Kabuki theatre evolved from the dance which according to myth had its origin
in the lively dance performed by the goddess Inari.
In about 1664 A.D. curtains were used for the first time in the theatres
in Osaka and Tokyo. These opened up new theatrical possibilities such as
extending performances by presenting individual scenes one after the other
to form a major theme of action. They also enabled the scenery to be changed,
unseen by the audience, to depict a change of location. The reddish-brown,
green and black striped dropping curtain, which is characteristic of kabuki,
was licensed in the Edo period and symbolised official permission to present
The use of the curtain in kabuki is often fundamentally different from the
way a curtain is used in the European theatre. For example, in kabuki performances
the asagimaku is used. This is a light-blue curtain which is suspended over
the stage to cover it until at the signal of two wooden blocks being hit
together it is suddenly dropped to reveal a new impressive scene, like a
sudden cut from one scene to the next in a film.
(From "The Kabuki Theatre", by Liana Richter)