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In 1893, at age 78, the great playwright Kawatake Mokuami died. Since he left no protege, his death also ended the tradition of classical Kabuki writing. Mokuami, who, during the 19th century wrote more than 360 plays over his long career, became the last of the professional writers to work exclusively for Kabuki theaters in the old capital of Edo.

Instead, during the last decade of the 19th century, other writers, such as novelists, dramatists and critics, began to create their versions of kabuki drama. One of the pioneers of such plays was Tsubouchi Shoyo (1859-1935), whose “Kiri Hitoha” (“A Paulownia Leaf”), written a year after Mokuami’s death in 1894 and staged at the Tokyo Theater 10 years later, became known as a classic shin kabuki — “new” historical kabuki play.

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