Monday, September 10, 2018

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA (1889-1911): Chapter 25. 1911 (Meiji 44)


Kabuki Woogie began in 2011 as a way to record a research trip to Japan I took on a Mellon Fellowship a year earlier. My day-to day-experiences on that trip, including videos and photos, are archived at the beginning of the blog. For the past couple of years, Kabuki Woogie has been providing entries on the history of the first Kabuki-za, Japan’s leading kabuki playhouse, founded in 1889, and still on the same site after four additional incarnations. It continues to reign as Japan’s foremost theatre.

This is the final chapter in the saga of the first Kabuki-za.


Samuel L. Leiter


Chapter 25

1911 (Meiji 44)


“The Imperial Theatre (Teikoku Gekijō) Is Built; The Second Kabuki-za Is Born”
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[Note: This is Chapter 25 in a series devoted to the early history of the Kabuki-za (1889-1911), the years of the first Kabuki-za. It is largely based on Vols. 1 and 3 of the Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi (A Hundred Year History of the Kabuki-za), edited by Nagayama Takeomi (1995). A team of 10 writers worked on that project although none are identified in the books for specific contributions.

Each chapter includes not only data on the Kabuki-za but information regarding each important theatrical development of the specific year, including non-kabuki genres such as shinpa, shingeki, and so forth. The series thus serves as a survey of Japanese theatre in the Meiji period (1868-1912), as well as a detailed account of the Kabuki-za in particular. Also cited are the major cultural and political developments of each year, as well as notifications of the deaths of important figures, mainly theatrical but often from other fields as well.

Some material has been cut, some expanded, and other material has been added from different sources. Links are given selectively and usually only for items not so identified in previous entries. Prof. Kei Hibino of Seikei University offered helpful comments and answered translation queries during the preparation of this and all previous entries.For this chapter, additional advice regarding architectural features was given by Profs. Takayuki Hioki and Tadayoshi Kako.
 Corrections and documented additions are always welcome.


The year’s activities will again be provided in segments, the first covering January to June.]


1. January to March 1911

Seeing the audience’s mobile faces in the light shining on them created a feeling akin to that of an artist. With the light striking the people in front of the sajiki galleries, and the beams of evening light streaming in from the open doors behind the galleries, the effect of the rays falling on the spectators’ faces was quite fascinating. This was, at any rate, understandable since, within such a broad structure, light and shadow were being encountered where they normally never appeared.

The square, surrounding galleries of Japan’s theatre are kept open so when it moves from dusk to darkness it feels truly strange to see the color of the air inside the theatre changing as it moves through the muddying air of the pit to high and distant places. I once went to the Kabuki-za when it was rather cold. The unforgettable sight of the residential roofs outside, bathed in an indescribable purple, was more memorable than the performance itself, [From Nagai Kafū, Kōcha no Ato.]

In January 1911, the Shōchiku Gōmei Kaisha (Shōchiku Unlimited Partnership Company) changed its name to the shorter Shōchiku Gōmeisha, meaning basically the same thing. On January 2, the renovations of the company’s Shintomi-za were completed and Osaka sent such actors as Jitsukawa Enjirō, Ichikawa Seitarō, Arashi Rikaku, and Onoe Usaburō to star in the theatre’s first program under Shōchiku’s management. Goban Taiheiki was one of the plays they did.

Also this month, Okamoto Kidō’s still popular Shuzenji Monogatari (Tale of Shuzenji), one of the best modern kabuki plays, was published, with its stage premiere coming in May at the Meiji-za, starring Ichikawa Sadanji II as Yashio.

A new Osaka theatre opened in January, the Dōjima-za, with a bill starring Nakamura Ganjirō, Nakamura Baigyoku, and Ichikawa Sainyū. And, on January 31, the Tōkyō Haiyū Gakkō (Tokyo Actors’ School), founded for shinpa actors in 1908, began giving trial performances at its new experimental theatre, the Ushigomi Kōtō Engeijō, with a program including Kunikida Doppō’s Gyūniku to Bareisho (Meat and Potatoes).

Philosopher Nishida Kitaro’s Zen no Kenkyū (An Inquiry into the Good) was published in January as well. On January 20, skiing began in Japan, when it an Austrian, Gen. Theodore von Lerch, introduced it to Japan’s 58th regiment, in Takada, Niigata Prefecture.

On January 18, as Donald Keene describes it in Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912, “the supreme court passed death sentences on twenty-four persons [including radical socialist Kōtoku Shūsui] who had been found guilty of planning to assassinate the emperor. Two other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor.” On January 19, because of the emperor’s request, 12 of the defendants in this case of high treason had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment; the rest (including anarcho-feminist Kanno Suga) were executed on January 24 and 25.

January 1911 also witnessed the death of 50-year-old bunraku shamisen player Toyozawa Danpachi, chief disciple of the late Toyozawa Danpei, who died backstage at the Tenka-za in Ogawa-chō, Kanda, Tokyo. In addition, the following actors rose to billboard (nadai) status: Ichikawa Kurisaburō, who became Ichikawa Kaijūrō II, and Bandō Sumigorō, who became Bandō Takegorō. Further, Nakamura Wakanosuke became a disciple of Shikan, taking the name Nakamura Kannosuke.

