Kabuki, a Mirror of Japan

Kabuki, a Mirror of Japan

Ten Plays that Offer a Glimpse into Evolving Sensibilities

Matsui Kesako
Translated by David Crandall

Published by JPIC | Hardcover | ISBN 978-4-916055-58-3 | 256 pages | 220mm (h) x 148mm (w) | March 2016


松井 今朝子 著
NHK出版 刊



About the Book

In this delightfully engaging look at Japan’s traditional dance-drama, Matsui Kesako approaches kabuki in the same way a paleontologist might examine geological layers, with each play revealing a fascinating story about the time and place in which it was created and performed. Starting with Danjūrō I’s Shibaraku, which dates to the late seventeenth century, Matsui artfully traces the origins and evolution of many of kabuki’s defining characteristics while linking them to larger patterns of cultural development in Japanese society. As a novelist and former writer for the kabuki stage herself, she offers a unique perspective on 10 of the most famous and beloved plays in the traditional repertory, ending her survey with Mokuami’s Sannin Kichisa, which premiered in 1860—just prior to the start of Japan’s modernization. Her keen insights, encyclopedic knowledge, and easy writing style bring this centuries-old theatrical tradition to life, rendering it readily accessible to those who may have no prior knowledge of the subject. Originally intended for Japanese readers, this groundbreaking work is now available in English, offering the international community glimpses into why kabuki can truly be called a “mirror of Japan.”

About the Author


Matsui Kesako was born in Kyoto in 1953. After completing her master’s degree in theatre and film arts at Waseda University, she joined the production company Shochiku, where she was responsible for the planning and production of kabuki plays. Later as a freelancer, she pursued scriptwriting, directing, and critical writing under the mentorship of stage and film director Takechi Tetsuji. In 1997 Matsui published her first novel, Tōshū Sharaku-sashi (Sharaku Goes to Edo). That same year she won the Kodansha Award for Historical Fiction for her novel Nakazō Kyōran (Nakazō’s Frenzy). In 2007 her Yoshiwara Tebikigusa (Revenge in Yoshiwara) won the Naoki Prize. Other major works include Bakumatsu Adoresan (Farewell to Edo); Ichinotomi: Namiki Hyōshirō Tanetorichō (The Adventures of Namiki Hyōshirō); Nisemon (The Imposter); Sorosoro Tabi Ni (About Time for Travel); Hoshi to Kagayaki Hana to Saki (Shine like a Star, Bloom like a Flower); Ginza Kaika Omokage Sōshi (Portrait of Ginza Enlightenment); Michi Taezuba, Mata (See You at Road’s End); Kochū no Kairō (The Coward’s Corridor); Enchō no Onna (Enchō’s Women); Shifu no Yuigon (The Master’s Last Testament); and Manga Kabuki Nyūmon (Manga Introduction to Kabuki).