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Modern Formations of Gender and Performance

  • Ayako Kano

Abstract

In the final years of the reign of Meiji emperor (1868–1912), a new kind of woman appeared in the pages of Engei gahō (Theater graphic), a theater magazine featuring many photographs and sketches as well as performance reviews and essays. First published in 1907, the magazine had been including in almost every issue a page or two of photographs of the most popular geisha of the day. Dressed in Japanese kimono or Western dress, these women had shared the same space with male actors. But in the last years of the Meiji era, a new breed of women started appearing on these pages, arrayed in composite photographs, symbolically announcing that henceforth actresses, not geisha, were to be featured and contraposed with male actors. These photos thus announced the beginning of a new era, the era of the actress as modern woman and modern performer.

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Notes

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    Hagii Kōzō, Shimpa no gei (The art of shimpa) (Tokyo: Tōkyō Shoseki, 1984), 184. Ichikawa Kumehachi later became an instructor at Kawakami Sadayakko’s Actress Training Institute and seems to have taught mostly kabuki-style dancing. See Matsumoto Shinko, Meiji engeki ron shi (A history of Meiji theater discussions) (Tokyo: Engeki Shuppansha, 1980), 943–44. On the Actress Training Institute, see chapter 4. Also see Angela Kimi Coaldrake, Women’s Gidayū and the Japanese Theatre Tradition (London: Routledge, 1997) for a fascinating discussion of female performers of musical storytelling (gidayū).Google Scholar
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    Enami Shigeyuki and Mitsuhashi Toshiaki, “Modan toshi kaidokudokuhon: ami wa kindai no “chikaku” o ōdan sum “chishiki/kenryoku” no keifugaku (A reader to “decode the modern city:” Or, a genealogy of knowledge/power traversing the “senses” of the modern) (Tokyo: JICC, 1988).Google Scholar
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    The state’s effort to reform theater culminated in, and to a certain extent subsided with, the 1911 opening of the Teikoku Gekijō, the unofficial “imperial theater.” See Mine Takashi, Teikoku Gekijō kaimaku (The opening of the Imperial Theater) (Tokyo: Chūō Kōronsha, 1996). It is interesting to note that as far as theater reform was concerned, commercial considerations were secondary to political considerations about national prestige: Teikoku Gekijō was not a money-making venture, and the executives serving on its board were barely paid a salary. See Mine, Teikoku, 305.Google Scholar

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© Ayako Kano 2001

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  • Ayako Kano

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