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Kabuki, Men’s Theater Performing at Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening

by Admin


There was a unique performance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony. The performance was Kabuki where all the players were male.

Kabuki is one of the four types of classical Japanese theater, namely noh, kyogen, and bunraku. This art has existed for more than 250 years, to be precise since the Edo period (1603-1867) during the Tokugawa era.

Even though he is old, until now Kabuki still exists and is in demand by the audience. This is because the theme of the story that is presented attracts attention, such as about heroism or about people’s desire to realize their dreams. Because of this peculiarity, Kabuki was recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2008.

Kabuki History

Maybe a traveler wonders, why Kabuki performances are only done by men? This apparently cannot be separated from the history of Kabuki development.

Kabuki was first shown in Kyoto in 1603. At the beginning of its appearance, the characters in Kabuki were played by women. The performance was initially dominated by dance performances and a little theater.

However, along the way, Kabuki is actually used as a place for prostitution. That’s why, since 1629 this show is forbidden to be played by women.

Instead, a boy or called Wakashu, who plays the theater. It turns out that Kabuki is becoming more and more popular with this formula.

Unfortunately, in 1652, Kabuki was again banned from being played by boys. The reason is because many young actors are harassed for prostitution by adult actors.

With the prohibition of women and boys, Kabuki is then only played by adult men. This formula has survived to this day.

Although only played by adult men, the characters played in Kabuki still include women and men. That means, male actors will also be playing female characters.

Kabuki genre

In Kabuki performances, there are two genres that are generally performed, namely the aragoto and wagoto genres. The difference is, Aragoto emphasizes a bombastic story. While wagoto emphasizes more on the use of Kansai dialect and gentle gestures.

Costumes and Heavy Makeup

Kabuki is known to have a characteristic where the actors wear traditional Japanese costumes and heavy makeup. This thick makeup is known as kumadori.

In using this makeup, there are a number of colors that have a certain meaning. For example, red symbolizes goodness or human superpowers. While blue symbolizes bad things or negative feelings such as jealousy or fear.


Kabuki performances will be more lively with the presence of music. The music played on the Kabuki stage comes from traditional musical instruments, one of which is the shamisen.

Shamisen is a typical Japanese stringed instrument that has 3 strings and how to play it is plucked using a pick called bachi.

Besides the shamisen, other musical instruments such as flute and percussion also complement the accompaniment of Kabuki music.

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