"Kuroko" or "kurogo" (黒子/黒衣 [http://www2.ntj.jac.go.jp/unesco/kabuki/jp/4/4_04_07.html] "black person"/"black clothe") are stagehands in traditional Japanese theatre, who dress all in black.

In kabuki, the "kuroko" serve many of the same purposes as running crew. They move scenery and props on stage, aiding in scene changes and costume changes. They will also often play t he role of animals, will-o-the-wisps, or other roles which are played not by an actor in full costume, but by holding a prop. "Kuroko" wear all black, head to toe, in order to imply that they are invisible and not part of the action onstage.

The convention of wearing black to imply that the wearer is invisible on stage is a central element in "bunraku" puppet theatre as well. "Kuroko" will wear white or blue in order to blend in with the background in a scene set, for example, in a snowstorm, or at sea, in which case they are referred to as "Yukigo" (雪子, snow person) or "Namigo" (波子, wave person) respectively. As this convention was extended to kabuki actors depicting stealthy ninja, historian Stephen Turnbull suggested that the stereotypical image of a ninja dressed all in black derived from kabuki.Turnbull, Stephen (2003). "Ninja: AD 1460-1650." Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p14.] Real ninja, living prior to the advent of kabuki might have dressed in this way occasionally for night work, but certainly wouldn't have worn black at all times.

In Noh theatre, a "kōken", wearing black but no mask, serves much the same purpose.

Examples from popular culture

* Kuroko clothing and methods were used to comical (but quite effective) ends in the Internet meme [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dcmDscwEcI Matrix Ping-Pong] .
* The Scissor Sisters' video for [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjNLAG6bKno She's My Man]
* MEG' video for [http://www.wearepopslags.com/index.php/FEATURES/Global-Pop-Slags/MEG-Precious-J-Pop.html Precious]
* A Kuroko character appears in some of the Samurai Shodown and Power Instinct video games.
* Pretty Polly staged a live Kuroko performance on the 30th October 2007 on a poster site on the M4 London.


*Shōriya Aragorō (2006). [http://www.kabuki21.com/ www.kabuki21.com] . Accessed 29 August 2006.

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