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Kabuki Theater was created around the year 1600. It was almost around the same time that the English began to form colonies on the American continent. The history of Kabuki is as long as the history of the United States.
Kabuki was created by a shrine maiden named Okuni. Okuni was from Izumo Shrine. Her performances in the rive beds of the ancient capital of Kyoto caused a sensation. Soon their scale increased and a number of competing companies started.
Early Kabuki was much different from what is seen today. It was consisted mostly of large group dances performed by women. Most of these women acted as prostitutes off stage. Finally the government banned women from the stage in an effort to protect public 'morals'. This would become just one, in the long history of government restrictions placed on the theater.
This ban on women, though, is often seen as a good move. This was because it required the importance of skill over beauty. It also put more stress on drama than dance. This put Kabuki theater on the path to become a style of theater. With the need for female representations in plays, 'onnagatas' were developed. 'Onnagatas' were female role specialists, in lowest terms- men who played women.
The last quarter of the 17th century is referred to as the Genroku period and was a time of renaissance in the culture of Japanese0 towns-people. It was a time when both aristocratic and common arts flourished. Since the West and China were cut off from the outside world for over 50 years, many new art forms were introduced during this time.
With Kabuki as the main form of theatrical entertainment for commoners, there was an outburst of creativity. During this period the styles that would be the foundation of Kabuki were created. The playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon and actors like Ichikawa Danjuro and Sakata Tojuro were huge contributors to Kabuki theater. It was also during this period that the close relationship between Kabuki and the Bunraku puppet theater began. The two would continue to grow while influencing each other.
The decades after the Genroku period saw numerous cycles of creative periods followed by refinement. In the early 18th century, the rise of skilled playwrights in the Bunraku puppet theater helped it to deprive Kabuki of popularity for a time. I t was remarked by one observer that it seemed as though "there was no Kabuki." Actors responded by adapting puppet plays for the stage and creating stylized movements to mimic the puppets themselves. The late 18th century saw a trend towards realism and the switch of the cultural center from Kyoto and Osaka to Edo. One consequence of this was the change of tastes in onnagata acting. While onnagata trained in Kyoto who had the soft, gentle nature of that city had been valued before, now audiences preferred those who showed the strong pride and nature of Edo women. An increasing audience desire for decadence as seen in the...