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Noh Drama & Kabuki

Authentic Osaka-style Entertainment

Osakans love on-stage entertainment. The city's economic affluence during the 18th and 19th centuries led to the development of many distinctive styles of performance such as Bunraku, Noh, Kyogen and Kabuki. All of these have their roots in saragaku, a Chinese performing art introduced to Japan during the 8th century. And all are alive and flourishing today.

Noh Drama
Introducing the World's Oldest Form of Dramatic Performance

Noh DramaNoh, the oldest remaining theater art in the world, is known for its simple and strictly defined movements, for its use of beautiful, artistically crafted masks, and for its unique form of dialogue reminiscent of a bygone age.

Noh drama reveals universal human frailties, especially the ephemeral nature of love, and has a strong emotional appeal for the audience. Noh also weaves into a story the inner workings of the human heart at each moment, while conveying inner tension and spiritual strength.

A program of Noh always includes Kyogen, comedy plays that taught morality to the common people in medieval times and provided comic relief from the serious tone of the Noh plays themselves.

Noh DramaNoh and Kyogen are performed at the Osaka Nohgaku-kaikan Theater and the Ohtsuki Noh Theatre; every July, Noh plays are also shown after dark by torchlight in the Osaka Castle Nishinomaru Garden.

Lavish Theater Style for the Common Folk

Kabuki too has its roots in Chinese-influenced sarugaku performance. Originally, Kabuki emerged as dances done by women at the beginning of the 17th century in Kyoto. They created such a sensation that the Tokugawa Shogunate banned them; these dances were then succeeded by dances performed by men, and those performances developed into Kabuki as it now exists.

Kabuki plays, most of which date from the 17th and 18th centuries, became wildly popular with the general public because they combined colorful costumes, lavish sets, brilliant stage devices and superior acting skills of highly trained actors. In many ways Kabuki can be considered a Japanese form of the musical, due to its strong emphasis on dance, stylized libretto which resembles singing, and interesting stories of love, honor, loyalty and betrayal.

Osaka Shochikuza TheaterAlthough today all parts are still performed by men only, Kabuki remains a popular form of traditional entertainment that continues to influence modern Japanese stage art and dance. Performances are held regularly by leading actors at the Osaka Shochikuza theater.