Japan’s kabuki theatre was a popular entertainment that upset social order by winning the adoration of samurai retainers, daimyō lords and ladies in waiting. The term kabuki was first used to describe off-beat performances by female dance troupes in Kyoto. When authorities banned women from performing, kabuki developed into staged drama performed by men. Actor prints became a mainstay of Edo’s publishing industry. Whether serving as advance promotion or cherished souvenir, prints and printed books deepened the city’s consumption of its on-stage heroes and celebrated their craft. Wildly entertaining or exceptionally accomplished, kabuki’s performance in print was nothing less than bravura.
Perspective view of theatre stage at Sakai-chō in Edo
Japan, c. 1796
CBL J 2502