21 Nov 2023  8 Dec 2024

Textiles Gallery 5, lower ground floor

Admission is FREE

Six spectacular kimonos belonging to the kabuki actor Bandō Tamasaburō V will be on display in the Textiles Gallery for a year. Tamasaburō is the most popular and celebrated onnagata (male actor who performs female roles) currently on stage.

The costumes selected reflect the wide variety of roles in this actor's long and celebrated theatre career, from court ladies and courtesans to geisha and demons.  

You'll see beautifully crafted costumes that showcase a range of elaborate textile techniques, including weaving, dyeing, embroidery and hand-painting. 

The over-robe for the courtesan Agemaki in the play Sukeroku, Flower of Edo (助六由縁江⼾桜), shown below, was worn at a performance in June 2004 at the Kabukiza Theatre, Tokyo. It features New Year's decorations on black satin and the courtesan's sash has a carp ascending a waterfall embroidered on a pale blue-green satin ground.  

Elaborate 'lobster' kimono worn by the famous Bando Tamasaburo V actor

Left & centre: costume for the Courtesan Agemaki. Photos © Takashi Kashihara. Right: stage performance. Photo © Naotake Fukuda


Below is another sumptuous costume for the courtesan Agemaki, worn later in the same performance. This over-robe was hand-painted with a design of peonies in ink and gold by a well-known artist, Muroi Toshio.

A Kabuki Costume and Kabuki Performance

Left: costume for the Courtesan Agemaki. Photo © Takashi Kashihara. Right: stage performance. Photo © Naotake Fukuda

These kabuki kimonos are all hand-made by skilled craftsmen and each involved a highly personalised process of creative consultation between the actor and maker.

From 14 Dec 2024 the kimono display will be replaced with a second showcase of six more costumes belonging to Bandō Tamasaburō V.

Organised in collaboration with the Japan Foundation London

Japan Foundation logo


This exhibition has been made possible as a result of the British Government Indemnity Scheme. The Ashmolean Museum would like to thank HM Government for providing indemnity and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for arranging the indemnity.

Exhibition supported by:

The Shikanai Foundation

D-T Ltd

IndigoRose Project

British Airways logo

Japan Airlines logo

Hugh Fraser Foundation

The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation