Moving around and moving with the times: Kabuki and its consumer culture

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper investigates the role of the traditional Japanese drama form, kabuki, in contemporary consumer culture. Its particular focus is the kabuki associated with the Ginza Kabukiza, a major kabuki venue which opened in Tokyo in April 2013. It explores what impact the movement of people, things and practices associated with kabuki have on consumer culture within and beyond Japan. According to Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s greeting in the programme for the opening performance at the Ginza Kabukiza, kabuki has moved on from being “Japanese” to being “global” during the period since the opening of the last Kabukiza in 1951, so the paper also attempts to assess the accuracy and/or socio-political relevance of this statement. The “people” examined here are those concerned with the production and consumption of kabuki and its surrounding culture, such as performers, promoters, theatre management and audiences. For the purposes of this discussion, “things” refers to material products associated with kabuki consumer culture. These include items bought and sold in and around the theatre, but also items inspired by or related to kabuki that influence the consumer culture in the wider market sphere. The theatrical performances presented on stage are defined as “practice,” as are the activities undertaken to promote kabuki and integrate it with consumer culture locally and globally. The historical background to kabuki’s consumer culture is introduced in order to determine how it has been constructed. From the time of its emergence during the Edo period (1603-1867), kabuki has operated as a commercial venture. It has therefore developed and maintained close links with others engaged in advertising and marketing commodities. Kabuki’s consumer culture also has an established tradition of mobile consumption which began with the growth of interregional domestic trade and communication during the Edo period and was further fostered by the opening up of international trade and communication from the Meiji period (1868-1912) onwards. A detailed analysis of the consumer culture based around the Ginza Kabukiza today illustrates how some of these patterns of movement have persisted and been adapted in line with current trends and argues that they have contributed significantly to kabuki’s continued economic success. There follows a discussion as to how far kabuki’s reception abroad is connected with the concept of “cool Japan” and perceived strength of Japanese soft power. The conclusion underlines the capacity of kabuki’s consumer culture to “move with the times” in both commercial and artistic terms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMoving Around
Subtitle of host publicationPeople, Things and Practices in Consumer Culture
EditorsHiroki Shin, Shinobu Majima, Yusuke Tanaka
Place of PublicationJapan
PublisherForum for History of Consumer Culture
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9784990820213
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015
EventMoving Around: People, Things and Practices in Consumer Culture - Gakushuin University, Tokyo, Japan
Duration: 2 Sep 20144 Sep 2014


ConferenceMoving Around: People, Things and Practices in Consumer Culture


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