Origin of Kabuki – Izumo no Okuni (出雲の阿国) and Ukiyo-e Painting of Toyohara Kunichika

Published by Hiromi Nishiwaki on

Toyohara Kunichika (豊原 国周, 1835 ー1900) No title (Kabuki Actors) Kabuki is traditional stage drama performed only by men. It is played to the accompaniment of songs and music. It is characterized by the combination of rhythmical words, dancing, elaborate make up, costume, and stage set. It is said Kabuki was performed by Izumo no Okuni (female) for the first time in Japan.

Izumo-no-Okuni (出雲の阿国) was born in Izumo (currently Shimane Prefecture) as a daughter of blacksmith in 1572. Okuni became Izumo Taisha’s shrine maiden (Miko, a woman serving God). Izumo is the place where all Gods in Japan gather all at once in every October. Shrine needed to raise fund for maintenance and fixture, therefore, Okuni went on a tour to raise fund by performing dance. People enjoy her dancing and gave donation. This is the origin of Today's Kabuki. When her group went to the Kitano Tenman-gu shrine in Kyoto, people loved her performance very much and her troupe earned great reputation. The dances were also performed at Hideyoshi's Fushimi Castle, princely house, and the palace where the imperial women lived.However, The Edo Shogunate prohibited female performance of Kaubiki, as it was appealing.

Hiromi Nishiwaki

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