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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Sanmon Gosan no Kiri / 桜門五三桐
—The Thief Ishikawa Goemon—

This scene appeared before for its spectacular set, but the props are also interesting. Goemon has a fabulous long silver pipe and a lavish red cinnabar tobacco tray. The scale of the prop reflects his larger-than-life scale. Also, a bird appears holding a bloodstained sleeve. The bird is on a sashigane pole which is manipulated by a koken stagehand.

Sagi Musume / 鷺娘
—The Heron Maiden—

In this dance, the spirit of the heron appears as a beautiful girl in a white bride’s kimono. Snow and cherry petals are shown with small pieces of paper sprinkled from baskets woven to have large openings. In kabuki, there are fine divisions of responsibility between the various stage technicians and snow and cherry petals are the responsibility of the stage set crew, not the props crew.

Gion Sairei Shinkoki – Kinkakuji – / 祇園祭礼信仰記・金閣寺
—The Golden Pavilion—

In this play, Princess Yukihime is the granddaughter of a great artist and a villainous lord wants her to paint a dragon on the ceiling of his Golden Pavilion (the kabuki version of the actual Golden Pavilion in Kyoto). She refuses and he has her tied up to a cherry tree. The princess recalls that when her grandfather was tied up in a temple, he drew a picture of a rat that came to life and chewed away his ropes. Using her foot, the princess draws a rat in the fallen cherry petals. The picture comes to life and frees her. On stage, the rat (actually two rats) is a doll manipulated with a sashigane rod. After miming chewing away the ropes, the doll of the rat splits and paper representing cherry petals fly out, as though the rat turned back into cherry petals.

Please see Key Kabuki Words - Plays mentioned in the program page of "Charming Villains"

Shunkyo Kagami Jishi / 春興鏡獅子
—The Kagami Lion Dance—

At the end of the first half of this dance, the dancer performs with a shishi gashira, a hand puppet in the shape of the head of a shishi lion. Shishi lions are associated with butterflies which are shown fluttering around madly with prop butterflies on sashigane poles.

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

Shibaraku /
—Wait a Minute!—

The hero is a larger-than-life figure and this is reflected in his sword. It is 2 meters long and to make the blade stand out, it is black, with a streak of red.

Please see Key Kabuki Words - Plays mentioned in the program page of "Larger-Than-Life Heroes"

Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami – Kurumabiki / 菅原伝授手習鑑 車引
—Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy – The Fight Over the Carriage—

This scene is a fight between three brothers. Umeomaru is a powerful aragoto character and to emphasize this, instead of the usual two swords that marked samurai status in the Edo period, he has three swords. The longest of these swords is 1.8 meters long.

Please see Key Kabuki Words - Plays mentioned in the program page of "Larger-Than-Life Heroes"

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 play shows Shinza a barber that does his work visiting his customers, but is actually a villain that kidnaps a girl and then extorts money for her return. It is an example of a sewamono domestic play so that all the props reflect actual daily life during the Edo period including all the things in the house and in particular, Shinza's box of tools that has everything a barber used in the Edo period. This program features a very special prop representing a katsuo bonito fish. It is a Styrofoam model, but is made so it can be cut up on stage by the fishmonger.

Please see Key Kabuki Words - Plays mentioned in the program page of "Charming Villains"

Benten Musume Meo no Shiranami / 弁天娘女男白浪
—Benten, the Thief—

As with Ishikawa Goemon, pipes indicate character and there are all kinds of pipes and pipe fittings that show different ranks and classes of people. Benten visits a high-class clothing store disguised as a woman, he purposely lets himself be caught as a shoplifter in order to extort money from them. He is unmasked as a tattooed male thief, but brazenly reveals who he is in a famous speech. He uses a pipe during this speech, the kind of pipe an ordinary commoner might use, but his gestures with the pipe are precisely timed to the speech. At times he nonchalantly twirls the pipe and at times, he uses it like the dealer in a gambling den raking in the bets.

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