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What is “Kabuki-tic sentiment”? ・T

The Character of the earlier period of Edo era 







OctBattle of Sekigahara

DecEstablishment of The East India Company

Hamlet by Shakespeare          written in 16002?)


Feb : Opening of Edo shogunate (Edo era) 

Apr “Kabuki Dance” was invented by Izumo no Okuni

Apr : death of Elizabeth I

(かぶき者) was the people who stalked along on the street with colorful, assertive and eccentric cloth and hair style during the earlier period of Edo era. The play which
 was called as “Kabuki” seemed to be raised from the manner of those people.

In 1603,”Kabuki Dance”
(かぶき踊り), which was sexy and avant
garde dance performed by Izumo no Okuni (出雲の阿国 at Kitano-tenmangu and at Shijo Kawara in Kyoto, drew a lot of attention in a moment. According to this fact, Izumo no Okuni is considered to be the founder of Kabuki and 1603 is the year of Kabuki origin. By the way, 1603 is the year when Ieyasu Tokugawa was appointed “Seii Taishogun”, which means the commander-in-chief of an expeditionary force against the barbarians, and opened Edo Shogunate. The history of Kabuki is thought as the history of the oppression against Kabuki from and the struggle with Edo Shogunate. Thinking that Kabuki has been created in the same year as Edo Shogunate, we feel the fateful adversary relationship between them.

We have to go back to the origin at Middle Ages period to consider Kabuki-mono. The Middle Age was the time when “hooligans or villains” strode. They were the people who wandered from place to place without settling down in a social community. They began to appear in the middle of the Kamakura era. Specifically, a great variety of people such as citizens of wandering entertainment, roaming religion persons, bandits, harlots, craftsmen and merchants were included. They wandered from community to community and created the dynamism of the time.

What were they thinking of wandering from place to place? Were they feeling the sense of the liberty that were not tied up to rules of the community? Or the sense of alienation or sadness from the fact that society did not accept them although they wanted to reside? Then they provided change to community in the Middle Age and became to be called as Kabuki-mono.

At 16th century “Sengoku period”  which means warring states period, social structure has changed greatly. At that period Kabuki-mono were very useful in collecting information, weapon procurement and trading. For Daimyos, employing them well was wisdom to survive Sengoku period. In this period, the character of them was valued high. Some of them were appointed as Samurai and not a few were promoted to Daimyo. The trend of such changes gave big vitality in consciousness of people. If even people who had low status had ability and luck, they were able to become Daimyo or millionaires. Overseas cultures were flowed in by the trade with the foreign countries and eyes of people were widely made open for the new world.

However, administrators gradually came to limit the movement of Kabuki-mono. “Rakuichi-rakuza” (free markets and open guilds) by Nobunaga Oda gave huge economic impact to Kabuki-mono who profited from trading monopolistically. “Katanagari” (sworn hunt) by Hideyoshi Toyotomi was the policy in order to disarm people including Kabuki-mono.

When “Battle of Sekigahara” 関ヶ原の戦い which had huge impact to Japan’s future was over in 1600 and political system by Tokugawa was made up, the time began to cool off rapidly. Some Kabuki-mono who promoted to “Daimyo” till “Battle of Sekigahara” were very lucky. Some of them who failed to get the chance to promote and to keep up with the time had to send Tokugawa 300 years with disappointment as persons without income. Social position was gradually fixed and fluidity disappeared and dynamism of the time was lost.

One of the young people’s feelings in the early period of Edo era was the feeling of the sadness that “We should have been born earlier. We have been late for the time. The time for ourselves has already passed in” Anyone felt the feeling of despair and did not know where to hit their excess energy. The energy that personal consciousness was going to go out to the outside world was confined and appeared as irritation and anger without outlets. They began to act rough to clear their irritation. In addition their feelings often appeared as showy makeup and clothes.

 Administrators came to consider the existence of Kabuki-mono nuisance. Edo Shogunate had difficulty dealing with Kabuki-mono’s rough act and often oppressed it. Kabuki-mono were the people who were faithful to their own feeling essentially and their self-assertion were strong and they made it thoroughly even if they threw away their own lives when they have been convinced, but sometimes betrayed their promise suddenly when they were not pleased. When the time became peaceful, their action that was unsuitable for continuous homage came to be outstanding. They considered individuality important and the idea of subordination was missing essentially.

 At the starting point of their thinking, there were strong self-consciousness and self-assertion in their mind. And these characters might lead to anxiety that work in the direction that their frustration began to blow accidentally and destroy things such as feudalistic order or system from inside. If the time was warring states period, such self-assertion acted positively. However, in the time of peace, the strong self-assertion was useless. Edo Shogunate felt the danger that feudal system might collapse from inside when it did not take an action for them. It was only a superficial reason that showy, strange manners and customs of Kabuki-mono were disliked.

Kabuki-mono were not only rough. They are strongly conscious of ‘the thing’ which they must protect or which must be particular about. They did not mind even that they should die to protect it or stick to it. This was because they believed that there was their meaning of living if they did not so. Today we call it “identity” (the proof of oneself existence or the meaning of being oneself as oneself). Kichinosuke 吉之助 decided to call their feelings “Kabuki-tic sentiment”

 “Kabuki-tic sentiment” (かぶき的心情) is the primitive expression of personal feeling. What's called society or community has not been yet conscious of definitely. In those days there was not the idea of “Individual vs. Society”. “Kabuki-tic sentiment” was the primitive expression of feeling in the stage in which people had begun to be conscious of ‘Individual’. The situation in which personal true feeling and freedom that begun to arise at last have been held down by the rigid period made Kabuki-tic sentiment unique. Their restrained feeling appeared as eccentric action like going off accidentally. Their rough actions were the insistence of their personal identity.

Kabuki-tic sentiment was not only for Kabuki-mono. In fact, it was the feeling that was common to all youths of this time, samurai, farmer and merchant. Kabuki-tic sentiment is the character which covered the earlier period of Edo era. Kabuki-mono represented the phenomenon that their energy such as free character or exercising personality which has been known to people in the Azuchimomoyama era lost place to go and spouted out. Therefore Kabuki-tic sentiment is the character to symbolize earlier period of Edo era.

Written by Yamamoto Kichinosuke
Translated by Rakunosuke
All rights reserved.

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