Kabuki Juhachiban

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  • Japanese: 歌舞伎十八番 (Kabuki Juuhachiban)

The Kabuki Jûhachiban, or "Eighteen Best Kabuki Plays", is a set of kabuki plays, strongly associated with the Ichikawa Danjûrô line of actors ever since their premieres, and chosen (assembled as "the eighteen") later by actor Ichikawa Danjûrô VII (1791-1859) as the greatest representations of the aragoto style in the repertoire. The Danjûrô line has continued to dominate the leading roles, and the printing and production of these plays ever since.

Shibaraku, Narukami, Sukeroku, Ya-no-Ne, and Kanjinchô are still considered among the greatest of all kabuki plays, and are performed at least once a year. These plays are also often performed for shûmei, auspicious naming ceremonies in which actors who receive new names, particularly those receiving the illustrious name "Ichikawa Danjûrô", perform in these great plays which are strongly associated with that lineage.

It may also be interesting to note that, while the plays contained within the Kabuki Jûhachiban do number 18, the number, along with other eight-related numbers such as 80 and 88, is symbolic of the general concept of "a great many."

A Shin-Kabuki Jûhachiban (New Eighteen Best Kabuki Plays) was assembled by Ichikawa Danjûrô IX in the Meiji Period, representing his favorites, many of which are particularly representative of Meiji period kabuki.

Of the original eighteen, only ten or eleven are considered to still be actively performed, though some are performed far less frequently than others.

A woodblock print triptych depicting nine of the eighteen plays from the Kabuki Jûhachiban.

The Eighteen

(*)These plays are generally considered to be no longer performed (to have fallen out of the repertoire); however, revivals have been done, and continue to be done, while on the other hand some of those plays considered to still be in the repertoire may be performed only very infrequently.