The January Kabuki-za production opened at 11:00 a.m. on the 14th, the two-part curtain raiser being the dances called Suzuna no Tanemaki (Turnip-Planting Time) and Soga no Harukoma (The Soga Hobby Horses). The first regular play was Enomoto Torahiko’s adaptation of Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s original script for Nebiki no Kadomatsu (Uprooting the Pine). It was followed by Ihara Seiseien’s new play, Kasugayama (Kasuga Mountain), after which came Kami no Megumi Wagō no Torikumi (The “Me” Company of the Gods and a Harmonious Match), a.k.a. Megumi no Kenka (The “Me” Company Quarrel).
Nebiki no Kadomatsu, Kabuki-za, January 1911. L-R: Onoe Baikō VI as Azuma Tayū; Sawamura Sōjūrō VII as Yojibei; Nakamura Shikan V as Okiku. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The most prized part of the program was Nebiki no Kadomatsu’s second act, at Yamazaki Jōkan’s villa, with Kataoka Nizaemon XI, who was also appearing that month at the Meiji-za (appearing at more than one theatre during the same month is called kakemochi), gaining plaudits for his performance as Jōkan. Seiseien’s play borrowed a hint from Russian literature in a fictional account of early days of 16th-century daimyō Uesugi Kenshin. The Metropolitan Police interfered when they considered the story’s point about someone punishing his own brother for his bad behavior to be a corruption of public morals

Many years later, Nizaemon’s son, Nizaemon XIII, recalled:

At the time, the Kabuki-za was Japan’s foremost theatre. Even the dressing rooms were luxurious. First, my father’s dressing room was in a separate building whose entrance area (genkan) you reached via a long, board-covered passageway. There, at the right, was a 12-mat room with a tokonoma alcove, staggered shelves, and a dresser for father and me. To its right was a garden. The six-mat inner room to the left was used by my elder sister, Mineko, and the daughters of the late Danjūrō IX, Suisen and Kyokubai, who had been entrusted to my father’s care.

On crossing the passageway connected to the rear garden there was a lavatory to the left and a bathroom to the right. Inside a waiting room within the entrance area, were the wig dressers (tokoyama) and apprentices (deshi), and a six-mat room for the manservants (otokoshū), and it seemed like they passed through from there to inner room, as well. It was more like a house than a dressing room. Moreover, my father completely rebuilt the old rooms with a totally new bath and toilets. When both Narikomaya-san [Nakamura Shikan] and Ichimura-san [Uzaemon] saw this and noted that Matsushimaya [Kataoka Ichizō] had built a toilet and bath, they immediately undertook construction themselves and, soon, both Narikomaya-san and Ichimura-san’s dressing rooms had baths and toilets. [From Kataoka Nizaemon, Yakusha Shichijū Nen].

Manager Tamura Nariyoshi later wrote:

In the New Year production’s curtain raiser, Harukoma Soga, Onoe Baikō played the courtesan Tora and Sawamura Sōjūrō played the courtesan Shōshō. There was a moment when the pair entered on the hanamichi. The two of them, with no one else involved, were standing in the agemaku [the room leading on to the hanamichi] talking about something. Later. I learned in the street somewhere, that what they’d been discussing in the agemaku was moving to the Teikoku Gekijō (Imperial Theatre) one day. I, of course, I had no way of knowing if this was true or false. [From Tamura Nariyoshi, “Kabuki-za Kokon Monogatari no Dekiagaru Made,” in Shin Engei, June 1917.]

Sure enough, during this production, Baikō, Sōjūrō, and Onoe Matsusuke announced that they were leaving the Kabuki-za for the about-to-open Teikoku, so the three were reviled as traitors. 4\

The newspaper mocked the Kabuki-za’s unpreparedness, the production was faulted, and the year’s first production limped through 25 performances, closing on February 7.

And, on February 10, the Teikoku Gekijō, or as we’ll henceforth call it, the Imperial Theatre, finally opened for inspection.

Edward Seidensticker has written:

The improvers still were not satisfied. Even after the opening of the Kabukiza, they lacked a place where a gentleman might enjoy, in gentlemanly company, the traditional theater. So, in the last full year of Meiji, the Imperial Theater was opened beside the palace moat, on the western edge of Mitsubishi Meadow. Plans were begun in 1906. Shibusawa Eiichi, most energetic and versa tile of Meiji entrepreneurs, was chairman. He was born in 1840, in what is now a part of metropolitan Tokyo. To the true son of Nihombashi he may have been a bumpkin, but his case further demonstrates that Osaka people were not the only successful ones in emergent Tokyo. He was everywhere, doing everything, among the organizers of the Bank of Japan, the First National Bank (the first incorporated bank in the land), the Oji Paper Company, Japan Mail Lines (N.Y.K.), and the private railway company that put through the first line to the far north. His as the somewhat Moorish house . . . that seemed so strange to the young Tanizaki and other children of Nihombashi. Among the other organizers of the Imperial Theater were Prince Saionji and Prince Itō.

The first Imperial, which survived the disaster of 1945, was a highly Gallic structure of marble, hung with tapestries, and provided with seventeen hundred Western-style seats. Initially it had a resident Kabuki troupe, but it never really caught on as a place for Kabuki. The High City liked it better than did the Low City, which had a happy simile: seated in the Imperial, one felt like a cenotaph in a family shrine. The Imperial was the place for gala performances when, in the years before the earthquake, celebrities like Pavlova began appearing. [From Edward Seidensticker, High City, Low City: 1867-1923.]
The new Imperial Theatre (Teikoku Gekijō). From Tōkyō Fūkei Shashin-Chō.
The Kabuki-za’s reaction is noted in a discussion years later:

Shibusawa (Hideo): Then, the next year, in March 1911, the Imperial gave its first production. How did Shōchiku feel about this?

Enzō Tameharu: Shōchiku hadn’t yet taken over the Kabuki-za when the Imperial was built. It was still under the Kabuki-za management, with Tamura Nariyoshi in total control of production. Tamura-san said that the Imperial was in Western style, but the Kabuki-za would always be in Japanese style. However, with the arrival of the Imperial, what was going to happen regarding the actors? Nishino Einosuke asked each of the actors about this.

Shibusawa: They worked for Tamura. At the time, Baikō went to him to ask for time off. He discussed it, saying, “I’ve served the Kabuki-za for a long time, and I’m truly grateful to have done so, but since I’m an onnagata I’d like to play Masaoka [in Meiboku Sendai Hagi] once. However, the Kabuki-za has Narikomaya—Shikan, soon to be Nakamura Utaemon V—and since Narikomaya is there, he gets the part and no one thinks I can do it. Again, won’t you let me play it? Luckily, the Imperial has asked me to perform there, so, if I go, I’ll be able to get cast as Masaoka.” Tamura agreed that this was okay and told him go ahead. It wasn’t going to be a permanent separation, so Baikō simply figured he was getting time off. He discussed it openly with Tamura, didn't he? At the time, Matsumoto Kōshirō VII, who was still Ichikawa Komazō, and Sawamura Sōjūrō, had similar inclinations, but they seem not to have caused much of a problem.

