Westernization and making Kabuki into an art
Edo’s name was changed to Tokyo in 1868. Under the government’s policies to promote Westernization, there were calls for Kabuki, the commoner’s entertainment, to be changed into a Western-style performing art. Jidai-mono were performed based on historical fact, and incorporated the style of the more formal art of Nohgaku, but most audience members continued to support Kabuki styles with an Edo-period atmosphere.
A wave of new theatre
Until this point, Kabuki scripts had been written by playwrights associated with the theatre, but there was an increasing number of works by literary persons, newspaper reporters, and others being written and staged as plays. As Western plays were adapted and performed as Kabuki, Sewa-mono Kabuki, based on new customs such as short hair and Western clothing, was born. In addition, shingeki, which attempted to perform these as highly artistic translated plays, and shinpa, which tried to show contemporary society and human nature in a way that was easily understood, were created. Shingeki and shinpa, which prized realism, saw the rise of female actors who played female roles.
Tradition and creation
Having accepted this new wave, Kabuki gradually transformed into a classic art over the course of the 20th century. The forms of the conventional stock characters were polished, and modern characters were shaped with an aspect of realism influenced by the West. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed Kabuki to be a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” and in 2008 it was entered into the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” It is performed overseas, new works are written based on manga and anime, and, drawing on tradition, new stock characters continue to be created even today.