Shibai jaya

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  • Japanese: 芝居茶屋 (shibai jaya)

Shibai jaya, or theater teahouses, were tearooms attached to theaters, especially kabuki theaters. They offered a place where theatergoers could enjoy food and drink before, after, or during a performance. They were also places where actors could meet with fans and patrons, despite the fact that interactions between actors and "regular" townsmen were in theory strictly legally circumscribed. Teahouse staff also arranged box seats (sajiki) for the performances, or made other such arrangements for the customers.[1] Though the shibai jaya were indeed primarily tearooms and restaurants, and not primarily brothels in character, these arrangements could also include arranging for a client's meeting with kagema (teenage male prostitutes) or even for private sexual meetings with actors (particularly in the earlier periods of the kabuki theater).

The teahouses, as was common in Edo period Japan, were typically family businesses, being passed down within a lineage. These families often had close ties to the families of actors, playwrights, and theater managers, and sometimes overlapped. A daughter of Ichikawa Danjûrô V, the top actor of his time, for example, married into a shibai jaya family, and her son was then adopted back into the Ichikawa family, becoming Ichikawa Ebizô V (aka Ichikawa Danjûrô VII).[2]


  • Donald Shively, "Bakufu Versus Kabuki," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 18, no. 3/4 (1955), 344.
  1. Timothy Clark, "Edo Kabuki in the 1780s," The Actor's Image, Art Institute of Chicago (1994), 27.
  2. Ichikawa Ebizô V at