Traditional Japanese Dance–Drama Kabuki: Types and Elements

  • Dancing is an important part of life. Countless people around the world enjoy modern dances and almost all the countries have some traditional styles as well. But have you ever wondered what are the traditional Japanese dances?


    There is a myth which has been told about the origin of Japanese dances. It all started with Amaterasu, the powerful sun goddess. She is considered to be the most popular deity in Japan. There was a time when Amaterasu was so angry that she hid in the cave for some time causing the land to get covered in darkness. Then, Uzume came up with a plan to cheer Amaterasu, she came to the entrance of the cave and started dancing on a large overturned tub. The crowd was cheering. Amaterasu got curious and went out. This is how the sun returned and the traditional dance was born.

    Kabuki in the Past

    Kabuki is a Japanese dance-drama. This is probably the oldest of the traditional types of performance. Kabuki(歌舞伎) consists of 3 kanji characters: sing, dance and skill.

    Izumo no Okuni was the founder of Kabuki, she came up with the dance in Kyoto during Edo period. It soon became a common form of entertainment so the performances were conducted from morning till sunset. A few things were essential for providing a good entertainment, such as the following:

    • music
    • patterns
    • clothing
    • actors
    Types and Elements of Kabuki Plays

    Jidaimono (historical play)

    Jidaimono plays were derived from the context of Japanese history. They were mostly focused on the samurai class. There were strict rules of not acting on contemporary events as well as criticising or giving the shogunate a bad name.

    Sewamono (domestic play)

    Sewamono plays would normally show the life of peasants or townspeople in Japan. The plays would be set in contemporary everyday environment.

    Shosagoto (dance piece)

    Shosagoto, also known as furigoto, is a stand-alone piece, that sometimes could be a part of a larger scene, included into play. It was originally performed by women only, but later on, men began performing it too.

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