City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Gallery Review: Kabuki: Japanese Theatre Prints Exhibition

By Editor - Posted on 06 October 2013

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National Museum of Scotland

Kabuki: Japanese Theatre Prints is a new exhibition that opened at the National Museum of Scotland this weekend. The exhibit reveals the spectacular artwork and larger-than-life characters from a 19th century Japanese cultural phenomenon.  The art of the Japanese theatre.

Due to the recent refurbishment of the National Museum of Scotland several small galleries have been created which allows collections such as these to be exhibited, a rare treat indeed, since it has not always been easy for the NMS to exhibit some of it's collection. There are over 60 spectacular, rare and colourful prints on show.

The exhibition features many rarely seen prints of artworks including the only surviving impression in existence of a scene in a public bathhouse at New Year, (c1815) by Kuninao. The print shows seven leading actors of the day at the bathhouse, and is an example of the sort of ‘celebrity’ image of actors off stage and off duty which became extremely popular during the period.

Striking designs present vivid depictions of Kabuki, the popular form of traditional, all-male, Japanese theatre which combines drama, music, dance and acrobatics in convoluted plots concerning dramatic, emotional conflicts and feats of derring-do.

Their visual style will be familiar to fans of Manga comics, Japanese cinema and even David Bowie, some of whose 70s costumes and performances were influenced by the Kabuki style.

I interviewed Dr Rosina Buckland, Senior Curator - East & Central Asia at National Museums Scotland, who said:

“These prints are a really vivid reflection of Kabuki as a cornerstone of 19th century Japanese popular culture, and yet the visual style will be immediately recognisable to a lot of 21st century audiences. The exhibition affords a rare opportunity for a Scottish audience to view this material and to learn more about a fascinating cultural and social period in Japanese history”.

The exhibition is free as is the rest of the Museum and it runs from Friday 4 October 2013 – Sunday 2 February 2014

To see more examples of the prints that are on show, visit