Kabuki theater is the most popular traditional form of Japanese drama and is characterized by dance, song, mime, colorful costumes, heavy makeup, and lively exaggerated movements that tell stories about historical events. The drama originated in 1575 when a woman named Okuni founded the first kabuki company. In 1603 the all-woman troupe—playing both male and female roles—popularized kabuki when they danced in Kyoto at the Kitani shrine. In October 1629 the shogun (military leader) Iemitsu declared it immoral for women to dance in public and forced them off the stage, making kabuki an entirely male dramatic form. It became increasingly popular during the 1600s, surpassing bunraku (puppet theater), in which a narrator recites a story while it is acted out by life-size puppets. Kabuki remains a popular art form, which has evolved culturally, incorporating other forms of drama to adapt to changing times. Kabuki is still performed only by male actors.
Further Information: Gunji, Masakutsu. Kabuki. New York: Harper and Row, 1986; Kabuki for Everyone. [Online] Available http://www.fix.co.jp/kabuki, November 4, 2000; Kabuki Theater. [Online] Available http://www.fixco.jp/kabuki/kabuki.html, October 23, 2000; Kabuki Theater. [Online] Available http://www.imasy.or.jp/-kabuki/, October 23, 2000; Kabuki Theater. [Online] Available http://www.lightbrigade.demon.co.uk/, October 23, 2000; Leiter, Samuel L. The Art of Kabuki: Five Famous Plays. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 1999; Scott, A. C. The Kabuki Theatre of Japan. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 1999.