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Kabuki is a performing art that combines music, dance, pantomime, song, drama and comedy. In the early 1600s kabuki emerged from traditional Japanese classical theatre and puppet show traditions, incorporating elements of both.
While classical plays are quiet, refined and slow-paced, kabuki is full of spirited action and outsized emotions. Kabuki plays portray characters from Japanese history, legend and folk tales. Great heroes, beautiful princesses, evil spirits, loyal retainers, vengeful warriers and benevolent lords populate the stage. These stories have continued to grip the Japanese imagination, embodying as they do the much-valued ideals of loyalty, courage and strength.
The city of Edo (the ancient name for Tokyo) was a centre for woodblock print artists and its theatre district was home to the most prominent kabuki theatres, geisha houses, restaurants and teahouses. Artists began to reflect these pleasures by producing woodblock prints called ukiyo-e, or "images of the floating world". The favoured subjects were beautiful women, kabuki plays and actors, wrestlers, aspects of nature and landscapes.
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