A Preliminary Guide to Japanese Theater Reference Materials

Loren Edelson



This report is a preliminary attempt to bring together some of the important reference materials available in the C.V. Starr Library for students of Japanese theater.   Due to time constraints, I have focused on what the Japanese broadly refer to as engeki or geinō, which includes both traditional forms such as noh, kyōgen, bunraku (ningyō jōruri), and kabuki, and modern forms like shinpa and shingeki . I have not included a specific section on minzoku geinō , the folk forms, which encompass rituals, parades, festivals, and religious ceremonies, that have played such a crucial role in the development of Japanese theater.   I have included information about two video sets, however, that focus on some of these folk forms and rituals. In compiling this guide, I have tried not to duplicate other sections of Bib95, but there will be some overlap (see the literature pages, for example). There are still many reference items that I have not covered, but I hope that students will find this a useful departure point for research in Japanese theater.




Using this guide

If you have a particular research query, you might find it most helpful to read through the FAQ , which is divided into three categories: general queriestraditional theater , and modern theater , to see if you can find an appropriate match. I have attempted to anticipate many research queries, but I realize that there will be many more questions that are left unasked (and unanswered). If you cannot find an appropriate match, consider reading through the entire guide , found at the end of the FAQ to get an idea of Starr’s resources. Based on the individual descriptions of the material, you might find an answer to your question. It is assumed that the reader is aware of Starr’s general reference resources.








General queries



Q: I am just beginning my theater research project, and want to get an overview of what has been written on my topic.  Where should I begin?


A: See Engeki hyakka daijiten for topics before 1960; for more recent topics, see the on-line encyclopedia Netto de hyakka [insert link].


Q:   Does Starr own any print bibliographies that specifically list English-language books on theater?  


A: Guide to Japanese Drama


Q: Are there any print bibliographies that specifically list Japanese-language theater books?


A: Japanese Performing Arts : An Annotated Bibliography and Nihon engeki shomoku kaidai


Q: What are some recent theater topics on which Japanese students have written their dissertations?


A: See Engekigaku .


Q: Where can I find basic biographical information about a Japanese performer?


A: A great place to begin is the Geinō jinbutsu jiten . Also see Nihon gein ō jinmei jiten .

Q:  Where can I find famous quotes or maxims attributed to Japanese actors?

A: Geinō meigen jiten


Q: How can I verify the proper reading of a Japanese play title?


A: Check in Engeki gedai yōran . To verify a   kabuki and/or jōruri title, see Kabuki jōruri gedai yomikata jiten .


Q: Are there any English-language academic journals that are exclusively devoted to Japanese theater?


A: No, but Asian Theater Journal regularly provides coverage of Japanese theater.


Q: Does the Starr Library collect theater programs?


A: Starr collects programs from the Kokuritsu Gekijō , Japan’s National Theater.


Q: Are there any organizations devoted to Japanese theater?


A: Consider joining the Association for Asian Performance and New York’s Japan Society .




Traditional theater queries


Q: What are the best kabuki resources to help me learn more about actors, acting conventions, and plays?


A: For help in English, see New Kabuki Encyclopedia ; for explanations in Japanese, see Kabuki jiten


Q: Where can I find a good synopsis of a kabuki play?


A: For help in English, see New Kabuki Encyclopedia ; for Japanese synopses, see both Kabuki meisaku jiten and  Kanazawa’s Kabuki meisaku jiten .


Q: What is one of the first resources that I should consult to find basic biographical information about a kabuki actor?


A: Kabuki jinmei_jiten


Q:  I need to verify a specific date about a kabuki production. Where should I look?


A: Kabuki_nenpy ō


Q:  How can I check how to read a kabuki and/or jōruri title?


A: Kabuki_jōruri_gedai_yomikata_jiten


Q: Which journals devoted to kabuki does Starr own?


