Kabuki foundation,
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Kumadori is makeup used for theatrical performances. Specifically, Kabuki — a stylized form of Japanese theater, which is known for its spectacular drama and the intricate makeup worn by the actors. Kumadori makeup emphasizes the actors’ underlying muscles and veins to evoke dramatic emotions and expressions.
Kabuki actors traditionally use a white powder called oshiroi as a foundation, an important contrasting base. However, prior to the mid 19th century, the lead used in oshiroi caused many Kabuki actors to suffer from lead poisoning. Lead-based makeups were banned in 1934, but many actors resisted the ban because they believed lead-based products made them look more beautiful.
So, in 1954, Kanebo produced its first non-lead-based oshiroi makeup — one both safe for the skin and effective in creating the desired appearance. We worked with renowned Kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro XI (1909-1965) to meet actors’ high-quality expectations.
It was no surprise that Danjuro, a master of complex Kabuki dance, demanded quality as close to perfection as possible. Kabuki actors need white powder to prevent color bleeding caused by excessive oil and sweat, with an easy-to-apply, lump-free consistency. Oshiroi must also look impeccable and defined under special stage lights, and provide a stunning contrast to the colorful kumadori makeup. After endless prototypes, back-and-forth tests and communication between Danjuro and Kanebo makeup specialists, pain, and challenges — we ultimately met all the specific qualities Danjuro needed.
In 1960, six years after our first stage white powder, we finally completed Butai Oshiroi (Stage Color). Ichikawa Danjuro XI was overjoyed with the results. He secured all the approvals required to use the joshiki-maku stripe pattern, traditionally used on Kabuki stage curtains, on the packaging. Stage Color is an accomplishment in makeup and function, developed in close collaboration with Danjuro XI. It’s still widely used and loved by theater and movie production communities, including Kabuki actors of the Ichikawa family. Butai Oshiroi marks the beginning of Kanebo’s functional foundation. Created with a collaborative spirit — fused with a passion for the arts and cosmetics — its unique product development still influences Kanebo creators today.

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