Yearbook Japan, 2019, vol. 48, pp. 344–369

DOI: 10.24411/0235-8182-2019-10015

Perception of Кabuki theater characters and a play by Tsuruyа Namboku the Fourth

A.A. Levina

Abstract. The study of theater and related aspects is of paramount importance, just as the study of any other important and significant part of the cultural heritage of Japan. Kabuki theater is a unique combination of sublime art with a coarse urban flavor, and this topic will always be a demand and relevant for researchers of the whole world to study, because kabuki includes a huge number of topics to investigate, from techniques and dramaturgy to costumes and props.

The main goal of this work is to examine in detail the features and specificity of the performance of this theatrical genre and, as an example, to demonstrate them on one of the most famous plays in the kaidan genre. Kabuki (Jap. 歌舞伎), which can literally be translated as «the art of singing and dancing», is a type of traditional Japanese theater. Kabuki itself is a synthesis of dance, singing, musical accompaniment and drama, as well as colorful special effects, bright makeup and costumes. This article describes the most famous scenes associated with fantastic creatures in the theater, lists the most famous magic characters, and their role in the plays. It is also tells about the terms that are used to denote different actions, for example, a quick change of makeup or costume. In addition, this work describes the play by Tsuruya Namboku the Fourth, and also illustrates all the above on the example of the characters of the play about the ghost from Yotsuya, thanks to which it can be concluded that the image of the ghost of the main character — Oiwa had a significant influence on the subsequent image of vengeful spirits onryō. Also it describes the influence of the image of Oiwa on the modern representatives of the yūrei in the horror genre, and what forms fantastic creatures that have descended from the stage take now.

In addition, it tells about modern images of fantastic creatures, where they are used and how modern Japanese perceive them, as well as how they perceive this type of theatrical art. Using the example of various genres and plots of films, anime and doramas, it is concluded that the genre of kabuki and its images are still relevant for modern perception, and that there are some active attempts to make them engaging to the younger generation.

Keywords: Kabuki, Tsuruya Namboku the Fourth, Japanese theater, amplua of kabuki, onryo:, kaidan, screen version.

Author: Levina Anastasia A., Russian State University of Humanities (RSUH). E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Contents of the issue: Yearbook Japan, 2019, Vol. 48.