Enzō: Sōjūrō was a good actor, wasn’t he?

Shibusawa: I realized that later but the Imperial picked only those who could dance, you know. That included Baikō, of course, but also Komazō and Sōjūrō. The only dancer left at the Kabuki-za was Ennosuke. When Kanjinchō was done at the Kabuki-za, it was Kōshirō [Komazō] who played Benkei [in Kanjinchō]. [From Shibusawa Hideo, Enzō Tameharu, “Rensai Taidan Kabuki Yomoyama Banashi,” in Kikan Kabuki, No. 2.]
Interior of the Imperial Theatre. From Tōkyō Fūkei Shashin-Chō.
When, on February 10, the Imperial was opened for inspection, visitors noted the dominant influence of French Renaissance design. Covering 640 tsubo (1 tsubo=3.95 square yards), with a frontage of 67 ken [1 ken=1.818 meters], and a depth of 33 ken, it was an impressive building, five stories high, including the basement, with an exterior wrapped in white brick, a standing statue of the nō character Okina on the roof, and marble interior walls covered with paintings, tapestries, and sculptures, creating an extremely lavish effect. From the stage to the overhead beams was more than nine ken, with a stage width of eight ken. Box seats were situated on two levels at either side of the stage and a hanamichi could be installed on an as-needed basis. All seating was in Western style, with first-class seating on the first floor for 54, and on the second floor for 26. First floor, second-class seating held 282 patrons, and 170 on the second floor. Third-class seating totaled 390 on each of the first three floors, with an additional 250 seats on the fourth floor. Altogether, the theatre could hold over 1,700 paying customers. In addition, the theatre was equipped with restaurants, cafés, lounges, makeup rooms, an exercise room, and a roof garden.

Managerial reforms under Chairman Shibusawa Eichi included the prohibition of eating, drinking, and smoking at one’s seat, the sale of seat-numbered tickets purchasable ten days before a show opened, the delivery of tickets anywhere within the city, the abolishing of the tearoom and usher (dekata) system which was replaced by male receptionists and female guides, and the banning of tips and other gratuities. Some such things had been instituted at the Yūraku-za but with their introduction at this new theatre they spread and were welcomed widely.

According to Imano Nobuo:

Mitsukoshi was contracted to design the interior and the drop curtain (donchō). As a result, each newspaper ran ads like the following:

“Don’t talk about theatre without seeing it at the Imperial. Don’t discuss fashion without visiting Mitsukoshi. Just as the Imperial is Japan’s foremost new theatre, Mitsukoshi is the Orient’s prime department store. We, the Mitsukoshi Dry Goods (Gofukuten), manage the Imperial’s costumes.”

From early on, Mitsukoshi had targeted well-off female theatregoers. In 1907, an Ichimura-za pamphlet had printed this ad; “Please visit Mitsukoshi Dry Goods. Theatre is truly interesting but since the gorgeous draperies and the like on display at Mitsukoshi Dry Goods are red and eye-opening it’s a place you’ll enjoy seeing at least once. Anyone at the theatre today, be doubly sure that you go to Mitsukoshi tomorrow or the day after.” The Kabuki-za’s ads urged: “The day after seeing the play we must certainly pay a visit to Mitsukoshi.” [From Imano Nobuo, Kōkoku Sesō—Kopii no Genten o Saguru.]

Beginning with the Kabuki-za, theatres large and small felt the impact of the arrival of this impressive new theatre, located in the Marunouchi section, across from the Imperial Palace in the heart of the capital city. Thus, this new playhouse was asserting its emerging power by pilfering the Kabuki-za’s Baikō, Sōjūrō, and Matsusuke, the Meiji-za’s Ichikawa Komazō and Sawamura Sōnosuke, and welcoming Osaka’s Nakamura Ganjirō for its premiere production.

Avoiding the folly of a direct reaction, the Kabuki-za moved its contracted players, Ichimura Uzaemon, Ichikawa Yaozō, and Ichikawa Danshirō, from Nagoya, where they were appearing, to Osaka and sought to open with the Ichimura-za’s young actors. However, Nakamura Kichiemon, Nakamura Karoku, and Morita Kan’ya were contracted to appear at Osaka’s Kado-za, so, faced by a lack of manpower, the Kabuki-za had to make do for two months with a company led by Onoe Kikugorō VI, which also included young Bandō Mitsugorō.
The February Kabuki-za program opened on the 17th, at 11:00 a.m. The curtain raiser was the pantomime, Danmari Momoyo Guruma, followed by Hasegawa Shigure’s new play Sakura Fubuki (Cherry Blossom Blizzard), with Kikugorō scoring highly as Kachiko. The play was also published in Engei Gahō. Then came the kyōgen­-inspired dance play Tsuri Onna (Fishing for a Wife), the popular domestic play Bunshichi Mottoi, and the jōruri dance closer Yayoi Matsuri Sanja no Nigiwai.

Top honors went to Kikugorō for his first-ever performance in Bunshichi Mottoi as the plasterer Chōbei, which mirrored the style of his late father, Kikugorō V. He went on to perform the role 14 times over the years in his inimitably forceful way. His outstanding work succeeded in drawing packed houses for the 20-day run, leading Tamura Nariyoshi to declare with wry determination: “Even though all the leading actors (kanbu haiyū) have run off to the Imperial Theatre, we didn’t suddenly collapse.”
Bunshichi Mottoi at the Kabuki-za, February 1911. Onoe Kikugorō VI (L.) as Chōbei, the plasterer; Bandō Mitsugorō VII as the clerk, Bunshichi. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi. 
However, the Kabuki-za, without Baikō, Sōjūrō, and Matsusuke, soon began to have play selection and casting difficulties, creating serious programming headaches. This month at the Kabuki-za featured the promotion to nadai status of Onoe Kikugorō V’s disciple Onoe Kikumatsu, who changed his name to Isaburō. And Onoe Kōshichi took the name Onoe Kosaburō.

