Accepted paper:

On Kabuki Performed at Feudal Mansions - The Spectators


Hiroko Goto (Tezukayama University)

Paper short abstract:

Kabuki performances were also held at the mansion of feudal lords. Based on diaries and household records, this presentation will show the social scale of the spectators attending these events and discuss their relevance as a part of Kabuki's audience.

Paper long abstract:

During the Edo period, Kabuki theatres obtained licenses to operate in the city itself, and drew large audiences to its theatres. However, Kabuki was also performed at the feudal lords private mansions. It is therefore necessary to include the spectators attending these private performances in order to grasp the total scope of the Kabuki audience during this period. Feudal lords were obliged travel between their domains and the capital on alternate years, and leave a part of his family in the capital when they were spending the year in the domain, as a kind of hostage to the government. The feudal lords therefore maintained several estates in the capital, and celebrations and social events at these estates formed an important base upon which the urban culture of Edo could grow. Also Kabuki performances held at the feudal estates were a part of the social life of the warrior strata. From diaries written by the feudal lords themselves and their household records, we know that Kabuki actors were regularly called to perform at the estates to celebrate the guest of honor and/or amuse the members of the feudal household. These performances would mostly be performed on a temporary stage in a large tatami room called the zashiki - hence the performances were also called zashiki-Kabuki. In this presentation, I will analyze the social spectrum of the spectators at the zashiki performances at the estate of the feudal lord of Kaga and Tsushima domains (present day Ishikawa and Nagasaki prefectures) based on the household records and diaries from the late 17th to the early 18th century. I will show that the audience consisted not only of the guests of honor and family members of the feudal lord, but that also low ranking warriors and footmen were allowed to attend, and that sometimes there were several hundred spectators. I will show that the spectators attending these zashiki Kabuki performances formed an important spectator base, supporting and influencing Kabuki's development as an art form.

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