For post-WWII coverage, see Engeki-kai and Kabuki kenkyū to hihyō ; for pre-WWII research, see  

Engei gahō .


Q: Where can I find an explanation of terms used in noh and kyōgen?


A: Noh_kyōgen jiten


Q:  Are there any print bibliographies that list recent journal articles on topics related to traditional Japanese theatre?


A :Nihon kōten engeki , kinsei bunken mokuroku 1997 nenpan and Kinsei engeki kenkyū bunken mokuroku .


Q: Where can I find a synopsis of a rakugo story?


A: Rakugo jiten


Q: Which guides offer a good introduction to traditional Japanese theater?


A: See Kabuki Handobukku and Noh Kyōgen zuten .


For reference in English, see the following guidebooks:   Kodama Shoko’s bilingual The Complete Guide to Traditional Japanese Performing Arts ( Tokyo : Kodansha, 2000), Ronald Cavaye’s Kabuki: A Pocket Guide (Tokyo: Tuttle, 1993), and P.G. O’Neill’s A Guide to (Tokyo: Hinoki Shoten, 1954). There are an increasing number of anthologies that contain full-length translations of traditional and modern plays. See, for example, Don Kenny’s The Kyogen Book: An Anthology of Japanese Classical Comedies (Tokyo: Japan Times, 1989)[PL782.E5 K964 1989g], Donald Keene, ed. 20 Plays of the Theatre (New York: Columbia, 1970) PN2924.5 .E5 K4 , Karen Brazell, ed. Traditional Japanese Theater: An Anthology (New York: Columbia, 1998) PL782.E5 T73 1998 , and James Brandon and Samuel L. Leiter , eds. (Kabuki plays on stage. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2002. PL782.E5 K36 2002. For a listing of plays in English, see < >



Modern theater queries



Q: Where might I find a synopsis of and production information on twentieth-century plays?

A: 20-seiki no gikyoku: Nihon kindai gikyoku no sekai   and 20-seiki no gikyoku II: gendai gikyoku no tenkai and Nihon gikyoku sōmokuroku

Q: I want to verify the date of a twentieth-century Japanese theater production. Where should I go?


A: First, check in Engeki nenpyō   If the information you need is not there, see Engeki nenkan


Q: I need information on a Japanese adaptation of a Western play? I’ve already looked in Engeki hyakka dai-jitten and the on-line version Netto de hyakka. Can you suggest another useful resource?


A: Nihon gikyoku sōmokuroku . To verify a date, see Engeki nenpyō .


Q: Does Starr own any journals devoted to modern Japanese theater?        

A: Yes, see Higeki Kigeki .

Q: Are there any recent anthologies of contemporary full-length Japanese plays?


A: See, for example, Robert T. Rolf and John K. Gillespie’s Alternative Japanese Drama (Honolulu: University of Hawa’i Press, 1992) PL782.E5 A44 1992 as well as the Japan Playwrights Association’s series Half a Century of Japanese Theater (Tokyo: Kinokuniya, 1999) PL782.E5 A44 1992 .



General Guide to reference materials in the C.V. Starr Library


Engeki hyakka dai-jiten 演劇百科大辞典 [Encyclopedia of Theater Arts]

Waseda Daigaku Engeki Hakubutsukan

Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1960-1961

[REF PN 2035.E53 v.1-6]

Pancake # 2287


The bible in Japanese theater resources for plays, performers, theaters, and companies pre-1960. Before you consult any other theater resource, check out what the Engeki hyakka dai-jiten has to say. In many cases, it will provide more information (and the references) than the more specialized dictionary/encyclopedias listed below. This enormous undertaking contains approximately 14,000 entries, with the emphasis on Japan, though it also includes foreign countries. Ancient and modern theater forms are represented as well as movies, radio, and TV. This is also a good place to start if you are working on a project involving Japanese folk forms ( minzoku geinō). Famous characters, such as Shizuka Gozen , also get their own entries. Entries are written and signed by well-known scholars, and, in most cases, references for further reading are provided—a compelling reason to make this your first research stop. Volume 6 includes a chronology of Western and Japanese theater, famous actor genealogies, and a list of specialized theater terminology in English, French, German, and Japanese, a concise annotated bibliography, as well as indexes in Japanese and foreign languages. Even if Waseda were to update this work, this set will remain an invaluable resource in the field.