On February 11, the Bungei Kyōkai leadership was reorganized, with Tsubouchi Shōyō as its chairman. On February 18, bunraku chanter Takemoto Ayasedayū II died, aged 46. On February 20, the Ministry of Education awarded a doctorate in literature to novelist Natsume Sōseki, which drew public attention. On the 21st, the revised Japanese-American Treaty of Commerce and Navigation was signed, after which other countries signed similarly revised treaties with Japan. On February 22, bunraku shamisen master Nozawa Kichibei died, aged 71. And the Shinjidaigeki Kyōkai (New Age Theatre Society) produced its second offering, Kusuyama Masao’s translation of Gogol’s The Inspector General (Kensatsukan), at the Yūraku-za. Also on the program was Mayama Seika’s Daichi Ninsha (Man of the First Rank).

In March, Ōtani Takejirō of Osaka’s Shōchiku Gōmeisha cooperated in the opening of the Imperial Theatre by making available the services of Nakamura Ganjirō, which began a close relationship between Shōchiku and the Imperial. In Osaka, the Naniwa-za held a memorial production honoring Kataoka Nizaemon X, with a company including such relatives as Nakamura Karoku and Nakamura Kichiemon, who traveled there from Tokyo.

On March 1, 1911, the Imperial Theatre officially opened, with ceremonies honoring the occasion. Among the company members introduced were the actresses Mori Ritsuko and Murata Kakuko, who went on to have distinguished stage careers.

The first day for production was March 4, with a program that opened with a prize-winning historical drama, Yamazaki Shikō’s Yoritomo, starring Komazō as Yoritomo and Baikō as Masako. The next play starred Ganjirō as Masaemon in the “Manjū Musume” (Bean Jam Bun Girl) scene of the classic Igagoe Dōchū Sugoroku, while the closing dance play starred Baikō in Hagoromo. The show was a big hit, filling seats daily, and running until April 3 with numerous members of the elite in attendance.

On March 5, Ichikawa Danzō VII presided at the Narita Temple over the unveiling of statues honoring Ichikawa Danjūrō VII and Danzō’s father, Danzō VII. On March 10, the Antarctic expedition led by Lt. Shirase Nobu got only so far into the Ross Sea before being forced to return to Sydney, Australia. Also in March, the soon-to-be-famous Café Plantain opened near Kyōbashi, in Tokyo, at the south end of the Ginza, where it remained until 1945. Edward Seidensticker writes in Low City, High City that it was the first of a rash of such cafés, where “elegant and alluring female company came with the price of one’s coffee, or whatever." And from March 25 to March 26, the Kabuki-za hosted a dance concert featuring Fujima Masaya.

2. April to June 1911:

The next Kabuki-za program opened at noon on April 7 with Enomoto Torahiko’s new play Yoshino Shūi (Yoshino Gleanings), followed by Kanjinchō starring Danshirō as Benkei, Uzaemon as Togashi, and Kikugorō as Yoshitsune. Then came Igagoe Dōchū Sugoroku’s “Numazu” scene, with Nizaemon as Heisaku, and, instead of a dance play to close the show, the popular bandit play, Benten Kōzō, starring Uzaemon as Benten, Shikan as Tadanobu Rihei, Yaozō as Nango Rikimaru. Kanjinchō, with Uzaemon as Togashi, Danshirō as Benkei, and Kikugorō as Yoshitsune, was notable for the successful collaboration between the nagauta musician partnership of Ijūrō and Kangorō with Okayasu Nanpo and Rokuzaemon. Ihara Seiseien noted that “Compared to them, the acting on stage was like something pale and lifeless.” The program played to full houses through May 1, a total of 25 days.

The Shinjidaigeki Kyōkai offered its third and final production at the Yūraku-za this month before disbanding. Two European and one Japanese play were performed, the former being Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s The Gate and the Death (Der Tor und Der Tod) and Leopold Lewis’s The Bells (an adaptation of Erckmann-Chatrian’s The Polish Jew [Le Juif Polonais]), one of Sir Henry Irving’s greatest hits. Inoue Masao was the star. The Japanese play was Nakamura Shun’u’s Shin Kichōsha (The New Returnee).

On April 9, 1911, a great fire in the Yoshiwara district burned down the tatami rooms that Ichikawa Danshirō was renting out for entertainment purposes. The fire, which cost many prostitutes and entertainers their livelihood, was dramatized in the film Tokyo Bordello (Yoshiwara Enjō). And on April 20, Sawamura Shirōgorō IV, actor-manager of Nagoya’s Suehiro-za, died at 51. And the Imperial Theatre put a group of Kabuki-za musicians under contract for its next production, among them nagauta artists Kineya Kangorō V, Kineya Rokuzaemon XIII, Yoshimura Ijūrō VI, Okuyasu Nanpo, Mochizuki Tazaemon VII, and Tanaka Denzaemon IV. This forced the Kabuki-za to scramble for replacements.

The only thing at the Kabuki-za in May, from 15th to the 17th, was a series of railway lecture meetings.
Elsewhere in May, the Shōchiku Gōmeisha company took over Osaka’s Dōtonbori theatres, the Naniwa-za, home to the Nakamura Baigyoku troupe, and the Kado-za, from producer Takagi Tokubei, and began producing at them in June. At the Meiji-za, Danshirō disciple Ichikawa Kichibei changed his name to Sawamura Tsuruzō. Shamisen master Kiyomoto Umekichi, composer of the music for Sumidagawa, died on May 14. Shūzenji Monogatari premiered at the Meiji-za, as mentioned earlier, starring Sadanji. And the Imperial presented its first production with the actresses who had just graduated from its acting school.


And the Bungei Kyōkai, which had presented four rehearsal-like performances of Hamlet at its center in March 1910, now performed a full, five-act production at the Imperial for a week, beginning Ma 20. Doi Shunshō was Hamlet, Matsui Sumako was Ophelia, and Tōgi Tetteki was Claudius. Company head Tsubouchi Shōyō, it is said, “frayed the skirt of his hakama walking back and forth between the dressing rooms and the audience each day.” [In Komiya Toyotaka, Japanese Music and Drama in the Meiji Era, tr. by Edward G. Seidensticker and Donald Keene.] The production played at Osaka’s Kado-za in July.

