Essential for Kabuki viewing! Easy-to-understand explanation of the types and shapes of kumadori for beginners


Motenas Representative
Motenas Representative

Kumadori is the makeup applied to the face by Kabuki actors.
Did you know that the lines have different colors and shapes depending on the role they play?

What is the role of shading? What is the meaning of the undercoat? These questions are carefully explained.

If you know the role of kumadori, you can enjoy Kabuki more deeply. We hope you enjoy Kabuki by referring to this article!

What is kumadori in Kabuki?

Kumadori plays the role of expressing the character and status of the actor, giving a strong impression. It is a makeup technique in which lines are drawn on the base color of the makeup with a brush and blurred to one side with a finger.

Kuma means the border between light and shade, and is an exaggerated representation of blood vessels and muscles. It is said to have originated with Ichikawa Danjuro I, who introduced it to perform kabuki, and the color of the kuma has its own meaning.
Thus, kumatori play an important role in expressing roles, etc.

What is Kabuki makeup?

Makeup in kabuki is meant to indicate the character’s role, and the audience understands the role and status of the characters from their makeup.

For example, a white background color represents a good or noble person, a brownish skin tone represents a townsman or an evil person, and red represents a servant or retainer of an evil person.
After applying these base colors, the eyebrows, eyes, and mouth are drawn on using red, black, blue, and other colors as they enter their roles. Applying makeup in this way is called “doing the face.

Types of Kabuki shading

Kabuki kumadori differ in the roles they represent according to color, but there are also many other types of shapes and compositions.
Each of the 10 types of kumadori will now be explained.

borderless neighborhood

Mukimikuma is a red kuma (red kumadori) used for roles that are youthful and full of a sense of justice. The name “Mukimikuma” comes from its simple shape, which resembles the body of a peeled shellfish.

The base color is white, and red is applied vertically from the inner and outer corners of the eyes to the eyebrows. This type of kumadori is often seen in roles such as Soga Goro and Sukeroku, where the actor plays a young man who is full of vigor and enthusiasm.


Benikuma (red kuma-dori) is used for the role of a reliable and powerful person, but mischievous and rambunctious.

The name comes from the single vertical line of shading, and the double chin is also indicated by the shading under the chin, a technique devised by Danjuro Ichikawa II to depict mischievous roles such as Watouchi in “Kokusenya Kassen.

two nooks

Nibon-kuma is a kumadori used in the role of a calm and dignified adult. The name “Nibon-kuma” comes from the way the two kuma are raised in the air.
The chin is bearded in blue, and ink is applied to the corners of the eyes and inside the lips.

While Mukimikuma is used for young roles, Nibon-kuma is a type of kumadori that is often used for adult roles.

a conjecture

Suji-kuma is a type of kumadori form used in the role of a brave man full of anger and superhuman strength. It gets its name from the multiple red stripes that leap up from the corners.
Put a triangle of rouge on the chin and ink to the corners of the mouth.

The aragoto, or “rough work,” expresses superhuman strength through the use of costumes and props, and one type of kumadori is musui-kuma. Muscle shading is a type of kumadori that expresses strength even in kabuki.

Keikiyo no Kuma

Kagekiyo no kuma is a corner used for the role of a brave man of valor who is captured and confined by the enemy, leaving him pale and emaciated. The name “kagekiyo no kuma” comes from the fact that it was often used in the role of “Kagekiyo.

The upper half of the face has the same shape as the muscular kuma mentioned earlier, but the lower half is taken up with indigo, so it is also called “hanguuma” (半隈).

The indigo color is used to depict how the people were locked up in prison for a long time and lost weight without eating anything.

public house

The kugerea is an aizuma used for the role of an evil person of high status who plots to overthrow the state, giving a cold, eerie impression.

The use of aikuma (indigo shading) gives the impression of an unusual mysteriousness, and is used in the role of a “kugeaku,” an evil official who seeks the throne of the emperor.