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Kabuki Jiten   歌舞伎辞典 [Kabuki Encyclopedia]

Hattori Yukio, Tomita Tetsunosuke, Hirosue Tamotsu

Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1983 (1984 printing)

[REF PN2924.5 K3 K111 1984]

Pancake #2291


A good kabuki resource. Articles are signed and occasionally cross-referenced, but sources for further reading are not provided.


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New Kabuki Encyclopedia: an English-language adaptation of kabuki jiten

Leiter , Samuel L.

Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997

[REF: PN2924.5.K3.L44]

Pancake #0404


Leiter’s kabuki encyclopedia, a must for English-speaking kabuki theater scholars, is a major revision of his 1979 work. In this expanded version, Leiter provides plot summaries, actors’ biographies, genealogies, and important facts about kabuki’s history. Look for Leiter and James Brandon’s recent 4-volume set of English-language kabuki translations as well—another important work that has helped to expand and enrich the field of kabuki studies in English.


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Kabuki meisaku jiten   歌舞伎名作辞典  [Dictionary of famous kabuki plays]

Tokyo: Engeki Shupansha , 1984

[REF PN 2924.5 .K4 K118]

Pancake #2299


Offers plot synopses of 306 kabuki plays. Caution: Though there is a table of contents, play titles are not cross-referenced in a helpful way; it’s expected that the user will know the popular title. With that said, each play generally gets a page or half a page, and is illustrated with black-and-white photos. For home reference, I’d suggest purchasing a more recent equivalent, such as Kabuki 101 Monogatari , ed. Watanabe Tamotsu, Shinsokan, 1993.


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Kabuki meisaku jiten 歌舞伎名作辞典  [Dictionary of famous kabuki plays]

Kanazawa Yasutaka

Tokyo: Seiabo, 1959

[REF 2924.5.K3 K362 1959]


Offers synopses of some 400 plays from the kabuki repertory. Synopses are much more concise than the ones noted above, but there are more of them. Also, since Kanazawa has written the entire book, entries tend to be more consistent than the ones in the 1984 edition.  


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Kabuki Handobukku 歌舞伎ハンドプック [Kabuki Handbook]

Fujita Hiroshi

Tokyo: Sanseido, 2000

[REF 2924.5.K3 K352 2000]

Pancake #2300 [notes 1994 edition]


With a generous amount of furigana , pictures, and plot summaries, this is an excellent introduction to kabuki. It serves not only as a good reference, it’s fun to read, since the author has included famous phrases from well-known kabuki plays, author and actor bios, theatrical conventions, and a brief history of kabuki. At the back, Fujita provides info on where to see kabuki today, with phone numbers and websites [p. 270-271] and a listing of books for additional reading.


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Noh kyōgen jiten    [Dictionary of noh and kyōgen]

Nishino Haruo, Haneda Akira

Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1999

[REF PN2924.5.N6 N534 1999]

Pancake #2295 [notes 1987 edition]

A revised edition of the 1987 edition, this work contains more illustrations and entries about the worlds of noh and ky ō gen . Numerous plot summaries of famous plays are provided, but the outstanding feature of this volume—which distinguishes it from the Noh Kyōgen zuten noted below—is that it contains concise actor bios of past and present performers, reminding us that this is still a living art form! The index also contains a bibliography of recent scholarship in noh and ky ō gen studies. [Note to librarians: I don’t think there is a compelling reason for keeping both the 1987 and 1999 editions on the reference shelf; the ’99 version includes most of what is in the ’87 edition].