May 1 saw the opening of the Chūō Line. That date also marked the opening by Kobayashi Ichizō of the Takarazuka Shin-Onsen (Takarazuka New Hot Springs) in the town that would soon be the home of the Takarazuka Revue. On May 30th, the Imperial Gift Foundation, created in February, contributed 1,500,000 yen to the relief of the poor. And, as described as early as Tokutomi Roka’s popular 1898 novel, Hototogisu (The Cuckoo; translated as Namiko), the tuberculosis epidemic flooded clinics.

On June 10, the fifteen members of t4he first class to graduate from the Bungei Kyōkai’s theatrical training school received their diplomas. Among them were Katō Seiichi, Mori Eijirō, Hayashi Yawara, Yokogawa Tadaharu, Takeda Masanori, Sasaki Tsumoru, and Matsui Sumako.  And the Tōkyō Haiyū Gakkō gave its new graduates their first production, at the Yūraku-za, with Satō Kōroku’s Haiba (Worn-Out Horse).

The same month, the Jiyū Gekijō gave its fourth public performance, at the Yūraku-za, with Nagata Hideo’s Kanraku no Oni (Devil of Pleasure), Yoshii Isamu’s Kawachi-ya Yohei, and others.

The Kabuki-za opened on June 5, at noon, with a program including Shikan in Enomoto Torahiko’s “heroine drama” (retsujo mono) Onna Rōnin (The Female Rōnin), the classic “Kinkakuji” section from Gion Sairei Shinkōki, Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s Shinjū Yoi Gōshin, and, as the conventional nagauta dance piece closer, Rokkasen, showing the “Bunya” and “Kisen” segments. Rokkasen featured a name taking ceremony for Kiyomoto Umesaburō, the son of the musician Kiyomoto Umekichi, who succeeded to his father’s name. Both musician Kiyomoto Enjudayū and actor Nakamura Utaemon V gave speeches in his honor.
Shinjū Yoi Gōshin at the Kabuki-za, June 1911. Kataoka Nizaemon XI (L.) as Hanbei; Nakamura Utaemon V as Ochiyo. From Hyakunen Kabuki-Shi.
Enomoto’s play was based on one by the late Fukuchi Ōchi dealing with the Meiji Restoration and emphasizing loyalty to the emperor; at the same time, another imperial loyalty-themed play, was being produced at the Imperial Theatre, creating an unexpected loyalty to the throne rivalry, but Onna Rōnin losing the battle. The Kabuki-za even opened an exhibition room on its second floor to display artifacts belonging to distinguished patriots involved in the Restoration.

Shikan was an excellent Yuki-hime in “Kinkakuji,” Aeba Kōson saying, “With superb presence, admirable tone, and perfect form, his performance was first-rate.” Uzaemon’s Hisayoshi was also outstanding but poor houses did the show in, although it got racked up 25 performances, closing on June 29.

This June was also when Kitahara Hakushū’s collection of lyric poetry Omoide (Memories), was published. And Shōchiku gave up its management of the Asahi-za, in Tokyo’s Shin Kyōkoku. Also this month, Osaka actor Onoe Usaburō II moved to Tokyo with his son, Onoe Kakutarō (later Kitsusaburō).

3. July to September 1911

When the June production ended, the Kabuki-za, on July 1 and 2, offered a memorial concert for the 13th anniversary of musician Kiyomoto Oyō, the presentation being under the leadership of Kiyomoto Enjudayū V. When it ended, the theatre was closed down for several months at Tamura Nariyoshi’s suggestion so that it could undergo a thorough internal and external renovation. 

Since the Kabuki-za will hereafter be competing with the Imperial Theatre, it’s necessary for the former to begin by making extensive renovations. The Imperial Theatre’s beauty comes from its Western-style architecture. However, the Kabuki-za is in the old Western style, it has been roughed up by wind and rain, its faded walls are crumbling, and its outside is an eyesore. In contrast to the Western-style Imperial Theatre I want by all means to rebuild it in pure Japanese style. I’ve therefore made this proposal to the board. [From Tamura Nariyoshi, “Baishū Mondai,” in Kabuki-za Ima Mukashi Monogatari.]
The second Kabuki-za, rebuilt in pure Japanese style. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
With the appearance of such a strong rival, the Kabuki-za, once the home of the great Dan-Kiku combination, could no longer take it easy. Not only was this true with regard to the contrast between new and old architectural styles. but also in the production system. While the Imperial Theatre abolished its teahouses and dekata usher system and adopted a low price method of theatergoing, the Kabuki-za still felt like it was still mired in outdated customs.

The theatre closed down for the summer and Yokohama shipping magistrate Kashiwagi Tashichi contracted with the Nagoya Shimizu Group to reconstruct it. Leaving the structural frame as it was, the place was completely rebuilt in pure Japanese style and enlarged, with construction being hurried and the exterior completed with, as opposed to the Imperial, the look of an ancient palace. The carriage drive in front was in Chinese gable style (karahafu), with two large, bronze-encased pillars, a coffered ceiling, and copper-thatched hanging eaves. A pair of one-story structures at either side had the same gables. That on the right led to the third floor sajiki gallery, that on the left to the one-act only seating (hitomakumi). Inside the main entrance was a lobby with a mirrored ceiling, with offices to the right and a customers’ information stand at the left. 

Passing through the wide lobby one entered the auditorium, with its second and third-floor omukō balconies with Japanese cypress (hinoki) railings that ran all the way around. Over the orchestra or pit was a two-fold, gold-plated, coffered ceiling, with two, large chandeliers providing 5,000 candlepower illumination. All around were numerous electric lights. Behind the upper stories were corridors with lounges for the general theatregoers, including separate Western and Japanese powder rooms. Moreover, the traditional teahouses attached to the theatre were abolished, and new information places installed. The theatre’s appearance was altered, including a drum tower (yagura) crest (mon) of a mythical phoenix dyed on a large curtain of purple crepe. Old folks passing by mistook the theatre for a place of worship and there are stories claiming they stopped to make offerings or otherwise show their obeisance. [From Kawajiri Seitan, “Kobiki-chō no Shibai,” in Kabuki-za.]

