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Kabuki (歌舞伎), meaning song or dance, is a traditional form of Japanese theatre. It was founded in 1603 by Okuni, an attendant from Izumo Shrine, who introduced her style of dance in the dry river beds of Kyoto; the style was instantly popular. Initially kabuki was ensemble dancing performed by women. When the government banned women from the stage to protect public morals in 1629, then banned young men from the stage in 1652, Kabuki developed into a sophisticated, highly stylized and all-male form called yaro kabuki. The men who play the roles of women are referred to as onnagata. The other two major styles are oregata (Masculine) and wagata (Comical). Its development was pioneered by Ichikawa Danjuro (1660-1704) in Edo and Sakata Tojuro (1647-1709) in the Kyoto-Osaka area.

Plays are divided into three categories: jidai-mono (historical), sewa-mono (domestic), and shosagoto (dance pieces).

Important characteristics of Kabuki theater include the mie, in which the actor holds a picturesque pose to establish his character, and the hanamichi, an entry path on which the actor becomes the character.