Theater - Noh drama was perfected in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by Kan'ami and
his son Zeami who refined the rustic mimetic art
known as sarugaki. Noh is a highly
stylized form of dance drama in which the main
actor, who is usually masked, dances to the
accompaniment of chanting and instrumental music.
short, comedic plays developed at about the same
time as noh and generally performed in conjunction
with it, are characterized by realism and
down-to-earth humor, in sharp contrast to the lofty
and minimalist tone of noh.
dates back to the early seventeenth century when
Okuni, a maiden consecrated to Izumo Shine in
Shimane Prefecture, created and performed original
dances and led a troupe of her own.
government banned women and then young boys from
performing kabuki, so it developed as a theatrical
art performed by adult males only. This gave
rise to the institution of oyama or
onnagata - male actors who specialize in female
is a highly sophisticated form of puppet theater
that features large puppets (each manipulated by
three men), narrators, and samisen musicians.
Bunraku developed at the same time as kabuki and
deals with the same themes. In fact, many of
the most famous kabuki plays were originally written
for the puppet theater.
Drama - Shinpa (new school) drama
developed in the Meiji period as an attempt to
depict the manners and customs of contemporary
Japan, in contrast to kabuki, which continued to
present plays in an earlier period. Shinpa
is characterized by a more naturalistic style than
kabuki and the coexistence of oyama and
revues date back to the 1920s when all-female
troupes were organized after the manner of the
French revues. During their heyday, the revues
produced many starts and attracted great numbers of
fans. Also popular in Japan are Japanese
versions of musicals that have been hits on Broadway
- The ritual music and dance of the imperial court
known as gagaku, have been preserved to this
day with little change since ancient times.
The type of dance known generically as Nihon buyo
(Japanese dance) developed along with traditional
folk dance, noh, kabuki and other performing arts
that incorporate dance.
more intimate form of Japanese dance, designed for
performance in a relatively small space and to be
seen at close range, was developed from the
mid-eighteenth century onward by professional female
entertainers known as geisha and may be seen today
in such forms as kyomai.
and Manzai - Japan has a special category
of vaudeville-type entertainment called yose.
It began in the seventeenth century as a form of
entertainment for townspeople held in the precincts
of temples and shrines; proper yose
theaters appeared in the late eighteenth century.
is one of the most popular types of yose and
is a comic monologue that begins with a prologue
know as the makura and ends with a punch line
called the ochi. The storyteller,
dressed in a kimono, sits upright on a square
cushion and, using only a fan and hand towel asprops,
delights the audience with clever narration and
humorous facial expressions and body movements.
form of entertainment was developed by Buddhist
preachers who delivered sermons with eloquence and
proverbial punch lines in the seventeenth century.
popular type of yose entertainment is manzai,
a comic dialogue that originally was a form of New
Year's entertainment in villages. It is a form
of entertainment in which two people lightheartedly
trade jokes and entertain with the audience with
singing, instrument playing, and other witty acts.
took to the stage and was refined in the late
nineteenth century. In the 1930s a new
form of manzai caught on after a duo in Osaka
started making audiences roll in the aisles with
their witty repartees about scenes from everyday
provided by the Japanese Embassy