On July 17, Kanze Kiyokado, 23rd head of the Kanze nō school, died, aged 45.

In early August, right after the Kabuki-za’s ridgepole raising ceremony, the theatre’s management ran smack into a huge internal problem. The Kabuki-za had been doing poorly of late, its June receipts taking a major loss. What happened involved a small group of board members, Inoue Kakugorō, Fujiyama Raita, Okamoto Teikyū, and Miyake Hyōza, who hailed from Mita, had gone to Keiō University, and were known as the Dōshi Kai (Association of Kindred Spirits). Going behind the back of Kabuki-za production chief Tamura Nariyoshi, they signed a contract to sell off their approximately 3,000 shares to Inoue Shizuo, the financier backing the rival Shōchiku Gōmeisha company, which was sinking its claws into the Tokyo theatre market. Naturally, Tamura was furious:

This group of Kabuki-za investors was always scheming to be on the lookout for an opportunity to unload the burden of their stock holdings. Inoue, Fujiyama, Okamoto, and Hyōza, all of them Keiō alumni, had connections with fellow Keiō alums who constituted the majority of the board at the Imperial Theatre, but were unable to merge with them, which made them their rivals. Since they frequently used their influence in other matters, they believed that if they could now make a profit on their holdings and simultaneously sever their connection with the Kabuki-za, they would be killing two birds with one stone. [From Kimura Kinka, Kinsei Gekidan Shi: Kabuki-za Hen.]

Hyōza was growing increasingly impatient with such things as the Kabuki-za’s June losses; Tamura’s making plans for himself, Kikugorō, and Kichiemon while paying little attention to the Kabuki-za; the departure of various actor; the unexciting play selections; the flight of theatregoers to the chair seating of the Imperial Theatre; the Kabuki-za’s renovation needs; sensing this, someone appeared seeking to buy Miyake Hyōza’s stock. Hyōza spoke to the other three board members and they decided to sell the 3,000 shares of the “Dōshi Kai” group for 60 yen each.

The contract listed seller Inoue Kakugorō as seller, and Inoue Shizuo as buyer, the transaction occurring over three days from August 21, when a 15,000 yen down payment was made. Tamura was so angry that when Hyōza said there was no way to revise the deal he considered stabbing him to death. At a discussion with the four members of the Dōshi Kai, Inoue Kakugorō said to him:

We “kindred spirits” bought our shares in the Kabuki-za with the aim of improving the quality of the drama. However, it’s indisputable that, thus far, absolutely no such improvement has made. Since our initial goal hasn’t been achieved there’s no need to hold onto these stocks forever. We were thinking that if there were a suitable buyer we’d like to sell our shares when, unexpectedly, a buyer appeared in the person of Mr. Inoue Shizuo of Kyoto. Later, when we learned that he’s the financier of the Shōchiku company we thought about not selling to him but with no better prospects we had no alternative than to sell to him. Our getting the jump on you ends here. [From Kimura Kinka, Kinsei Gekidan Shi: Kabuki-za Hen.]

Tamura replied that what Inoue said was quite reasonable but he wrote that business practice made it possible to break the contract by buying back the down payment for twice its value and that if they sold the shares to him he would bear the penalty costs. This incident was immediately picked up by the newspapers, almost every one of which came down hard on the Dōshi Kai for their unethical behavior.

Tamura Nariyoshi, a rube from the Kamigata area, in his conquest of Tokyo’s Kobiki-chō (home of the Kabuki-za), behaved like a true son of Edo in his money-raising attempts, with the papers reporting that he “will fight to the last to protect the Kabuki-za, a Tokyo landmark, and not hand it over to someone from Kamigata.” Such words inflamed Edo-centrism, leading to public support for his desperate maneuvers to buy back the shares. However, when the contract was canceled, Shōchiku’s Ōtani Takejirō made the momentous decision to hand back the 15,000 yen penalty for breach of contract, saying he would not take over the Kabuki-za until he had overcome resistance to his doing so. He paid an arbitrator a stipend and suffered considerable other expenses but, with this incident, Ōtani shifted from his policy of patience and prudence to a more forthright one, which was worth a lot more than an exchange of money. Many Tokyoites were impressed by his spirit, negative opinions of him softened, and he even gained sympathy. The loss suffered from the stock purchase ultimately became secondary to the acquisition of the Kabuki-za, and a new day was awaited. [From Kido Shirō, “Denki: Ōtani Takejirō” in Kikan Kabuki, No. 8.]

On August 27, through the intercession of the Kabuki-za’s biggest shareholder, Mitsuwa Zenbei, of the main branch of Mitsuwa Soap, Tamura and the 35-year-old Ōtani, making his first ever visit to Tokyo, were invited the Hyakuseki restaurant in Yoshi-chō. After each made various compromises they were properly introduced and the “Kabuki-za Acquisition Incident” (Kabuki-za kaishū jiken) came to a happy conclusion. The situation inspired this ironic take:

The Kabuki-za acquisition problem has been peacefully resolved. Along with Shōchiku’s admirable act of returning the 15,000 yen penalty payment, we have the brazen use of economic and legal power to break a contract while selling one’s one shares for an outrageously high price. Then, even though earning no salary from the theatre, behaving despicably by lecturing the house staff (dekata) like an ex-board member. The character of the so-called theatre man is enhanced while that of the so-called gentleman sinks. [From “Gekidan Jiji,” Kabuki, No. 136.]

As for why, in the first place, Shōchiku chose to acquire the Kabuki-za, we have this from Tamura himself.

The reason why Shōchiku originally decided to take over the Kabuki-za began with the Utaemon problem. Shochiku wanted its star actor, Nakamura Ganjirō, to succeed to the name of Nakamura Utaemon V. So Tokyo’s Nakamura Shikan got out in front of this to take the name himself, the ceremonial announcement clearly to be at the Kabuki-za. The acquisition of the Kabuki-za was definitely part of a plan attempting to prevent this from happening. Therefore, I absolutely had to buy the theatre back. [From Tamura Nariyoshi, “Kabuki-za Ima Mukashi Monogatari—Kaishū Mondai,” Shin Engei, July 1917.])

