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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Shishi / 獅子
Not actually lions, shishi are mythical animals that live on a high mountain with a stone bridge leading to a Buddhist paradise. Often their power is expressed by tossing their long manes. There are many versions of the lion dance both in kabuki and other Asian traditions.
Iro‐aku / 色悪
A kind of nihilistic character who is both handsome and attractive and a villain. For example, Iemon in "The Ghosts of Yotsuya."

Please see Key Kabuki Words - kabuki terms in the program page of "Charming Villains"

Kumadori / 隈取
The distinctive make‐up of kabuki used in the bombastic aragoto style of acting. On top of a white base, lines of color are drawn with a brush or the actor’s finger and then additional color is added to shade the line and make it more powerful. There are several different patterns to go with various roles. Red indicates a hero and suggests muscles and blood vessels. Blue is used for villainous imperial court nobles and brown is for non‐human characters, like the earth spider.
Onnagata / 女方
Male actors playing female roles.
Shumei / 襲名
An actor succeeding to a name with a distinguished history. Often this is commemorated with an announcement from the stage and a special program of plays associated with this acting name.
Hyoshigi / 拍子木
The wooden clappers that indicate the beginning and end of the play. They are struck by the kyogen sakusha, a kind of stage manager and also serve to give the signals like "five minutes to performance," made by bells and buzzers in modern theaters.
Mie / 見得
Poses that punctuate the action. Sometimes the pose of the body has special meaning, but the key is to concentrate the energy of the body in the head and face to draw the attention of the audience like a close-up in a movie.
Aragoto / 荒事
Aragoto means "rough stuff" and is the bombastic and stylized acting for kabuki heroes. It uses kumadori make-up and has highly exaggerated wigs and costumes. The movements are also very exaggerated and there are often mie poses.