Precursors and Unruly Vanguards

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Assure Dition Lost Stake Folk 

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Notes

  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.
    Benito Ortolani, The Japanese Theatre revised edition (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1990) 77.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kawatake Shigetoshi, Nihon Engeki Zensh (Tokyo:Iwanami Shoten, 1959) 91–92; Benito Ortolani, The Japanese Theatr 76–77.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Kawatake Shigetoshi, Nihon Engeki Zensh 101; Gunji Masakatsu, Kabuki Nyumo 40–41.Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    Watanabe Tamotsu, Kabuki Handobukk (Tokyo:Shinshokan, 1993) 62. There is a great deal of conjecture concerning the identity of Okuni’s male partner. Watanabe and Domoto both name an ex-samurai, Nagoya Sanza or SanzaburO, as the male partner. But facts substantiating Nagoya Sanza’s existence are unclear. Further, the male character in the early skits might have been named Sanza and thereby confused with the real person. For my purposes, the important point is that scholars conjecture from texts and pictures that a man played the female gender role in Okuni’s prostitute buying scenes. See Domoto YatarO, Karnigata Engekish 25.Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    Domoto Yataro, Karnigata Engekish 26–27.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    Kawatake Shigetoshi, Nihon Engeki Zensh 252.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution:An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” PerforminX Feminisnu ed. Sue-Ellen Case (Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990) 273.Google Scholar
  9. 28.
    Domoto YatarO, Kamigata Engekish 25; Gunji Masakatsu, Kabuki Nyumo 50–52; Gunji Masakatsu, personal interview, Tokyo, 1993.Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    See Cecilia Segawa Seigle, Yoshiwar 8–9, 20–23, for more explanation on the legislation and prostitute world inside and outside the licensed quarters. She notes that many samurai, in the period of great displacement, 1600–1640, became brothel owners, which may have contributed to restricting women from public performance.Google Scholar
  11. 38.
    Jacob Raz, Audience andActors:A Study of theirInteraction in JapaneseTraditionalTheatr (Leiden:Brill, 1983) 136.Google Scholar
  12. 46.
    Benito Ortolani, The]apanese Theatr 164. Ortolani’s explanation is fascinating and sheds light on Kawatake’s brief reference to kabukimono in Nihon Engeki Zensh 243.Google Scholar
  13. 49.
    Ayako Kano, Acting like a Woman in Modernjapa (NewYork:Palgrave, 2001) 66–73. While there is not enough space here for a longer discussion of Kano’s use of “queering” in relationship to the kabuki onnagata, her reading of government authority and the alignment of gender and sex in theatrical performance raises new questions concerning the manipulation of the female body in relationship to nationhood.Google Scholar
  14. 51.
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  15. 53.
    Moriya Takeshi, Kinsei Gein 73. Kawatake Shigetoshi points out bans were continually reissued as there was no way of controlling all performances in the country. Further, each city had its own way of dealing with the Edo based bakuf bans. See Kawatake Shigetoshi, Nihon Engeki Zensh 268–269.Google Scholar
  16. 54.
    Moriya Takeshi, Kinsei Gein 77. By 1642, non-licensed prostitution was illegal, and the bakuf had succeeded in setting up separate areas for theatre and prostitution entertainments.Google Scholar
  17. 69.
    Donald H. Shively, “The Social Environment of Tokugawa Kabuki,” Studies in Kabuki:Its Acting, Music, and Historical Context ed. James R. Brandon, William P. Malm, and Donald H. Shively (1978; Honolulu:University of Hawaii Press, 1979) 9.Google Scholar
  18. 102.
    Kawatake Shigetoshi, Nihon Engeki Zensh 278, 282, 288. From about 1642 on, the bakuf continually issued restrictions. Edo, Kyoto, and Osaka each dealt with the restrictions separately, with Edo, as the samurai capitol, having the most leniency and exceptions to the rules.Google Scholar
  19. 103.
    Kawatake Shigetoshi, Nihon Engeki Zensh 284, 286.Google Scholar
  20. 110.
    Kawatake Shigetoshi, Nihon Engeki Zensh 278. Kawatake alludes to the strength of the wakash aesthetic as women also emulated that ideal. He comments on the highly esteemed “Narihira-like wakashu” the young boy who possessed the beauty of the mythic poet courtier, Narihira. The beautiful adolescent boy had become the icon of beauty. Onoe Baiko VII, personal interview, Tokyo, 1993. Ichikawa Ennosuke III, personal interview, Tokyo, 1993.Google Scholar
  21. 117.
    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
  22. 122.
    Ihara ToshirO, ed. Kabuki Nempyö ed. Kawatake Shigetoshi and Yoshida Teruji, revised edition, volume 1 (1956; Tokyo:Iwanami Shoten, 1973) 73.Google Scholar
  23. 129.
    Kawatake Shigetoshi, Nihon Engeki Zensh 255, 258–260. Note Kawatake’s comparison of yūj kabuki with the postwar “strip” shows of Tokyo.Google Scholar

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© Katherine Mezur 2005

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  • Katherine Mezur

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