Precursors and Unruly Vanguards

The Renegade Acts of Exceptional Women, Exotic Maidens, and Erotic Boys Heian through Early Edo (794–1652)
  • Katherine Mezur


Throughout this historical review, I examine how onnagata gender acts evolved, paying particular attention to the role of government censorship, the erasure of women performers, the centrality of male love, and the boy prostitute performer. I also draw attention to the connections between early onnagata gender performance and prostitution, eroticism, and early onnagata stylization practices, and the significance of the boy body and gender ambiguity in onnagata performance.


Gender Role Role Type Female Gender Role Gender Performance Performance Style 
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  1. 1.
    Furuido Hideo, interview. Furuido cites the shirabyoslr and later mik as the models that early onnagata used to construct the himesam (princess) and musum (young girl) role types. He gave the example of the famous Musume Dojoj (The Maiden of Dojo Temple) dances of the kabuki repertoire, and emphasized that the onnagata stylized their gender acts from adolescent or even younger performers.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
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  3. 3.
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    See Ihara Saikaku, The Great Mirro 245–253, 293–300 for descriptions of manners and acts related to serving guests. For paintings and prints of wakash and onnagata see Hattori Yukio, Edo no Shibai-e o Yorn (Tokyo:Kodansha, 1993) 47–74, 88, 97, 141, 187, 198–199.Google Scholar
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© Katherine Mezur 2005

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  • Katherine Mezur

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