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  • Japanese: 評判記 (Hyoubanki)

Hyôbanki were compilations of rankings and critiques of kabuki actors and courtesans published in the Edo period. They were generally published at the new year in Edo and Kamigata, reviewing and ranking the courtesans and actors of the previous year. Along with ukiyo-e woodblock prints and other publications, hyôbanki were important elements in the urban popular culture of the period.

Actor hyôbanki

A book called yarô hyôbanki was published in 1656, though many scholars consider the 1687 yakusha hyôbanki to be the first in the form. These were published regularly until 1890.

Actors were ranked according to a fairly simple scale:

  • Jô-jô-kichi (上々吉) Upper-upper-excellent
  • Jô-jô (上々) Upper-upper
  • (上) Upper
  • Naka no jô-jô (中の上々) Upper-upper of the Middle
  • Naka no jô (中の上) Upper of the Middle
  • Naka (中) Middle

In print, variations were used to represent intermediate ranks between Jô-jô and Jô-jô-kichi. Sometimes only parts of the kanji (character) for "kichi" (吉) would be written in, each stroke towards completing the character representing an intermediate rank. Other times, strokes would be written in outline instead of ink-filled, to represent intermediate rankings not yet achieved.

At times, ranks above jô-jô-kichi were added, to describe and rank the greatest kabuki actors.

  • Dai-shigoku-jô-jô-kichi (大至極上々吉) Great exceedingly upper-upper-excellent
  • Kô-goku-jô-jô-kichi (高極上々吉) Higher very upper-upper-excellent
  • Shigoku-jô-jô-kichi (至極上々吉) Exceedingly upper-upper-excellent
  • Goku-jô-jô-kichi (極上々吉) Very upper-upper-excellent
  • Kô-jô-jô-kichi (高上々吉) Higher upper-upper-excellent
  • Dai-jô-jô-kichi (大上々吉) Great upper-upper-excellent
  • Shi-jô-jô-kichi (至上々吉) Climax of upper-upper-excellent

Yakusha hyôbanki often also included narrative reviews of individual performances, in the form of a fictional conversation between stock characters (e.g. the fan, and the detractor). For many kabuki plays of the Edo period, these are valuable sources for scholars seeking to reconstruct the casts and plots, as well as popular reaction, etc., as play scripts generally do not survive, and often were not even written out to begin with.[1]

Courtesan hyôbanki

This section needs expansion.


  1. Timothy Clark, "Edo Kabuki in the 1780s," The Actor's Image, Art Institute of Chicago (1994), 38.