Izumo no Okuni is known for inventing Kabuki, a classical style of theater and dance, at the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1867), a time of great artistic and cultural development in Japan. Forming her own troupe of female performers in 1603, Okuni’s style of dance-dramas, given the name Okuni Kabuki, soon took the city of Kyoto by storm.
This led to formation of other female-led troupes that flourished for decades under the patronage of noble society, and was even popular among the lower classes. Her use of the hanamichi, a “floral passage” through the audience and to the stage, remains an integral part of Kabuki theater.
In 1629, the ruling class banned female performers from the art—a ban that would last until the mid-1800s—but Okuni’s dramatic and enticing style lives on today in the costumes, make up, and plotlines of Kabuki theater and beyond.