Kabuki is a popular traditional stage drama in Japan performed exclusively by men along with songs and music.
Its history began in 1603, when Okuni, a miko (Shinto shrine maiden) of Izumo Taisha Shrine started performing a new style of dance drama on the dry river beds of Kyoto. At that time, female performers played both male and female roles about ordinary life. It was a form very different from its modern incarnation and because much of its appeal was due to the ribald, suggestive performances, women were banned from the stage in 1629 for the purpose of protecting public morality. However, since Kabuki was already so popular, young male actors took over. Along with the change in gender came a change in the emphasis of the performance. More emphasis was placed on drama rather than dance and today Kabuki is performed only by men. Overseas visitors are often impressed due to the women's roles performed very gracefully by male actors. Another unique facet of Kabuki is the long narrow extension of the stage that runs through the audience to the rear of the theatre. This is called "Hanamichi" (literally called "Flower Passage") and it enables actors to come into closer contact with the audience.
In Kyoto, there were seven Kabuki stages in the 17th century but only the Minami-za Theater remains to this day.
Kaomise is literally the "Face-showing" ceremony of a theater to celebrate the opening a new season and its new troupe during the Edo Period. At Minami-za it is held in December.
Minami-za Kabuki Theater
Address: 198 Nakano-cho, Yamato-oji-nishiiru, Shijo-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Access: In front of Keihan Railway Shijo Station or a 3-minute walk from Exit 6 of Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station