Kabuki is a traditional Japanese performance art known for its rich fusion of drama, dance, music, stylised gesture, and costumes. Originating around the start of the Edo period (1603-1868), its creation is accredited to Izumo no Okuni, a performing Shinto priestess. It later developed into an all-male performance art after women were banned from the Japanese theatre in 1629. Modern-day kabuki remains well-loved both in Japan and elsewhere, and was added to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity in 2008.
Although its rich history makes it tempting to consider it a solely traditional art form, kabuki is innovative and has consistently evolved to adjust with the times. The kabuki stage is creative, incorporating modern trends into the tradition, and this may be a key reason why kabuki maintains its popularity with the general public. In this webinar, Matsumoto Kōshirō X will explain the relationship between tradition and innovation from the perspective of a kabuki actor, including dicsussing some innovative Kabuki performances inspired by British culture. He will also share his thoughts on how kabuki has responded to the pandemic and how it will evolve in the future.
Date: Thursday 10 December 2020
UK Time: 1:00pm-2:20pm (GMT)
Japan Time: 10:00pm-11:20pm (GMT+9)
This event was organized with the generous support of Rinko Kimino.
About the contributors
Matsumoto Kōshirō X is a Japanese kabuki actor. He was born in 1973 in Tokyo into a kabuki family dating back to Matsumoto Kōshirō VII. His father is Matsumoto Hokuō II, and his son is Ichikawa Somegorō VIII. In 1979 he appeared in his first performance at the age of six, under the name of Matsumoto Kintarō VI, before taking the name Ichikawa Somegorō VII in 1981, in the kabuki world’s first naming ceremony involving three generations of the same family. He became the youngest person in history to perform the role of Hamlet professionally, at the age of just 14, and went on to perform in Hamlet – a Kabuki Version, in London, Dublin, and Newcastle as part of the UK’s 1991 Japan Festival. In 2015 he staged Fight with a Carp, the first kabuki performance in Las Vegas, and the next year staged Kabuki Lion Shi-Shi-O: The Adventures of the Mythical Lion at the MGM Grand’s Theatre in Las Vegas. In 2018 he took the name of Matsumoto Kōshirō X, becoming head of the Kōraiya acting guild, at another three-generation naming ceremony. In 2019 he staged Miss Yasu the Bat, a kabuki version of City Lights, to mark the 130th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s birth, and this year he produced and acted in Zoom Kabuki Chūshingura, the world’s first kabuki performance to be streamed online.
Rinko Kimino is an established author on Japanese culture who has published nineteen books on traditional Japanese cultural topics such as kimono and kabuki. Her works are targeted at younger Japanese people, and aim to promote Japanese traditions with a modern sensibility. She is also a producer and product development planner for kimono and Japanese folk craft goods. She also works as a curator and lecturer on Japanese culture, and has delivered workshops in Japan, the USA, Thailand, and Italy, helping to improve the understanding of Japanese culture around the world. She is also a business consultant for Japanese companies wishing to conduct business abroad.