Homekotoba (words of praise) (ほめことば)

Homekotoba refers to words of praise to be uttered or shouted to applaud playactors of Kabuki play on stage.

There were two cases where homekotoba were used; one case being for a player on stage to make a compliment to a newly appearing player, and another case being for some audience to shout applause to a player on stage.

In the first case, script writers began to put 'homekotoba' as a part of script and let a player speak them to praise the costar for his attractive visage, from before the Tenna era (1681-1683) or around Genroku era (1688-1703).
Quoting from 'Zoku-Jijinshu' (a sequel of collection of commentary discourses), an actor of female roles praises the first appearance of a young leading player as follows:
Oh! Oh! How amorous his standing pose is, with his skirts kilted high in an elegant men's style, with his lightly made-up face having autumnal tint like crimson foliage, and with delicately tied braids of his drape of pale yellow, who must not be far from ARIWARA no Narihira, a typical man of handsome feature, alluring his fans to spend money and to lock their pinky fingers to his, while he desires no change forever until next generation, staying together in bed, playing a bad guy for pillows, sinking himself on the verge of thinking in this and another worlds in future days. As above, homekotoba were usually written in an ornate style, including a lot of engo (two words related in meaning), kakekotoba (pivot words) and the like at will.

In the latter case, one or more fixed spectators ascended onto hanamichi (an elevated runway through audience leading to stage) and uttered complimentary speech of tsurane (a long declamatory speech) toward their favorite player. This custom arose in Edo and was later introduced to Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka area). The last performance of homekotoba in theater was supposedly made by hokan (a professional male entertainers) of Yoshiwara in 1896 when Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the ninth head) played a role of Sukeroku at Kabuki-za theater.

Some of them were written and published in authentic texts. Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU was a representative of successful writers of those texts.

Since Kabuki became classified in the category of 'classical art of theater,' no more improvising playgame-like communications between the stage and audience was performed.

[Original Japanese]