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Noh Kyōgen zuten 能狂言図典 [Illustrated dictionary of noh and kyōgen ]

Kobayashi Yasuharu, Morita Toshiro

Tokyo: Shogakkan, 1999

[REF PN2924.5.N6 N664 1999]


This is the user-friendly guide to noh and kyō gen on the reference shelf. Beautiful illustrations, furigana , and concise sentences make this the first noh and ky ō gen dictionary for which to reach. Includes plot synopses of famous plays, explanation of conventions, props and specialized terms. While performer genealogies and an explanation of the different schools of noh and ky ōgen are included, this is not the best place to look for information on actor’s themselves. A guide to noh stages is included on page 290-291.


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Nihon gein ō jinmei jiten   日本芸能人名辞典 [ Biographical dictionary of Japanese entertainers]

Kurata Yoshihiro, Fujinami Takayuki, editors

Tokyo: Sanseido, 1995

[REF: PN2927 .N54 1995]


Approximately 7,500 entries on Japanese performers. No citations for further reading are provided, but this is still a good place to find performers’ names, especially women entertainers, who may have been overlooked in the other biographical dictionaries noted below.

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Gein ō jinbutsu jiten 芸能人物辞典、明治大正 昭和 [Biographical dictionary of Entertainers]

Nichigai Asoshietsu

Tokyo : Hatsubaimoto Kinokuniya Shoten

[REF PN2927 .G45 1998]


A wonderful resource to know about if you’re researching someone who lived during the Meiji, Taishō, and Shōwa periods. Arranged in gojūon (Japanese syllabic) order, entries are clear and concise. The outstanding feature is that it includes citations for further research, often with different and more recent work than that cited in Engeki hyakka dai-jiten.


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Kabuki jinmei jiten 歌舞伎人名辞典 [Biographical dictionary of kabuki performers]

Nojima Jusaburo

Tokyo: Hatsubaimoto Kinokuniya Shoten, 1988

[REF: PN2927.K253 1988]

Pancake #2312


Contains entries regarding some 3,800 people in the field of kabuki from its beginnings to the present. Follows Japanese syllabic order with index, chronological table, and biographical information. Most helpful is that the source of the information is actually noted at the end of each entry (of course, whether or not that source is in fact reliable is another question)! Still, this is an excellent place to get a short bio of well-known kabuki performers.


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Geinō meigen jiten 芸能名言辞典 [Maxims from Japanese artists]

Suwa Haruo, editor

Tokyo: Shoseki, 1995

[REF PN 2921.S892 1995]


相手の俳優の呼吸を飲み , 自分ばかり芝居をせず、向こうにも、芝居をさせる事。 Don’t perform if you are alone on stage, drinking up your fellow performer’s breath; let your fellow actor perform


Famous words from the renowned Ichikawa Danjūrō VII back in the nineteenth century. An actor’s performance, Danjūrō VII seems to be saying, is only good as the next person’s, and the next person’s is only as good as your own. This and many, many more famous quotations from performers in the traditional arts, kabuki, noh, kyōgen, nihon buyō, ningyo jōruri, etc, can be found in Suwa’s hefty guide. Most quotes, however, do seem to be taken from kabuki actors, not surprising considering that Suwa has published extensively in this field. Arranged by theme [art and performance, training and rehearsal, etc] and genre, each entry provides the famous quote, explanations of difficult words, source(s), and commentary. It’s easy to overplay the role of these quotations, but it’s another approach to tracking down some theater memorabilia that would otherwise be difficult to find.


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Kabuki jōruri gedai yomikata jiten 歌舞伎浄瑠璃外題読み方辞典 [Guide to reading of each kabuki titles (sic)]

Nojima Jusaburo

Tokyo: Nichigai Asoshietsu , Hatsubaimoto Kinokuniya shoten, 1990

[REF PL767.N64 1990]


This authoritative work of 15,400 kabuki and jōruri play titles largely replaces the need to consult the Engeki gedai yōran noted below (that is for kabuki and jōruri titles). Look titles up by stroke number. Author, date of first production, and theater venue at which the play debuted are generally provided.


