Kabuki's Forgotten War
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
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Some material in this book was first presented in colloquia at the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University; the Department of Performance Studies, Brown University; the International Symposium: Nō Theater Transversal, Trier University...
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I did not plan to write this book. It forced its presence on me while I was doing research on the censorship that kabuki endured during the American Occupation that followed Japan’s defeat in World War II. As I read descriptions of kabuki that were written in the immediate postwar years, I was struck by...
Part 1: Kabuki’s Foreign Adventure: 1931–1939
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1. Prelude to War
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Kabuki’s place in Japanese society between 1931 and 1945 closely followed the trajectory of the “Fifteen-Year War” being waged by the Greater Japanese Empire against China, Britain, Holland, Australia, and the United States. When the war on the...
2. Kabuki and the Manchurian and Shanghai Incidents: 1931-1934
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As we have seen, a number of ichiyazuke plays in kabuki dealt with contemporary social and political events in the decade leading up to 1931. And even further back, during the Sino- Japanese and Russo-Japanese conflicts, new war plays sprang up like grass after...
3. Kabuki and the Marco Polo Bridge Incident: 1937-1938
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The hiatus in producing new kabuki plays about the war in China ended in late summer 1937 when the Kwantung Army instigated the incident at Marco Polo Bridge (Lugouqiao) and launched an all-out offensive against China designed to force...
4.The Darkening Storm: 1939
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During 1939 the government exhibited a paralyzing ambivalence in national policy. Stalemated in China with no good end in sight, the army was obsessed with a Northern Advance...
Part 2: Fruits of Victory: 1940–1942
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5. Kabuki and 2,600 Years of Imperial Rule: 1940
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The year 1940 marked a watershed for kabuki in wartime Japan. Throughout the year, the kabuki world joined the entire nation in celebrating a New Order in Japan and the 2,600th anniversary of the founding of the imperial line...
6. Confrontation with America and Britain: 1941
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Many months before the war with the Anglo-American enemy began on December 8, 1941, imperial subjects were regaled with the well-worn admonition “Luxury Is the Enemy” and a newer, more ominous warning, “No Personal Desires until...
7. Japan and Kabuki at the Zenith: 1942
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In early 1942 Japan was poised to become the master of Asia. Seemingly without pause the Imperial Army and Imperial Navy were moving from victory to astonishing victory. The Pearl Harbor bombing was said to have obliterated America’s Pacific navy...
Part 3: Defeat and Survival: 1943–1945
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8. Kabuki and Japan’s “Decisive Battle”: 1943
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As a 1943 New Year’s greeting, kabuki actor Bandō Mitsugorō VIII shared a sober poem with his fans: “All the more shall my birth and life be worthwhile, if I die under His Majesty the Emperor’s sacred...
9. Kabuki Is a Luxury: 1944
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New Year 1944 presented a discordant double image of theater in Japan. When stores and offices reopened in early January, holiday celebrants flooded into entertainment districts in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. On the surface, theater had recovered...
10.The Agony Ends: 1945
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The wholesale decline of kabuki theater in the first six months of 1945 was inescapably tied to the shuddering collapse of the Japanese Empire. The individual actor was like a drowning sailor caught in the powerful wake of his sinking ship. Fate would determine...
11. War Plays in Kabuki - a Retrospection: August 1945
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Kabuki’s role during Japan’s fifteen-year Sacred War is essentially unknown in the West, and in Japan it is either forgotten or ignored. That era of military horrors is so embarrassing or painful, even after some seventy years, that most Japanese do...
Part 4: Kabuki Outlasts the Occupation: 1945–1947
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12. Inventing Classic Kabuki: 1945–1947
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When Emperor Hirohito surrendered unconditionally on August 15, 1945, the military struggle between the Japanese Empire and the Allied Powers came to an abrupt end. Japan had “lost” the war, but hostility toward American cultural values...
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Index of Play Titles in English and Japanese
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Index of Kabuki Actors’ Names in the Text
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Publication Year: 2009