Advisory reader age for this book is 17+
When I got home I cleared away what was on my desk, sat down with the books I had brought, and began to read. My cat, Clarice, came and meowed at me, then jumped up on my lap. Absently I rubbed her head. Kabuki was thought to have begun in 1603 when a certain woman performed dances by a river in men’s clothing. She flirted with a “woman” played by a man who hid his moustache with a fan. Same year as the founding of the Tokugawa shogunate. No doubt I read that before and dismissed it from my mind. If Kabuki mattered to me at all, it was only because the shogunate viewed it as a threat to the government. It was performed by women first, prostitutes, and when that was banned because they were corrupting the public morals, it was performed by adolescent boys, who were banned for the same reason. Then by grown men. The actors were outside society. Not citizens. Deception of the authorities was a way of life for everyone associated with Kabuki. They and the prostitutes were confined to a pleasure quarter outside the city proper, called the aku-sho. It was like going back to the beginning of my studies; I lost track of the passage of the afternoon, I carried the book with me when I got up to eat or go to the bathroom or feed Clarice or let her out the back door. For some reason I couldn’t explain, bald facts held a certain resonance, something more that I could not name but that attracted me. Each detail seemed a potential occasion for reflection and yet I could not stop to contemplate it because I had to know what was on the next page, as if beyond that turning there waited the very thing that would make all the difference. All what difference, I could not have said. But it was as if in creating Kabuki the players had uncovered a truth which had been waiting all this time for me to find and decipher it – as if those actors in Edo period Japan, a world in which I could never have felt at home, had left me a message whose implication I might grasp from one moment to the next. obooko.
Also by Lowy Pei on obooko: