Kabuki has its roots in the dances performed by Izumo no Okuni, a shrine maiden or miko from Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture, on the river banks and dry river beds near Shijo in Kyoto in the early 17th century.
Izumo no Okuni's sensational and sensuous dances on the Kamo River attracted a growing audience from the townsfolk, who came to see Okuni's vivid portrayals of prostitutes and samurai.
Okuni formed an all-female troupe drawn from the city's underclass of prostitutes and general misfits and the performances slowly grew in sophistication over the years.
Backed by a man named Ujisato Sanzaburo, who may or may not have been her lover, Okuni developed her art before mysteriously disappearing from the pages of history.
Later restrictions by the Tokugawa regime meant that women were barred from acting in kabuki to be replaced by young men and boys and then by older men, a tradition that has endured until the present.
Okuni's statue stands on the banks of the Kamo River near the present-day Minamiza kabuki theater and was erected in 2002 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Okuni's first songs and dances.
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