First Advisor

Laurence Kominz

Term of Graduation

Winter 2019

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Japanese


World Languages and Literatures




Kabuki -- Performances -- United States -- 20th century, Kabuki -- Performances -- United States -- 21st century, United States -- Foreign relations – Japan, Japan -- Foreign relations -- United States, Censorship -- Japan



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 161 pages)


Transitions from the first kabuki performance abroad in Russia in 1928 to the recent performances around the world show various changes in the purpose and production of kabuki performances overseas. Kabuki has been performed as a Japanese traditional art in the U.S. for about 60 years, and the United States has seen more kabuki than any other country outside of Japan. Those tours were closely tied to national cultural policy of both Japan and the USA in the early years. The first kabuki tour to New York in 1960 helped to reestablish the U.S-Japan relationship after the war.

However, recently kabuki performances in the US have shifted into entertaining and educational events with regional rather than national import. This thesis will investigate productions of large scale Grand Kabuki (Shochiku corporation performers and management) and small scale kabuki related events in the United States, demonstrating how the purposes and the productions have changed throughout the 21st century as compared to the 20th century. The investigation will focus on (1) event management (2) program selection (3) technology (4) audiences' knowledge and experience.

After Chapter Two introduces international kabuki tours in the early stage, Chapter Three will explore the two large-scale U.S. tours in the 20th century: the first U.S. tour in 1960 and the 1990 tour which covered widest area in the USA. In the 21st century, three large scale productions came to the U.S. over six times. Heisei Nakamura-za (troupe) visited New York in 2004, 2007 and 2014. Chikamatsu-za came to three cities in 2005. Kabuki joined the Japan kabuki festival in Las Vegas in 2015 and 2016 with two different productions. Chapter Four will investigate these large-scale tours and Chapter Five will look into small scale Shochiku-related kabuki events using Portland, Oregon as a sample city. Shochiku organized kabuki events in Portland in 2002, 2009, and 2017. These events included dance performances, make-up demonstrations, and in 2017 a costume exhibition. Research on small scale events is also important to understand new ways to present kabuki abroad.


©2019 Narumi Iwasaki

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