The eyebrows are highlighted and the forehead is inked with a round shape called kuraiboshi.

red face

Akatsura (red face) is a kuma often used in the role of an unthinking ruffian who is a retainer or lackey of a big bad guy.

The name “akkamen” comes from the fact that the ground color is taken in red instead of white.
The role of the flat enemy or the hatagataki, the lowest of the bad guys, is usually played by a wig with a naturally permed hair texture.

With BENI, remove the Mukimi kuma introduced in the first step, and also remove the kuma under the chin with BENI.

tea district

Chaguma is a kumudori that is often used for roles replying to unworldly ghosts, spirits, and evil spirits.

For example, the role of a spider in “Tsuchigumo” and the Ibaraki child in “Ibaraki” are played by imaginary creatures and ghosts that do not really exist.

The mouth is drawn as if it were a large slit, and the eyebrows are false eyebrows to reinforce the eerie impression.

monkey bars

Saruguma (猿隈) is a corner used in the role of a dynamic samurai but funny and amusing. It was given this name because it makes the face look like a monkey, but Danjuro Ichikawa I used it differently, such as Benkei Saruguma, which was used for Benkei.

The eyes are framed in black squares to make them appear larger, and the eyebrows are shaped like the figure of eight, known as “eggplant eyebrows. It is interesting to note that kumatori can also be used to express the faces of animals.

catfish (esp. the Amur catfish, Silurus asotus)

Namazu-guma is used for roles in which the characters are evil, but a bit silly and make the audience laugh.

Like saruguma, it is a kind of “zareguma,” meaning “jokey kuma-dori.

Like Kagekiyo’s kuma, the upper half is red and the lower half is indigo, a combination that gives it its name from the catfish-like whiskers around its mouth. It is a funny and friendly kumadori.

Different colors of kumadori

When we hear the word “kumatori,” we imagine a face with red lines on a white base, but as introduced above, indigo and brown are used to express the personalities of the various roles.

For example, if it is red, we can tell by looking at it that it is a hero who has come to rescue his captured friends. Here is an explanation of the different colors of kumadori.

red-light district

Generally, kumadori with a strong image is red or red kumadori.
The color red, which expresses a sense of justice, fervor, and strong anger, is used for roles in the hero class. The wig is inverted and a large sword, which cannot be handled by one person, is worn around the waist, showing that the person has become gigantic due to anger.

It is easy to understand if you think of it as the transformation of the main character into a superhuman, as seen in comic books.

Ipponkuma and Nibonkuma, who have a strong sense of justice, are also sexy and sometimes appear in supporting roles for the main character.

When you see a red shaded role, recognize it as a character with a sense of justice and around the main character.

indigo blue make-up used in Kabuki

The blue kumadori is called “aikuma” and represents a nobleman of high rank. However, since they are depicted as a huge evil plotting to overthrow the emperor and the country, they are the so-called villanous kumadori.

Contrary to red, the effect is to evoke a cold, eerie atmosphere.

The reason why blue was adopted is said to mean “having blood different from that of ordinary people” or “having freezing cold blood. In English, aristocrat is also said to be BlueBlood, and it is indeed interesting to note that the word was used in Japan and abroad with similar meanings.

tea district

The brown kumadori is called “chakuma,” and despite its cute sound, it is used for imaginary characters such as yokai.

Although the brown kuma used for tsuchigumo and other monsters is shrouded in mystery, with no known theory as to why it is brown, the image of something mysterious from its atmosphere can be easily accepted.


In this article, we have described kumadori used in kabuki.
Each has its own meaning and continues to represent a role.

There is no need to memorize the composition and shape of kumatori, and many of them can be recognized by intuition when you see them. It will be fun to appreciate them by trusting your intuition, such as “looks justified” or “looks like a bad guy” when you look at them.

Among various traditional cultures, Kabuki is one of the most popular traditional cultures.
If you are asked by a foreigner or a friend, “What is kumarashi? please try to explain it using the information in this article.

If you want foreigners to enjoy Kabuki, please refer to this article.