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Kabuki's Forgotten War1931-1945$
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James R. Brandon

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832001

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832001.001.0001

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date: 20 October 2018

War Plays in Kabuki—a Retrospection

War Plays in Kabuki—a Retrospection

August 1945

(p.320) Chapter Eleven War Plays in Kabuki—a Retrospection
Kabuki's Forgotten War

James R. Brandon

University of Hawai'i Press

Kabuki theater was a living, contemporary performing art as late as 1945. When the war was over and American Occupation officials responsible for theater arrived in Japan, they were told that kabuki plays were wholly “traditional” and carried no “meaning” for modern audiences. Consequently, according to this view, kabuki drama did not present a threat to the democratic aims of the Occupation. One week after Japan's surrender, it was announced that Shōchiku's basic postwar policy was to perform only traditional kabuki plays. In place of a mixed repertory of traditional and contemporary plays, Shōchiku now committed itself to a wholly classical repertory, thus turning the fabricated myth that kabuki was a “pure art” into reality. This is the origin of the repetitious, traditional kabuki programs known today. This chapter looks at how this enormous change in the nature of kabuki was brought about after August 15, 1945. It considers how new plays related to Japan's desperate war situation.

Keywords:   kabuki theater, wartime Japan, Sacred War, American Occupation, traditional plays, kabuki plays

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