There is thus a belief that the reason for the Utaemon name accession had its basis in a dispute over who should succeed to the name. Tamura wanted the first production at the newly reconstructed Kabuki-za to feature the name accession ceremony (shūmei hirō) of Shikan to Nakamura Utaemon V. Osaka’s Ganjirō, who heard the rumor, and was the illegitimate son of Utaemon IV’s adopted son, Nakamura Ganjaku, believed he, too, had the right to become Utaemon V, as did Shōchiku, to whom he was contracted and who wanted him to take the name. Thus, coursing beneath this conflict over the acquisition of the Kabuki-za between the great theatrical powers represented by Tamura and Ōtani/Shōchiku was the question of who should become the next Utaemon.

On August 10, the famous Café Lion opened at Owari-chō in the Ginza. On August 14, actor Jitsukawa Enzaburō, a disciple of Jitsukawa Enjaku I, died at 41. Also this month, the price of rice skyrocketed for a number of consecutive days and, on August 11, trading was suspended. And on August 30, the second Katsura Tarō cabinet replaced the second Saionji Kinmochi cabinet.

On September 9, a general meeting of Kabuki-za shareholders was held at the Shinbashi Club. Tamura. Tamura Nariyoshi was nominated for reelection to the board of directors, as were five new board members (torishimariyaku), with one of them, Namura Mataemon, recommended for chairman (kaichō). Further, Shikan and five other actors were installed as consultants (sōdanyaku). Tamura was head of production. The meeting also voted unanimously to abolish the Kabuki-za’s traditional teahouse system.

September 1911 also saw the first publication of the women’s literary magazine Seitō (Bluestocking), the organ of the burgeoning feminist movement; it continued until 1916. The first issue included Hiratsuka Raichō’s controversial declaration, “In the beginning, woman was the sun” (元始、女性は太陽であっ).
Ichikawa Danzō VII, From Kabuki-za Hyakuen-Shi.
Ichikawa Danzō VII, one of the era’s top actors, died on September 12, at 76. Great in villain roles, he made an indelible impression as Nikki Danjō in Meiboku Sendai Hagi, which still uses his kata. The month also saw Sawamura Chōnosuke become Sawamura Chōjūrō VI at the Imperial Theatre, while, at the Meiji-za, Ichikawa Kigan IV became Asao Kuzaemon IV, and Ichikawa Kisaburō became Ichikawa Kigan V (later, Onoe Taganojō III).

Also in September, the shingeki movement saw the completion of a 600-seat theatre built for the Bungei Kyōkai’s practice performances. It opened with a production of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, with Matsui Sumako as Nora. The program also offered two experimental dance dramas by Tsubouchi Shōyō, Kanzan Jittoku (Kanzan and Jittoku) and Oshichi Kichiza (Oshichi and Kichiza). And on September 27, Okamoto Kidō’s Minowa no Shinjū (Love Suicides at Minowa), which became a staple of the modern kabuki repertory, opened at the Meiji-za, starring Sadanji II.

4. October to December 1911

On October 1, at a special general meeting of shareholders, three ex-board members, Inoue Kakugorō, Fujiyama Raita, and Okamoto Teikyū, presented a set of silver cups and a letter of appreciation to Miyake Hyōza for his accomplishments while in office. Also, this October, the Osaka publishing company Tachikawa Bunmeidō produced the first of its enormously popular children’s books in the Tachikawa Bunkō (Pocket Book) series, the first title being Sarutobi Sasuke, a kōdan-based story about a popular boy ninja. October 1911 was also when Katayama Sen and others founded Japan’s Socialist Party (Shakaitō), which was frequently suppressed. Further, on October 10, China witnessed the Wuchang Uprising led by the New Army, followed by the Revolution of 1911 (a.k.a. the Xinhai Revolution or Chinese Revolution), which overthrew the Qing Dynasty and gave rise to the Republic of China.

In November, the Kōdan Club was founded and the great novelist Shimazaki Tōson’s Ie (Family) was published. On November, the French crime movie Zigomar (Jigoma), the first in a series, opened at the Asakusa Kinryūkan and was not only enormously popular but sparked a big scandal.

Incidentally, with regard to the Utaemon V name-taking controversy, Shikan eventually was comfortable telling anyone who asked that he was Utaemon V. Ganjirō, for his part, said that, in the future, artistic standards would not be attached to a specific name so he gave up the idea of succession and the matter came to a satisfactory end.

The Kabuki-za reconstruction was now complete, with its pure Japanese style contrasting with the Imperial Theatre’s Western style, while the content and format of its productions would also undergo various reforms. But Tamura lamented that “The Kabuki-za, which was to be rebuilt for 30,000 yen, actually cost 120,000 yen.”

According to a contemporary anecdote:

Someone commenting on the reconstruction said, “It’s completely like Monzeki-sama,” to which someone else remarked, “It should be since that’s what Ōtani wants.” There were many jokes like this at the time. [From Kimura Kinka, Kinsei Gekidan Shi: Kabuki-za Hen.] s

The joke is based on the word monzeki (an important temple’s head priest), a nickname for the abbot of Hongan-ji Temple (which serves the nearby Kabuki-za) which was also used to refer to Hongan-ji itself. The ceiling and electric lights from the former Kabuki-za had been sold for re
use to the Ichimura-za, along with various other appurtenances, so patrons at the Ichimura-za are said to have had the illusion they were sitting at the Kabuki-za.
The name-taking ceremony (shumei hirō) of Nakamura Utaemon V during the opening program of the second Kabuki-za, November 1911. Notice how the  audience is squeezed into their boxed-in spaces on the auditorium floor as per traditional practice. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Finally, on November 3, 1911, the second Kabuki-za opened, the chief attraction being the name-taking ceremony of Nakamura Utaemon V, for which the Meiji-za’s Ichikawa Sadanji II hastened over to take part. The program opened with Enomoto Torahiko’s new play Kamakura Bukan (The Kamakura Book of Heraldry); the classic Ōmi Genji Senjin Yakata, starring Uzaemon as Moritsuna; the shūmei hirō announcement ceremony (kōjō), which immediately followed, with Nizaemon, Karoku, and Shikaku giving speeches; the popular nagauta dance play Kyōganoko Musume Dōjōji, starring the new Utaemon; Horikawa, with Kataoka Nizaemon in the lead; with the fifth and last piece being a tokiwazu-takemoto dance play, Ushiro Men Hagi no Tamagawa (The Rear-Facing Mask and Bush Clovers at the Tama River). 
Floor plan of the ground floor seating (hiradoma) in the second Kabuki-za. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The first play was an adaptation (hon’an) of Corneille’s 1636 French neoclassical drama Le Cid, set against the background of the Mongol invasion, with the new Utaemon in one of his popular pigtail roles. The second featured Nizaemon XII in the “Moritsuna Jinya” scene, which his son, Nizaemon XIII, recalled in this piece from the Kabuki-za program of January 1988:

