Essay on Onnagata: The Art of Woman in Japanese Kabuki

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The grace of a swan, subtle graceful movements, beauty, and finesse, these are all aspects of the Japanese Onnagata 1.The Onnagata (male actors portraying women) in Japan is viewed as the ideal women, according to the revered Misaki Isaka, their conduct “offstage is made responsible for artistry onstage, such as singing (ka), dancing (bu), and acting (ki)” 2. This is how Japanese society has come to view them over the years, but in reality, the Onnagata is a repressed individual that is not allowed to express their masculinity in any facet in society. This can be seen in a quote, within a short story, written by Yukio Mishima; “ He must live as a woman in his daily life, he is unlikely to be considered an accomplished Onnagata. When he …show more content…
Actors at this time, in this particular mode of acting, were not seen as human until the Meiji period. They were seen to be akin to puppets that could be disposed of, if they disobeyed. The actors were seen to have to follow a strict code of rules in order for them to be able to remain in the Kabuki industry in this period, such as not showing any homosexual tendencies and never breaking the illusion of being a woman.
The manner in which the gender of female in Kabuki comes about is through the explicit commodification of the female person, this is seen as, "Denying real women representation in favor of a fictional construct favoring patriarchal values"5. This takes away the voice of real women in Japan at this period along with the Onnagata, for if they do not speak within their realm of allowance they would be punished. Women, in this period, occupied a very low station in Japan; in Kabuki the men are depicted as being more women than woman. For the Onnagata is able to express emotions and act in such a way at all times that the ordinary wife and mother cannot. This leaves the woman in Japan with no place in society, due to this form of discrimination in which women are not good enough to play women, so men must do it for them. There is a misogynistic undertone to society and theater in this period that caused this extreme form of repression, which did not allow whole groups of people to be themselves. The women in Japanese society and Onnagata shared the same…