Key Kabuki Words Key Kabuki Words
Kabuki is spectacular and you don’t have to know anything to enjoy it. But a little bit of information about a few of the terms and the plays makes it even better.
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Gion Sairei Shinkoki – Kinkakuji / 祇園祭礼信仰記・金閣寺
—The Golden Pavilion—

This play is mostly famous for the spectacular set and for Princess Yuki, one of the three most difficult princess roles in kabuki. But the center of the action is the villain Matsunaga Daizen, a kuni kuzushi ("country toppler"), that is, a villain trying to take over the realm. His hair is in the style oji ("imperial prince") and he is attempting to take over the position of the emperor. The acting, wig and costume are all very fantastic and stylized.

Please see Key Kabuki Words - Plays mentioned in the program page of "Unique Kabuki Props"

Meiboku Sendai Hagi / 伽羅先代萩
—The Turmoil in the Date Clan—

The full-length play is about plots to take over the fabulously wealthy Date clan in Sendai. Much of the play is about the nursemaid Masaoka who saves the life of the young lord by sacrificing her own son and the female villains around her, but the main male villain is the chief retainer Nikki Danjo. He appears in two different guises, as a larger-than-life villain who is a master of magic and can transform himself into a rat, and as a very human villain in the trial scenes. Nikki Danjo is the classic example of the “jitsu aku" villain.

Please see Key Kabuki Words - Plays mentioned in the program page of "The Beauty of Onnagata"

Date no Juyaku / 伊達の十役
—The Ten Roles of Sendai Hagi—

(See also Meiboku Sendai Hagi)

Originally Tsuruya Nanboku wrote a version of Meiboku Sendai Hagi for the young actor Ichikawa Danjuro VII so that he could play ten of the main roles. The script for this play does not survive, but Ichikawa En'o II revived it with a new script and since then, the play has been performed by many different actors. In the famous scene where Nikki Danjo exits along the hanamichi runway as though walking on the clouds, the actor actually flies in the air with the chu nori technique that En'o made his specialty.

Michiyuki Tabiji no Hanamuko – Ochiudo (Kanadehon Chushingura kara) / 道行旅路の花聟 – 落人 – 仮名手本忠臣蔵から
—The Fugitives (From Chushingura)—

In the third act of Chushingura, Enya Hangan's retainer Hayano Kanpei is having a romantic meeting with Kaoyo Gozen's lady-in-waiting Okaru at the very time Hangan is attacking Moronao in the shogun's palace. When they hear the news, the couple decides to flee to her home and wait for an opportunity to be reinstated. This sets the scene for the tragic events there that lead to Kanpei's suicide. In the original puppet play, this is a part of the third act, but in kabuki, it has become an independent dance scene played after the fourth act. After the couple decides to go to Okaru's home in the country, they are confronted by Sagisaka Bannai, Moronao's chief retainer who has always lusted after Okaru. Bannai is played as a handoke teki "half-comic villain."

Please see Key Kabuki Words - Plays mentioned in the program page of "Chushingura: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers"

Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan / 東海道四谷怪談
—The Ghosts of Yotsuya—

The handsome samurai Iemon is both attractive and a villain. He is an "iro aku," that is, a "sexy villain." His wife Oiwa is given a disfiguring poison to get Iemon to discard her and marry the daughter of a wealthy doctor. In the end, Oiwa becomes a vengeful ghost.

Tsuyu Kosode Mukashi Hachijo – Kamiyui Shinza – / 梅雨小袖昔八丈・髪結新三
—An Updated Story of Illicit Love – Shinza, the Barber—

This is an example of a villain in a very realistic sewamono domestic play. Shinza is a villain who is both sociable and engaging while making his rounds as a hair-dresser, but also uses this as a way to create all kinds of evil schemes. The actor has to master the actual movements of dressing Japanese hairstyles but in places the speeches are also very stylized in the poetic rhythm of the playwright Kawatake Mokuami.

Please see Key Kabuki Words - Plays mentioned in the program page of "Unique Kabuki Props"