Accepted paper:

The Social Diversity of Kabuki Audiences in Tokyo during the Meiji Era


Takayuki Hioki (Shirayuri University)

Paper short abstract:

The social spectrum of Kabuki audiences is claimed to have changed during the Meiji period. This paper clarifies the social diversity kabuki audiences by comparing newspaper articles concerning both high-brow and low-brow Kabuki theatres in Tokyo.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses the diversity of Kabuki theatres and their audiences in the Meiji era (1868-1912). During 17th century, several licensed theatres operated in Edo (Tokyo), but after 1714 (Shōtoku 4), only three Kabuki theatres remained. In 1872 (Meiji 5), the Tokyo prefectural government expanded the limit on the number of theatre in the city to allowing a maximum of ten Kabuki theatres. Evidence indicating that the disposition of the audience differed between these theatres can be found in newspaper or magazine articles throughout the Meiji era. It is suspected that the differences mainly came from the difference in social class of the audiences, in combination with the location of the theatres. Nevertheless, previous research on the Kabuki in the Meiji era has not paid enough attention to these differences, and the possible consequences it had for the plays staged. It is generally considered that the Shintomi-za theatre promoted the modernization and the westernization of the Kabuki in the first half of the Meiji era, and the Kabuki-za theatre did the same in the latter half. All the other theatres operating during this same period have been simply regarded as old-fashioned. Recently, a series of articles on koshibai (literally 'small theatre', unprestigious theatre) in the Meiji era has been published, but it is still not clear what the actual condition of the audiences in either the high-brow Shintomi-za nor the low-brow koshibai theatre were. This paper clarifies the differences of the audiences between the prestigious and common theatres, focusing on the social composition of the spectators, by analysing newspaper or magazine articles. Further, I compare the image of the audience emerging with the content of the dramatic works performed at the respective theatres, and outline a 'socio-political' map of the Tokyo theatres in the Meiji era.

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Kabuki and Its Spectators: The Theatrical Experience in Edo- and Meiji Period Japan