The Dramatic Kabuki Actor

Feb 24th, 2009 | By | Category: Photo Gallery

A copper statue of the famous Kabuki actor Danjuro Ishikawa the 9th (1838 – 1903) in the costume of Shibaraku, a role he perfected.  Shibaraku, "Stop a Moment!" in English, is one of the eighteen great Kabuki plays that was originally performed by the first Danjuro Ichikawa (1660-1704) who pioneered the strong, masculine aragoto (rough business) acting style in Edo (now Tokyo) that his ancestor performed to much acclaim. 

The word "Kabuki" literally means, song, dance, and technique and is an impressive stage performance that you should try to see at least once in your life. 

"When a kabuki actor prepares himself for a role in a classical play, it has long been customary for him to begin by studying the model style perfected by his predecessors. Such a model style, even if intended originally to produce a realistic representation, has been highly formalized and become symbolical in the course of the development of kabuki. Thus, even in the realistic kabuki play, the most trivial gestures are frequently closer to "dancing" than to "acting." Almost every gesticulation is accompanied by music."   Quotation from KABUKI: Traditional Theatrical Arts

The first time I saw Kabuki was many years ago at the Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza and I will not soon forget the experience.  The actors brightly colored traditional costumes and the exaggerated movement of the mie, where the lead actor dramatically moves his head from side to side, crosses his eyes and juts his face out towards the audience before freezing in position for a few seconds.  The mie indicates a climactic moment during a Kabuki play and usually results in hearty applause from the audience.

The statue above depicts a mie performed by Danjuro Ishikawa the 9th and can be found in Asakusa.

Check the Kabuki-za Theater Program to see if you can fit a show into your Tokyo itinerary.  Tickets can be purchased at the box office (starting at Y2,500) and headphones for an English translation can be rented for Y650 per program.

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  1. Oh cool, I was wandering in Asakusa and I found this statue but I didn’t have any clue about it. Thank you! ?

  2. […] The Dramatic Kabuki Actor […]

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