Kabuki refers to the traditional form of Japanese theatre that transforms the stories of the lives of ordinary people into extraordinary tales. Kabuki as it is known today combines stories from the 15th century with stories composed in the modern era.
Kabuki originated in the 13th century, during the Muromachi Era. It originally composed of Shirabyosh – female performers skilled in reciting, singing and dance. Beginning in the following Edo Era during the 15th and 16th centuries, the all-male form of Kabuki developed and continues as the form known today.
Kabuki theatre is one of Japan’s most popular traditional cultural attractions, attracting both international and Japanese tourists. Famous Kabuki theatres include Kabuki-za, Shinbashi-enbujyo and Kabuki-za in Kyushu, Japan’s southern island.
The base of Kabuki makeup is composed of pale white makeup. Added to this base are the thick lines, called “kumadori”. Kumadori colours are typically black, red and blue. Brown is also used, though with less frequency.
The kumadori lines reveal the character’s role in the play. The lines symbolize facial muscles and veins and therefore provide symbolic meaning to the character by indicating expressions such as anger, justice, evil and so on.
The kumadori are combined to portray a sophistication of character. For example, red usually indicates justice. However, it can also suggest vividness of personality or anger. And while blue kumadori tends to connotate evil, blue may reflect a noble person. That brown is used less regularly is due to its use in depicting non-human characters, such as ghosts or monsters.