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Engeki gedai yōran 演劇外題要覧  [Handbook of Theatrical Play Titles]

Nihon Hōsō yōkai

Tokyo, 1971

[REF Z3308.L5N5 1971]


If you need to decipher a kabuki or jōruri title, use Nojima’s Kabuki jōruri gedai yomikata jiten . If it’s not in listed or you want to know how to read the title of a kyōgen play or other twentieth-century works, consult this dictionary. Listed in gojūon (Japanese syllabic) order, each page is divided into three horizontal columns: the top section gives the title in kanji characters with the furigana ; the center section gives the katakana reading and notes where to place the accent; and the bottom section offers further information about the original title, abbreviated titles, alternative titles, playwrights, etc. An index at the back is helpful, especially if you already know the name of the play for which you are looking.


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Rakugo jiten 落語辞典  [Dictionary of Rakugo (traditional comical stories)]

Tokyo: Seiabo, 1973

PL 776.R26 1973

Pancake #2296

Contains about 260 plot summaries of the popular rakugo (Japanese traditional comical stories). Commentary included. This dictionary has since been updated, but the 1973 edition is the one the Starr library owns.


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20-seiki no gikyoku: Nihon kindaigikyoku no sekai   20世紀の戯曲 : 日本近代戯曲の世界 [Twentieth century drama: The World of Japanese Modern Drama]

Nihon kindai engekishi kenkyukai

Tokyo: Shakai hyoronsha , 1998

PL 739.65.A15 1998

The first of a two-volume series, this work contains approximately twenty short chapters on individual works by different playwrights from the 1880s to 1945. Each entry includes suggestions for further reading and research.


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  20-seiki no gikyoku II: gendaigikyoku no tenkai 20世紀の戯曲II:現代戯曲の展開 [Twentieth-century drama II: The Evolution of Contemporary Drama]

Nihon kindai engekishi kenkyukai

Tokyo: Shakai hyronsha , 2002-11-26

Starr should consider ordering this book. ISBN: 4-7845-0165-7



The second volume of the series noted above. The 480-page volume is a collection of more than fifty essays treating major playwrights and plays produced from 1945 to 1970.




English-language works


Guide to Japanese Drama

Pronko , Leonard C.,

Boston: G.K. Hall & Co, 1984 second edition.

[REF Z3308.L5P76 1984]


A revision version of Pronko’s 1973 Guide to Japanese Drama.  Covering the major traditional forms and shingeki, it presents the major English-language works on Japanese theater published before 1984. This is a useful work for students of Japanese theater to consult since many of the works listed have been totally eclipsed by new scholarship, which has failed to cite these early and sometimes pioneering efforts. All entries are annotated.


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Japanese Performing Arts: An annotated Bibliography

Masato Matsui, Minako I. Song, Tomoyoshi Kurokawa, Albert Ikoma , eds.

Manoa : University of Hawaii, 1981

[REF Z3308.L5J36 1981]


To date, this is the most extensive bibliography of Japanese-language works on Japan’s performing arts in English. The work lists and describes the holdings in the Japanese performing arts collection in University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Thomas Hale Hamilton Library. Though this list is rather dated today, it is still an important resource, since many of the works themselves have yet to be brought up to date. Given the explosion in Japanese theater books published since 1984, University of Hawaii should consider issuing an updated volume.


