Invitation to Kabuki - Guidance for Kabuki appreciation
History of Kabuki
Birth of Saruwaka-machi
In 1841, Mizuno Tadakuni, a roju (member of the Shogun's Council) started the Tempo Reformation as a way to revive the Tokugawa Shogunate and tighten public morality which had become loose in the Bunka/Bunsei period [1804-1830].
Kabuki, typical entertainment for the general public, also became subject to control. Mizuno even considered abolishing Kabuki. But finally, in 1842, he ordered the government-licensed theaters [Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za and Kawarazaki-za], then located in the city area, to move to Asakusa (the suburbs of Edo at that time). Simultaneously, he ordered people involved with theatrical performances, including actors to live in the area around the theaters. Also, the actor Ichikawa Ebizo 5th [former name Ichikawa Danjuro 7th] was accused of the crime of violating sumptuary laws because he used luxurious props and costumes, and he was exiled from Edo.
 
Prosperity of Saruwaka-machi ("Toto meisho shibaimachi han-ei no zu")
 
These orders by the Tokugawa Shogunate were a great shock to the Kabuki world. The area around the theaters that moved to Asakusa was named Saruwaka-machi or Saruwaka-cho. Because the location was bad, audiences did not gather there at first.

However, when Mizuno Tadakuni lost his position, the atmosphere of reformation gradually started to dissipate. The period of about 30 years during the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate when theaters were located in Saruwaka-machi, is called "Saruwaka-machi period."
 
 
 
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