About Ji-shibai

Originating during the Edo period, "Ji-kabuki," "Bunraku," and "Shishi-shibai" have been passed down to the present day. In Gifu Prefecture, these three dramatic art forms—along with Noh Kyogen, on which they are based—are what is known as "Ji-shibai." These Ji-shibai plays can be surprising, as they are performed not by professional actors, but by local residents themselves. Although the actors are non-professionals, their performances are authentic, serious productions that move audiences to tears and laughter. Enjoy the world of Ji-shibai, a world that continues to be preserved by unsung, ordinary people.

The "Gifu, Land of Ji-Shibai" Web Museum website was established as an archive of photographs and videos introducing the various individuals responsible for the prefecture's proud tradition of Ji-shibai (Kabuki, Bunraku/Noh, and Shishi-shibai), as well as the traditional playhouses, costumes, props, and other aspects of Ji-shibai. The site also aims to enhance awareness of the prefecture's Ji-shibai, to preserve and pass these works on to further generations, and to promote them in order to attract a larger audience by providing frequently updated information on scheduled performances and various other events to a wide range of people.

360° Playhouse

Amongst the regions of Japan, Ji-shibai particularly flourishes in Gifu Prefecture. Even today, many old playhouses still remain, and Ji-shibai performances continue to be staged.
This site introduces playhouses using images shot with VR cameras in a way that makes history come alive.Enjoy learning about how these playhouses were designed and the ingenious special techniques that are unique to these theaters.

How to Enjoy Ji-shibai

  1. 1Experience Simple, Original Ji-shibai

    The original form of Ji-shibai has been passed down from the Edo period and even earlier times on to the present day through surviving scripts and oral tradition.
    The appearance of the original plays remains unaffected by changes in the times.
    For example, even if the lines are a little difficult, the actors' expressions and voices will move and entertain you.

  2. 2Enjoy the Atmosphere of the Audience

    With Ji-shibai, the actors and audiences may be acquaintances or neighbors. While most of the attention is of course directed towards the acting onstage, listening to the conversations and shouts of the audience around you is another type of amusement unique to these performances.

  3. 3Have "Kabesu" During the Intermission

    One of the pleasures of Ji-shibai is that of the boxed meals and drinks that come out during the intermission. Kabesu is a word consisting of the initial characters of three Japanese words: “Kashi” (sweets), “Bento” (boxed meal) and "Sushi.”
    There are also playhouses with spots in the neighborhood where you can reserve a bento and enjoy the area's rustic, delicious flavors.

  4. 4Have Fun Taking Part (Ohineri and Ōmukō)

    "Ohineri" are coins wrapped in paper and thrown by the audience onto the stage when a favored actor appears or the moment an actor strikes a pose; "Ōmukō" refers to vigorous calls of encouragement for an actor performing on stage. Both are valuable opportunities for the audience to take part and enliven the performance.
    Timing is very important. While even beginners can likely understand when to throw Ohineri by watching the people around them, it may be best to go to a couple of performance first before trying Ōmukō.

  5. 5A Space Where You Can Sense History

    Some playhouses where Ji-shibai performances are held were built between the late Edo period and into the Meiji era, in structures that have been repeatedly repaired and relocated. Points such as the gloss of the pillars and beams, the box seats that gently slope down to the stage, and others help to create a space where you can get a sense of history - this is one of the true pleasures of Ji-shibai.