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Nihon engeki shomoku kaidai 日本演劇書目解題 , [Annotated bibliography of source materials on Japanese Theater]

Fujino Yoshio

Tokyo: Engeki Shuppansha , 1983

[REF Z3308.L5 F93]

Pancake #2280


An annotated bibliography of approximately 2,300 Japanese-language works, including monographs, collections, biographies, and books, on Japanese theater, most of which were published between 1868   and 1983. This appears to be more up to date than Heibonsha’s Nihon engeki kenkyu shomoku kaidai. Call number # 770.3 K17. Categories include: general works, criticism, miscellaneous criticism, actors, noh and kyōgen , kabuki, shingeki, buyō and buyō-geki, ningyō-geki , and scripts. Each entry lists the title, author, brief summary of the work in question, followed by the publisher and date of publication. Entries generally give just basic information about the book, but it is generally enough to know whether or not one should actually find the book and read it. All entries are listed in gojūon (Japanese syllabic) order, and there is an index at the back of the volume. Also includes all of the publishers’ contact information, though this list is probably very dated by now.  I would suggest doing a general bibliographic search in CLIO or Worldcat , etc, before turning to this resource. Though limited since it only lists publications through 1983, it’s still a useful resource for the specialist with limited time (i.e. time to browse the entries but not necessarily read all the books) to quickly grasp what had been published (before 1983). Similar to the works listed in Pronko’s Guide, many of works noted here are now frequently overlooked due to the sheer number of new publications.


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Nihon kōten engeki , kinsei bunken mokuroku 1997 nenpan 日本古典演劇、近世文献目録  [Bibliography of recent publications on traditional Japanese performing arts, 1997 edition]

Chikamatsu kenkyujo kiyo bessatsu

Osaka: Izumi Shoin, 1997

[REF Z3308.L5 n544 1998]

Pancake #2285


A non-annotated listing of many recent journal articles (in this case, 1989-1997) published on traditional Japanese theater.   Articles are grouped together by topic and authors’ names are listed by Japanese syllabic order. Each page is divided into several vertical columns: number: author’s name, date of publication, headline, subject, title, publication name, volume number, issue number, publisher’s name, and price, if applicable. Indexed by keywords which appear in the title. List of periodicals is appended.

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Kinsei engeki kenkyū bunken mokuroku 近世演劇研究文献目録 [Bibliography of recent research on Japanese traditional theater]

Chikamatsu no kai

Tokyo: Yagi Shoten , 1984.

[REF Z3308.L5 K56 1984]

Pancake #2282

Includes a list of works on traditional Japanese drama published from 1951 to 1982. The book is divided into two sections: the first lists books and journal articles monthly from 1951 to 1964, with a strong focus on Chikamatsu’s work in both kabuki and jōruri . The second part, covering 1964-1982, focuses on different topics and includes a monthly listing of the work featured at the Kokuritsu Gekijō (National Theater) during its first fourteen years, and a list of special topics covered in the journals Engeki-kai and Kabuki. Includes an author index.


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Nihon gikyoku sōmokuroku , 1880-1980 日本戯曲総目録 [General bibliography to plays, 1880-1980]

Yokohama-shi: Yokohama Engeki Kenkyujo, 1985

[REF Z3308.L5 n463 1985]

Pancake #2283


This work includes a bibliography of performed and unperformed Japanese dramas published in books and journals between 1880 and 1980. It is divided into two sections: plays written by Japanese and plays written by foreigners. In most cases, the original script, used during production, has been lost. Plays are listed by title, following Japanese syllabic order, in the following manner: play title, playwright’s name, publication title, publication date, number of male parts, number of female parts, and number of other parts. In the case of foreign plays (which means here plays from England, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, Soviet Union, Italy, Spain, and India), the playwright’s nationality, the definitive title of the play in Japanese translation, and, if known, the name of translator or translators (in the event a play has been translated several times) are provided. One, however, must know what the Japanese translation of the play’s title is in order to look up the title in this section, a potential obstacle to non-Japanese users.


