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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Performing Arts
Shibai
A popular term for "theater" (engeki). Originally the term referred to the lawn (shibafu) of sacred grounds, such as temple or shrine precincts. Since the Edo period (1600-1867) it has also been used to refer to kabuki or kabuki theaters. The Muromachi period had seen the flourishing of performances of subscription sarugaku and kusemai, for which stages were set up on temple and shrine grounds. Since the lawn thus became the area for the audience, shibai (literally "inhabiting the lawn") came to refer to the spectator area of any theatrical performance. In the case of large-scale subscription events, where raised boxed seating (sajiki) was constructed for nobles and other high-class spectators, the area between the boxes and the stage became the shibai for the general public. In kabuki, this distinction between the boxed seating for the upper classes and the ground level for the masses was continued, but since kabuki itself had developed as a popular entertainment for the masses, the term shibai took on the connotation of the entire theater building. By extension, it also came to refer to the art of kabuki itself, as well as to kabuki plays and their performance. That the term shibai came to comprise the meanings of drama, theater building, plays, and performance can thus be seen as a reflection of the character of kabuki, in which these various elements were united to form a single theater world. From the new theatre of the early modern period, the word engeki has become more most common, but the word shibai still continues to be used as well, even for modern theatre.

— Takayama Shigeru
Footage of the Yamaagesai held in Nasukarasuyama City. An outdoor Kabuki play is performed as part of the festival.

Tochigi Prefecture, 2007

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