Contemporary Tradition : Kabuki in the 21st Century



Year of publication 2018
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Kabuki is recognized as one of Japan’s three major classical theater forms along with noh and bunraku, and has been inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2005. The roots of kabuki date back to the Edo period, therefore kabuki is often perceived as a living relic of that period. Although it is usually described as “traditional” or “classical” and most of the classical kabuki plays were written in the Edo period, new plays appear every year and there are various attempts to make it part of the contemporary culture once again and to attract young audience to its viewing. One such example and probably the most successful recent attempt was Ichikawa Ennosuke’s adaptation of one of the most recognizable manga series in Japan – One Piece. It was premiered as a part of Ichikawa’s Super kabuki project in October 2015, and after successful long run, it continued as a touring performance until this year. In my presentation, I will study such recent attempts and contextualize them within the post-war evolution of kabuki and the overall development of Japanese theatre. When examining the endeavor to transcend the image of kabuki as classical theater, I will also need to explore the turning point, the circumstances and the causes of kabuki becoming classical art. I will argue that is was rather a conscious decision than a natural process. The Edo kabuki has always utilized new trends incorporating the latest fashions and stories, and I will attempt to demonstrate that the endeavor to make kabuki a vital part of the popular culture is still very strong in contemporary theater/Japan.
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