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Engeki nenpyō   演劇年表 [Theater Chronology]

Fujita Hiroshi

Tokyo: Ofusha, 1992 (1993 printing)

[REF PN2924.F85 1992]

Pancake #2311

A revision of the 1969 work, this is a detailed chronology of traditional and modern theater performances staged in the Tokyo and Nagoya-Kyoto-Osaka areas between November 1964 and January 1989.   Each chapter covers one month, and is divided into two sections: shōgyo geki (commercial) and shingeki (new or, in the sense here, modern). This is an excellent approach to tracing the performance history of major twentieth-century plays, both Japanese and Western adaptations. Performer’s names, ticket prices, and venue are provided, together with excerpts from critical reviews. Volume 3 contains a handy index to the play titles noted in volume 1 and 2; while the text is interesting to browse, the index is essential to any orderly approach (beside, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out which play the author is talking about within each entry). The only drawback to the index is that it is arranged by title only; one cannot look up performer’s names in this index.


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Engeki nenkan   演劇年刊  [Theater annual]

Tokyo: Nihon engeki kyokai , annual publication [Starr has most issues since publication began in 1966 in stacks or prentis]

[PN 56.R3 E5]

Pancake #2309


This is a comprehensive annual guide to theater in Japan. Each issue includes a listing of actors, director, and staff, as well as the theater venue and dates of run. Contact information for theater artists is provided at the back of each issue.


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Nihon engekishi nenpyō 日本演劇史年表  [Chronology of the history of Japanese theater]

Waseda Daigaku Engeki Hakubutsukan

Tokyo: Yagi Shoten, 1998

[REF PN2921 .N49 1998]


A one-volume chronology of Japanese performing arts, from the seventh century to the late twentieth century, it is based largely on Waseda’s monumental Engeki hyakka dai-jiten (see entry above) and the Sekai Engekishi Nenpy ō. Here, however, only the bare facts are given, but it’s still a valuable departure point, especially if you need to just get a quick overview of the major theater events in any given year. An index is provided for quick reference (the numbers listed next to the titles or names are the dates; hence 198002 means February 1980). My hunch is that Waseda has decided to publish this one-volume history in order to pacify those people who want to revise Engeki hyakka dai-jiten .


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Kabuki nenpyō   歌舞伎年表 [Kabuki Chronology]

Ihara, Seiseien, Kawatake , Shigetoshi, Yoshida, Eiji

Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1956

[REF PN 2924.5.K314 v.1-8]


This eight-volume detailed chronology of kabuki history from 1559 to 1907 cites extensive primary sources, including texts that are not available in publication. Part of vol. 8 is dedicated to a comprehensive index, which makes navigating this work ever so much easier—you can look up play titles and performer’s names in separate indexes.


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Asian Theatre Journal

http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/atj [full text]


ATJ is the only English-language journal completely devoted to traditional and contemporary Asian performance. Monumenta Nipponica, The Drama Review (TDR), Theatre Research International, Comparative Drama , Women & Performance, and Theater Journal all, from time to time, provide some coverage on Japanese theater and performance, but ATJ does so on a regular basis. Under the editorship of Samuel L. Leiter, the journal has been committed to publishing at least one new translation of a contemporary Asian play every year. The fall 2002 edition provides a comprehensive index of all articles published since the journal’s inception in 1984.


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Kigeki 悲劇喜劇 [Tragedy Comedy]

Tokyo:Hayakawa Shobo

PN 2920.H3

Published monthly


Contains concise and provocative articles on Japanese modern theater. Most issues are dedicated to a specific theme and most issues contain the full text of a new play. An on-line index can be found at:  http://pears.lib.ohio-state.edu/uljsn/browse/title/H/5/7.html  


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Engeki-kai 演劇会 [Theater World]

Tokyo: Engeki Shuppansha

[REF PN1601 .E4]

Published monthly


Don’t be fooled into thinking that Engeki-kai covers the entire Japanese performance world! Engeki means kabuki, almost exclusively, in Engeki-kai , the journal for kabuki aficionados. Exceptions are made when kabuki actors star in performances of non-kabuki genres. Each issue is devoted to a special topic, and includes interviews with top actors, glossy color and black-and-white photos, as well as a section in the back devoted to new publications on kabuki. For an index on special issues, see Kinsei engeki kenkyūbunken mokuroku.

