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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Kuni Kuzushi / 国崩し

This means "to destroy a country" and refers to a larger-than-life villain in a jidaimono history play capable of taking over the entire realm.

Oji / 王子

This means "imperial prince" and refers to the hair style worn by these "kuni kuzushi" villains. It is a long, bushy hair style with the hair hanging loose.

Ende / 燕手

"Swallow tail," this is a kind of trim topknot and resembling the tail of a bird and is the style of wig for Nikki Danjo.

Jitsuaku / 実悪

"Real evil, " as opposed to the evil imperial princes and other fantastic villains, these are relatively realistic and are played as handsome and cold-blooded villains. Nikki Danjo is an example of a jitsuaku.

Tsura Akari, Sashi dashi / 面明り、差し出し

"Face light" or "held out light." In the old days, theaters were lit by natural light from outside and candles. In certain very stylized scenes, on the hanamichi runway, the actor's face is lit up with candles held on poles. This is sometimes used for Nikki Danjo's exit after transforming back from a rat and the entrance of Izaemon in Kuruwa Bunsho.

Matsumoto Koshiro V / 五代目松本幸四郎

Matsumoto Koshiro V (1764 – 1838). A master of jitsu-aku villain roles, he had a big hook-shaped nose and is instantly recognizable in woodblock prints. He created many distinctive interpretations of classical kabuki roles and this is marked in kabuki by reproducing the real mole on Koshiro V's face in the make-up, as with Nikki Danjo.

Mon /

"Crest," a design associated with a family. This is used on formal kimonos, but also can become a pattern. One of the crests of the Matsumoto Koshiro family is called "yotsu-hana bishi," "four flower diamonds" because it consists of a diamond shape made of four stylized flower designs. This crest becomes the pattern of Nikki Danjo's costume in the grey shoulder pieces he wears after transforming from a rat, another sign of the importance of Matsumoto Koshiro V in creating this performance of the role.

Hando-teki / 半道敵

"Doke" is the word for "clown" and "teki" is the word for "villain" and this means villain who is clownish. An example is Bannai in Ochiudo.

Zare guma / 戯れ隈

"Playful kumadori." While most kumadori make-up emphasizes the power of the character, this is a humorous style for laughs. For example, the make-up for Bannai has eyebrows in the shape of a hiragana "he (へ)."

Iro‐aku / 色悪

"Sexy villain." This is a role that is a combination of a handsome, sexy leading man and a frightening villain. They are usually slim and pale and the playwright Tsuruya Nanboku IV is particularly famous for creating such roles like Iemon in Yotsuya Kaidan.

Kawatake Mokuami / 河竹黙阿弥

Kawatake Mokuami (1816 – 1893) was the last great playwright of kabuki and spanned the end of the Edo period and the beginning of the modern world after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Many kabuki plays that are frequently performed today like Benten Kozo and Kamiyui Shinza are his original plays and have his characteristic blend of naturalism and stylization. In particular, he is famous for speeches studded with poetic images and in phrases of alternating seven and five syllables.

Please see Key Kabuki Words - kabuki terms in the program page of "Kabuki's Leading Male Roles"