This persona has been carried forward into the Western traditions of portrayals of Japanese females in popular theater which is typified in “Madame Butterfly“.
The performance of female parts in most Japanese theater is done by male actors. This tradition in both the kabuki and the bunraki is still primarily maintained today. However, the performance of the gidayu is a tradition that has included female performers since the late 16th or early 17th century (Coaldrake, 1997, pp. 13). The performance of the gidayu is similar to the oral traditions of story telling in the Western traditions. However, it is done in a chanting voice that emotes action and the furtherance of the story through a combination of this chanting and of song. The skill of the performer is measured by how well she engages her audience and helps them visualize the play without an actual visual performance. The performance is accompanied by an instrument that is played by the artist. This tradition is part of the geisha traditions and artistries as well as those who are dedicated solely to this type of performance. Traditionally,
The Edo period, running from 1603 to 1868 saw a great deal of restrictions in the activities of all people, but even more so for women. During the late Edo period there were attempts to try and suppress global influences that might subvert the Japanese heritage and traditions. One of these attempts was through the suppression of extravagances in art, which included the public performances by women (Coaldrake, 1997, pp. 12). These attempts, however, were largely unsuccessful as seen through the remaining existence of this type of performance in Japan.
The onnagata are male performers who portray female parts in the kabuki. The origins of the all male kabuki as the only kabuki did not occur until the early 17th century when in 1629 females were prohibited from performing. Previous to this time all female