Kabuki gates


Everyone has heard of Kabuki, right? Even for people without a particular interest in Japan would know Kabuki is a type of traditional Japanese theatre where beautifully-costumed performers sing & dance to tell a story. Despite living in Japan for over nine years, I don’t know a great deal more than this. It’s just not my cup of cha.

What motivated me to at least check Wikipedia for some background information about Kabuki was the fact that there is a type of Japanese gate also called Kabuki. Let’s break it down.

  • Kabuki (theatre) is written as 歌舞伎, with each Chinese character representing Sing, Dance & Skill respectively.
  • Kabuki (gate) is written as 冠木. The first character means best or peerless, the second means wood.

As you can now see, the two Kabuki’s are unrelated. This now-obvious bombshell has left me somewhat disappointed. Anyway, moving right along. What does this Kabuki gate actually look like? A picture would quickly put us out of our misery but let me first try to explain. Let’s look at the word “little”, after writing e, you would go back & cross the two t‘s, which I believe is common practice to do in one stroke. That’s what the gate looks like – those two crossed t‘s.

more Japanese gates.

Tags: , ,

  • http://chaari.wordpress.com Toranosuke

    In case you were not already aware, I am a huge kabuki fan. So it is a bit disappointing to learn that these kabuki gates have nothing to do with the theatre. On the other hand, I really can’t imagine what kind of gates would be derived from or associated with the theatre.

    The Kanamaru-za in Kagawa-ken, the oldest extant kabuki theatre that’s still in use, has, I believe (I’ve never been there, just read about it), a relatively typically arrangement of 大戸 and 小戸, not entirely unlike what might be found on a machiya house/shop. So, not exactly any kind of “gate” that could be reinterpreted to be used as a castle gate. …. Then again, there are all kinds of curtains and gates used within the theatre, i.e. onstage. So, there’s always the possibility….

  • http://www.poolofzen.com コルーズ・真秀

    Personally, English has plenty of words with the same sounds but different meanings for me. Japanese on the other hand is in a whole other ball park. It’s really disturbing when I ask my friends what a song means and they tell me they have to look at the lyrics, otherwise they aren’t sure what the artist is saying!

    Just another piece of the ‘Japanese Puzzle’ that I can’t get enough of I suppose.

    -I tried to go to my first Kabuki performance in 2009, but the troupe was performing short modern plays at the time. (At least that’s what I got from the flier.) So no go for me. But, I am determined to see it sooner or later. (which brings up another disturbing point about Japanese…. that the Japanese who goto Kabuki need headphones for the modern translation so they know what is happening!!!)

    Always enjoy Toranosuke’s comments by the way. A knowledgeable fellow I think!


  • http://www.poolofzen.com コルーズ・真秀

    Oh, and the woodblock print you have is of, Actor Otani Iniji III as the Footman of Edobei, By Toshusai Sharaku, Edo Period, dated 1794.


  • admin

    :) Thx for the comments/info guys. Sorry to disappoint you Toranosuke. I did know the topic was close to your heart.

    As for different words/same sound, there are so, so many. 球磨(Kuma) as in Kuma river in Kumamoto Prefecture. 隈(Kuma) as in Kumamoto Castle, the castle that replaced 熊本城(Kumamoto Castle). It’s all so confusing. 阿 – also Kuma but in Kumamoto Prefecture, 阿蘇山 is Mt Aso. My brain is about to explode.

    The woodblock print (thank you Pool O’Zen) of the Kabuki actor reminds me of a T-rex dinosaur with his little arms.