaku. The best example of this type of villain is found in the character of Nikki Danjō.

Jitsutogoshi (実事師); a role portraying a "...dignified, mature, wise, and capable [figure] who [is] placed amid tragic circumstances." This is a sub-genre of tachiyaku.

Jō-jō-kichi: [We are working on defining this term as it applies to kabuki and its performers.]

Kamigata ōshibai: [We are working on defining this term.]

Kaneru yakusha (兼ねる役者); an all-around actor.

Kata (型): "Kata are the conventional “patterns” or “forms” found in traditional Japanese theatre. In kabuki, kata extend from acting to properties, costumes, wigs, music, scenery, and makeup, and even to the arrangement of a program."

Katakiyaku (敵役): a villain or bad guy.

Katsureki (活歴): a variety of kabuki based on historical events. " "Living history plays,"...a type of jidaimono originated by Ichikawa Danjūrō IX during the Meiji era (1868-1912).... Katsureki shows a reverence for historical accuracy and an attention to ancient martial and court customs. Although Edo-period jidaimono were based on historical chronicles and narratives, Danjūrō IX held in contempt their many stage inaccuracies and absurdities and intended to reform the drama in line with Western ideas infiltrating Japanese culture. The seed was sown in his simple, realistic performance of Sanada Yukimura in 1871. From about 1877 to 1887 he was aided by the progressive producer Morita Kanya XII, as well as by the reform-minded government officials and scholars. At the same time, Kawatake Mokuami, the day's leading dramatist, was entrusted with the task of writing plays based on historical fact, although he never relished the work. Performances were staged with attention to the accurate, research-based rendition of classical speech, behavior, and character. This led to a new method of staging. In 1878, when Mokuami's Nichō no Yuma Chigusa no Shigedō was performed, critic Kanagaki Robun (1829-1894) created the word katsureki in the Kanayomi Shinbun newspaper as a jibe at such works." Quoted from: New Kabuki Encyclopedia by Samuel L. Leiter, p. 304.

Keren (けれん): special effects.

Kodomo shibai (子供芝居): troupes of children actors

Koroshi no Mie (殺しの見得): "A special set of 13 fixed mie done by the actor playing the role of Danshichi Kurobê in the famous murder scene of the play "Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami". Source Kabuki21.

Koyaku (子役): A child's role.

Kudoki (口説き): "highly dramatic scene in which an onnagata actor depicts a woman's sighs, tears, love, passion or regrets for the past. Somehow the equivalent of an aria for Kabuki female roles." Quoted from Kabuki21.

Miyaji shibai (宮地芝居): "...troupes performing on temporary stages in the precincts of temples and shrines". Quoted from: The Kabuki Theater by Earle Ernst. According to Samuel L. Leiter "They were given this right on such occasions as festivals, fund-raising... drive, and the unveiling... of religious treasures for public viewing." Their performances were different from standard kabuki because they had to follow the rules set down by the overseeing governmental power that oversaw the shrine or temple. Miyaji literally means the grounds of a Shinto shrine.

Nimaime (二枚目); a handsome man or an actor in a love scene.

Nuregoto (濡れ事): stories of passion. The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature says: "Nuregoto plays dwell more on plot, dialogue, and individualizing of characters... [And] ...it exploits more of the features of jōruri sewamono..." Later on page 28 it says: "Wet matters. Plays of passion. The style of acting favored in kamigata. (Moisture contains erotic as well as lachrymose associations in Japan.) Nuregoto plays featured plot, character, and dialogue rather than the spectacular effects of aragoto."

Okugata (奥方): lady or nobleman's wife.

Onagori kyōgen (お名残狂言): "A farewell performance done by a Kamigata actor, who is about to leave Edo and goes back to his native land, at the end of his season in an Edo theater (usually in September or October)." Quoted from Kabuki21.

Onna budōgoto (女武道事): a female warrior

Onnagata (女形): male actor in a female role.

Ōshibai (大芝居): the major licensed theaters of Edo, Kyoto or Osaka during the Tokugawa period. Literally it translates as 'large' or 'grand' 'theater' as opposed to middle-sized or smaller ones.

Oyajigata (親仁方): the role of an old man.

Sabakiyaku (裁き役): "mature men of judgment and integrity". This is a sub-category of tachiyaku.

Sewamono (世話物): a domestic drama about ordinary people.

Sewa nyōbō: "Within the definition of the traditional Japanese household is the sewa-nyōbō, or devoted wife. The sewa nyōbō is a wife who maintains an immaculate home and cares excessively for her husband. She represents not only the idealized notion of a wife but also the frame of mind necessary to become a wife. The role subsequently becomes engrained within the accepted cultural norms of human relationships in Japanese society as a whole..." Quoted from an article in Journal of Student Nursing by N. Harada, 2007.

"The sewa nyōbō, the staunch, loyal, tragic wives — mostly of samurai and rōnin — appear in realistic scenes in jidaimono wearing the kokumochi ishō: kimono with round white circles resembling crests but without a crest design... The color of the costumes is always plain kuri-ume (kuri, chestnut; ume plum), a subdued purple with a bit of yellow and red in the dye. The collar, the lining of the kimono, and the obi are of black satin." Shaver, pp. lxxxi-lxxxii.

Shibai (芝居): Literally 'on the grass', but which came to mean a play or drama. Combining the words for 'grass' and 'sit' it points "...to its origins in the practice of people sitting on the grass to watch sumo matches or theatrical performances... at shrines and temples." Leiter, p. 572.

Shibai jaya (芝居茶屋): a teahouse within a kabuki theater.

Shinpa (新派): 'new school' or 'new faction' "...emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as Japan's first attempt to create a dramatic form akin to Western drama. It retained certain traditional features, however, including men playing women's roles even when actresses were employed, and was a blend of the old and the new..." Quoted from: Kabuki at the Crossroads: Years of Crisis, 1952-1965 by Samuel L. Leiter, p. 3.

Shosa (所作): "When puppet plays were brought into the kabuki repertory, actors mimicked the actions of the puppets; in dance plays actors may move stiffly, like puppets, for comic effect. The overall style of dance in kabuki, called shosa - showing-the-body - fuses rural and urban dances of the common people, characterized originally by lively leaping and dancing." Quoted from: The Cambridge Paperback Guide to Theatre, p. 188.

Tachiyaku (立役): the leading male role in a play.

Tachimawari (立回り): fighting scenes.

Tōdori (頭取): "Manager in a Kabuki theater in charge of all the backstage logistic."

Wajitsu (和実): literally 'gentle truth'; a performer who combines the gentleness of a wagoto with that of an upright man who is conscientious, mature and intelligent, i.e., a jitsugoto.

Wakaonnagata (若女形): "In the beginning onnagata were divided into two large groups, wakaonnagata and kashagata. The former, often played by young actors, were adolescents, princesses, courtesans, and other such youthful characters." Leiter, p. 500.

Wakashugata (若衆方): actors who specialized in performing young, male adolescent roles.

Yagō (屋号): an actor's stage name.

Zagashira (座頭): leader of a troupe of actors.

Zamoto (座元): theater proprietor or producer.

Zangirimono (散切り物): Literally cropped hair plays - "[Kawatake Mokuami] also pioneered in the production of a new kind of domestic play known as zangirimono, which explicitly describes the modernization and Westernization of early Meiji society."