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The epochal Imperial Command Performances of April 1887, when kabuki was presented before the Meiji Emperor. Records also remain of a much earlier performance at the imperial court in Kyoto by Nakamura Kanzaburo I in the early 17th century. The 1887 performances were held at the residence of the Foreign Minister and were attended by the Emperor, Empress, and many foreign dignitaries. The Emperor was said to have enjoyed Danjuro IXís performance in The Subscription List (Kanjincho), which he declared easier to understand than its noh version.

Kabuki actors had always been discriminated against, so being able to perform before the Emperor was a great step forward towards social equality. The performances are also notable since they were the first time that electric lights were used on stage in Japan.


Uiro is a popular cure-all medicine from the town of Odawara mentioned in the play Uiro Uri (The Medicine Peddler), one of the Kabuki Eighteen. The medicine itself is said to have its roots in China. Danjuro IIís theatrical imitation of the rapid sales patter of the uiro hawkers gave him a huge hit in the 1718 play, Verdant Green and the Energetic Soga. Today, uiro is also the name of a popular steamed sweet bun from Nagoya, so-called because itís shape is similar to that of the medicine.

Uogashi (the fishmarket)

In Edo, it was said that there were just three places where 1000 gold pieces changed hands daily. In the morning there was the city fishmarkets, in the afternoon the three licensed kabuki theatres, and in the evening the licensed pleasure quarter of Yoshiwara. There have always been close links between these three locations. Still today when the play Sukeroku is performed, the wooden clogs and purple-dyed headband that characterize the role are presented to the actor by representatives of the Tokyo fishmarket. As the actor emerges on stage, he bows his head in acknowledgement of their gift.

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