Invitation to Kabuki - Guidance for Kabuki appreciation
Kabuki repertoire
Eminent playwrights
The following 3 writers' names are still known to the general public.
Chikamatsu Monzaemon [1653 - 1724]
Chikamatsu Monzaemon, active in the Genroku period, started as a writer of Ningyo-joruri (puppet plays). For a decade starting in 1695, he wrote about 30 Kabuki works including "Keisei hotoke no hara" for Sakata Tojuro 1st, a great actor in Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area). The professional position of writers in Kabuki was established by the great activity of Chikamatsu Monzaemon in this period.
When Sakata Tojuro's popularity began to wane, Chikamatsu Monzaemon returned to Ningyo-joruri writing. He has left us many fine works. In particular, his "Sonezaki shinju," "Shinju ten no amijima," "Onna koroshi abura no jigoku," "Kokusenya kassen," "Heike nyogonoshima" and other works rewritten later, were taken into Kabuki, and are still performed even now.
> History of Kabuki: Establishment of Wagoto
Chikamatsu Monzaemon from"Namba miyage"
>  "Kawasho"
  Rewritten version of "Shinju ten no amijima" written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon was converted for Kabuki.
> "Keisei hangonko"
> "Sonezaki shinju"
> "Heike nyogonoshima"
Tsuruya Namboku 4th [1755 - 1829]
The writer Tsuruya Namboku 4th was active mainly in the Bunka/Bunsei period [1804 - 1830]. He spent at least 20 years as a low-ranking writer before the performance of his work "Tenjiku tokube ikokubanashi," a great hit in 1804, made him famous.
Following this, he was active for 25 years as the greatest writer in Kabuki. The distinctive features of his literary style were his realistic depictions of the common people of the time, called Kizewa, and his striking Shuko (plot plans) in which ghosts had active roles. Even at present, "Tokaido yotsuya kaidan," "Sakurahime azuma bunsho" and "Toki mo kikyo shusse no ukejo" [generally performed under the title "Toki wa ima kikyo no hataage"] are performed. "Tokaido yotsuya kaidan" is particularly famous as his most important work.
> History of Kabuki: Tsuruya Namboku era
Tsuruya Namboku 4th from Ichimuraza sangai no zu
> "Iromoyo chotto karimame"
  A scene from "Kesakakematsu narita no riken" witten by Namboku
> "Sakurahime azuma bunsho"
> "Tokaido yotsuya kaidan"
Kawatake Mokuami [1816 - 1893]
Kawatake Mokuami was the most important writer from late in the Tokugawa Shogunate era into the Meiji period. At the end of the Shogunate era, together with Ichikawa Kodanji 4th, he wrote works known as Shiranamimono, in which thieves appear on stage. In Meiji period, he provided works mainly for Ichikawa Danjuro 9th and Onoe Kikugoro 5th.
The distinctive feature of Mokuami's literary style is its superiority from the musical viewpoint. He effectively interwove Kiyomoto music with poetic speech in shichigo-cho (7-and-5 syllable meter) while realistically depicting the lives of common people in the Edo period. Mokuami left over 350 works including dance dramas from approximately 50-year career as a writer, and his works still form a large percentage of the Kabuki repertoire. His most important works are the Shiranamimono, "Aotozoshi hana no nishikie" [Common name "Shiranami gonin otoko"], "Sannin kichisa kuruwa no hatsugai," "Kumo ni magou ueno no hatsuhana" and the Buyogeki (dance drama) "Tsuchigumo."
> History of Kabuki: Remarkable activity of Kawatake Mokuami
Kawatake Shinshichi 2nd [later Kawatake Mokuami] (left) and Ichikawa Kodanji 4th from Haiyu gakuya no sugatami