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Kabuki kenkyū to hihyō   歌舞伎研究と批評 [Kabuki research and commentary]

[REF PN 2924.5.K3K33]

Devoted to scholarly criticism and debate, this is the place to find cutting-edge kabuki research—which might not necessarily make it to book form. Published by Waseda University since 1988, this has been an important forum for leading kabuki scholars to publish their research and opinions.


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Engei gahō   演芸画報 [Theater Illustrated]

Prentis : PN2920.E476

Defunct journal that appeared monthly from 1907 to 1943, when all theater magazines were merged. Engeki-kai is its successor. This is an essential resource for anyone doing theater, particularly kabuki, research on the first half of the twentieth century.    

I have asked Miki-san to order to the three-volume index, Engei gahō sōsakuin.

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Engekigaku  演劇学 [Studies on Theater Arts]

Tokyo: Waseda University, generally annual

PN 2009.E52


The official scholarly publication of Waseda University’s theater department. Subjects include both Japanese and non-Japanese theater throughout history. A list of dissertation topics can found at the back of each issue, along with a listing of contents in English.


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Kokuritsu Gekijō Programs   国立劇場 

[REF PN1978.J3K82]


Recent programs of performances at Japan’s National Theater can be found in the Starr reading room. 


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Starr’s Asian performance video collection



Note: The majority of the collection is comprised of Asian films, several of which are adaptations of plays that are not included here.


Nihon Koten geinō taikei   日本古典芸能体系 [Japanese traditional theater series]

Video PN 1582.J3076 1992 videos 1-20.

This set of twenty video tapes devoted to Japanese traditional theater is a good place to begin for Japanese-language speakers. The first tapes in the collection focus on religion and performance; other tapes focus on more conventional genres: noh, kabuki, bunraku, and the different musical accompaniments.   Each tape is 40-60 minutes.


Oto to eizo to moji ni yoru taikei Nihon rekishi to geinō 音と映像と文字による体系日本歴史と芸能 [Japanese history and performance through sounds, sights, and characters]

Special collection BL 2211.R5 T35 1990, videos 1-15

Fifteen tapes devoted to describing Japanese folk performing arts, such as the obon dances and town festivals.


Nagauta : Heart of Kabuki Music

Video ML 340.N343 1993g



Video ML 340.G27 1989g


Music of Noh Drama

Video PN 2924.5.N6 M87 1997g


Aspects of the Kabuki Theater of Japan

Video PN 2924.K3 A72 1980g


The New York Public Library of Performing Arts


The New York Public Library of Performing Arts located at Lincoln Center has a large collection of Japanese theater and dance on film and tape. The collection and viewing monitors are located on the third floor.


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U.S. organizations that sponsor Japanese theater and research



Association for Asian Performance



The Association for Asian Performance (AAP) is a Focus Group of the Association for Theater in Higher Education . AAP provides a forum for scholars and artists interested in Asian theater. Many members specialize in Japanese performing arts. The Association for Asian Performance’s home page contains information on the organization, syllabi for Asian performance classes, a list of officers, conference info. and more.   The site, which needs to be updated, also contains a useful list of links. Sign up for AAP’s listserv at: majordomo@lovelace.usfca.edu

in the MESSAGE line type ONLY:

subscribe asiantheater

Put NOTHING ELSE in the message. Don’t sign it and if you have a signature line, turn it off.


Japan Society, New York, New York



New York’s Japan Society brings top performers and companies to New York every year. Recent artists include Suzuki Tadashi, Shiraishi Kazuko, Nakamura Ganjiro III, Ono Kazuo, and Kazuko Hohki. Rush tickets are sometimes available on the day of performance (though many events sell out).  

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