Singapore Workshop on a Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center
シンガポール シンポジウム ・日本舞台芸術リソースセンター
June 24-26, 2005
National University of Singapore

Generously funded by The Japan Foundation

Individual Presentation Abstract


On-line Databases of Kabuki Materials:
Models of Current Resource Sites – Ritsumeikan's Art Research Center

Ryo Akama, Ritsumeikan University



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Current status

As is commonly known, a great deal of cultural information is rapidly increasing on the Internet web sites in Japan as well as elsewhere. Research on classical theatre is no exception. Regarding Kabuki especially, as it is surely the most popular commercial theater in Japan, there are a lot of Kabuki web sites made by what we call devotee. In the web sites, we can look for the contemporary information about performances of Kabuki, private articles on certain stages, and educational descriptions of how to appreciate with ease. Recently, we can find some recommendable sites for the students.

However, there are few databases which actually have a high enough academic level for researching Kabuki. I have never heard about a plan to make a database by the Kabuki society or the Nohgaku society. I wrote reports about a plan for a new Kabuki chronology twice in the journal Kabuki, kenkyu to hihyo. And when I worked for the Theater Museum, Waseda University, from 1989, I started the plan in which I would make a systematic chronology using computer. At present, I attach myself to Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University, and am working on the digital archiving of Kabuki materials owned by other institutes or universities. Also I am pursuing a project to make a database of historical kabuki information and release them on the web. To tell the truth, this is the first public explanation about the Kabuki database after the Internet era because I have rushed only to develop online databases.

Online databases of Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University

Art Research Center (ARC) is a new institute established on 1997. We received a special type of grant from the Ministry of Education, called 21st century Center of excellence (COE) program. It is a kind of competition between universities. Although ARC does not have a long history, it was appraised as one of the leading centers of research for Japanese art and culture.

I know that some of you use our database already. We open a lot of databases. Fundamentally, it is possible to categorize two kinds of database: digital archiving of Kabuki materials, and historical information of Kabuki performance and personal data of theatrical persons. Concerning Kabuki materials, we digitize a vast amount of paper documents, and make digital catalogue by computer. Then we upload the data to the online database system which I developed and am managing.

The historical Kabuki information database has been developed to be used by specialists of Kabuki research. It aims to cover historical Kabuki information exhaustively, and it can be used to search such information as attendance records of a certain stage.

Digital Archives of Kabuki materials

Digital archives of Kabuki materials are built on an idea which I have presented on my Book Edo no engeki sho (documentary materials of the theatre in Edo period). We have the following databases:

1) Actor prints
2) Pamphlet, flyer, and poster for stages ( Banzuke )
3) Hand-written scripts (Daicho), published musical scores (Shohon), and script books (Omuseki)
4) 2nd continuous volume of Kabuki Chronology ( Zoku zoku Kabuki nendaiki )
5) Theatrical books (Hyobanki, Nehon, Gekisho etc.)

The most famous database is of Actor prints. We have developed not only the database of ARC prints (2500 sheets), but also for the Waseda Theatre Museum (47000 sheets) and the Tokyo metropolitan library (10000 sheets). Our special way of developing databases is that before we start research into some institute, we survey both their organizational situation and system of computer and network. After we finish making a database, in the case they have a plan to release it on the Internet, we will donate it. In some cases, I develop a search system myself, and donate it to the institute as well.

Regarding the Banzuke, we have opened a searching system for the ‘Chintei' collection, which has over 3000 pieces of Banzuke, you can look for the precise banduke of the historical stage which you want to see. We also published a DVD of the Banzuke collection in the library of Nihon University, which was owned by Sato and Atsumi. Although it was a research project of academic collaboration between ARC and Nihon University, as a publisher led this project, it was commercial product. We won't be able to release it publicly on the Internet for 5 years, following the agreement between publisher and universities. We are so sorry about that.

As I mentioned above, it is difficult to digitally archive Kabuki materials because of copyright and the right of ownership, and it all depends on the thinking of the person in charge. There are a lot of patterns of appearance by each sorts of materials and institute. These research projects look different from each other. There are few people who know all of our project activities.

The other hand, for building the historical information database, we need highly talented people who have specialized knowledge. It is also impossible to complete these in a short period.

Historical information databases

We are running the following databases and digital chronologies:

1) Edo Kabuki performance chronology
2) The database of kabuki actors
3) The database for activities of kabuki actors
4) The database for activities of musicians

Edo kabuki performance chronology has an important function which is to provide basic information to open windows to get into the database of each material. The function originally comes from a typical characteristic of Kabuki material. This is that every performing material is connected by the information of performance. (When, Where, What). The actor and musician database is also useful for researchers, because we can make an actor's list of stage performance on the instant for example.

They are a kind of entrances for everyone who wants to look for Kabuki materials. So I have added a function of linking to the precise material which researcher is looking for. This kind of function proves that I was not mistaken in my essay I wrote ten years ago. Furthermore, as other databases which I developed as stand-alone for putting on the Internet, all of them will appear in near future, and will be systematized as a new Kabuki chronology, the Heisei version.

Interactive database system for Kabuki researchers.

These databases have grown basically by my own work(input, editing). But I have gotten a lot of help from assistants and collaborators. This kind of database won't be able to be completely finished, like Ihara's Kabuki Nempyo. We have to edit and modify it every time and forever. I suppose it needs a kind of community or organization to continue maintaining such an online academic database.

Following that thought, I have started to change my database to be an interactive and open resource type. For example, members of an administrator group can get text data by CSV form from this database through the Internet. A member can edit the data, put new data, and get all data from the database from anywhere in the world. It is an experiment to move them to the public domain.

Additional research

Above I described the basic databases for the environment of Kabuki research. In addition, I would like to introduce new information technologies we are developing. One is computer graphics of Noh and Kabuki performance. Another is the system to watch video programs of classical Japanese theater on the Internet interactively.

  ARC Kabuki database:  
  Ryo Akama 赤間亮
 Art Research Center Ritsumeikan University
 56-1 Tojiin Kita-machi Kita-ku Kyoto,
 603-8577 Japan.
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