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Close-up on kabuki – the colourful ‘pure entertainment’ of Japan’s Edo period

Kabuki theatre is a highly stylised form of dance-drama that came to prominence during Japan’s isolationist Edo period (1603-1867). At the height of its popularity in the mid-18th century, skilled kabuki performers became celebrities, with their likenesses carved into colour woodblock prints and sold as mementos. Commissioned by the the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, this film from 1964 showcases vivid scenes from a kabuki theatre in Tokyo, where masters of the form still perform for eager audiences today. A colourful melding of ‘pure entertainment’ and artistry, it’s easy to become engrossed in kabuki’s hallmark eccentricities – especially the characters’ exaggerated make-up, costumes, movements and intonations. Aspects of the form captured in the film – including its post-feudal themes and use of male actors in both masculine and feminine roles – also provide small glimpses into the mores and values of the Edo period.

Via Open Culture

Video by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

9 August 2021

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