NIZAEMON: In November 1911, “Moritsuna Jinya” was produced with Uzaemon XV as Moritsuna, my father as Mimyō, Ichikawa Chūsha (when he was still Yaozō) as Wada Hyōei, and Ichikawa Monnosuke VII (when he was still Otora). In addition, there were Nakamura Kichiemon as the messenger (gochūshin) Shigaraki Tarō, which he was playing for the first time, and Onoe Kikugorō VI as the comic messenger Ibuki Tōta. I recall Utaemon V saying to them, “It would be wonderful if you could do it.” 

This was during the youthful days of the Kiku-Kichi acting partnership, right? What a great cast . . .

NIZAEMON: They were probably in their twenties. Around this time my father’s disciple, Kataoka Tarō, was adopted by Uzaemon and took the name Ichimura Kamezō when he played Hayase in “Moritsuna Jinya.” [This is incorrect, as the actor became Kamezō at the Kabuki-za a few months earlier, in April 1911, during Kiri Hitoha. SLL] I played Koshirō, and the actor who became Uzaemon XVI (then called Takematsu) played Kosaburō. We were pals and I would call him by his real name, “Isamu-chan, Isamu-chan.”

. . .

This was when, in March, the Western-style Imperial Theatre had opened and the Kabuki-za followed with a purely Japanese look.

NIZAEMON: The interior was in authentic Japanese style. The auditorium of the previous building contained not only electric lights but, hanging over the regular and temporary hanamichi were huge gaslights. The switch to using only electric lights happened with the production of “Moritsuna Jinya.” As a child, I was overwhelmed by what we now call a chandelier, thinking “How great!” Tungsten filaments hadn’t yet replaced carbon in lighting instruments.

The Imperial’s seating was entirely in Western style. The renovated Kabuki-za used traditional Japanese style seating, including the retention of boxed-in masu seating in the pit. It had a hanamichi as well as a kari (temporary) hanamichi and was a superb theatre. [From Kataoka Nizaemon, “Kabuki-za o Kataru,” in Kabuki-za Sujigaki, January 1988.]

In his essay collection, Isasa Muratake (Isasa Village Bamboo), Prof. Uchida Hyakken has a brief piece called “Kichiemon” where he recalls the death of Nakamura Kichiemon I, who lived in the same neighborhood.

It was in 1910, or perhaps 1911, after I’d moved to Tokyo, that I saw Ōmi Genji Senjin Yakata at the old Kabuki-za. With the general, Moritsuna, facing front on stage, two messengers dashed breathlessly down the hanamichi through the agemaku curtain, one played by Kikugorō, the other by Kichiemon. This happened around 40 years ago so both were young and it was during the time when these actors were gaining great popularity as costars at the Ichimura-za, from which they had come to perform at the Kabuki-za.

I had just moved from the country so I was amazed at the excited reaction in the theatre. It compared to the tumult at a baseball game. First, Kikugorō [playing the comic messenger, Ibuki Tōta] came racing in. The connoisseurs already knew what was going to happen because the place thundered with shout-outs (kakegoe) in the moments before he entered. After Kikugorō had entered amidst the tumult and finished his message, he held a tiny folding fan in his palm and fanned his imposing face.

Then, the house sent up an even more enormous roar than before. I had no idea of what was going on until the youthful Kichiemon [portraying the traditional messenger, Shigaraki Tarō] ran onto the hanamichi. After delivering his speech—which resounded in every nook and cranny, suppressing the waves of excitement roiling the theatre—he, just like Kikugorō, took out with a fan but a much, much bigger one. It was the size of a zabuton cushion with a design on it, and Kichiemon struggled to fan himself with it, doing so very, very slowly. [From Uchida Hyakken, “Kichiemon,” in Isasa Muratake.]

These paragraphs raise some questions concerning the accuracy of Hyakken’s memory as he places the order of the characters’ entrances backwards; the traditional gochūshin appears first in the scene, not second. And, while Tōta always does some business with a tiny fan (and hat), Shigaraki, who is mainly concerned with martial movements using a sword, has no such business with a large fan, at least not in most performances. Either Hyakken simply misremembers or Uzaemon’s business has been discarded.

The November 1911 production, which celebrated both the opening of the second Kabuki-za and the name-taking of Nakamura Utaemon V, closed on the 29th, its full houses necessitating the addition of two days to the schedule for a total of 27. Profits surpassed 30,000 yen. Other actors who changed their names this month included Nakamura Komasuke, who became Nakamura Tōzō V (later Ōtani Tomoemon VI); Nakamura Kojaku, who took the name Nakamura Shishō, etc.

The same month, at the Imperial, Ichikawa Komazō took the name of Matsumoto Kōshirō VII, who would be one of the greatest kabuki actors of the next four decades. Also in November, the revolutionary actor-producer Kawakami Otojirō, one of the most important founders of shinpa, died at the young age of 48, leaving behind his widow and partner, Kawakami Sadayakko.

Tokyo’s first employment agency opened this November. In China, the Qing rulers summoned Yuan Shikai from retirement to become prime minister. A few days later, the “Nineteen Articles” were passed, ending autocratic imperial rule. On November 17, Japan’s cabinet decided to support the Qing government in its struggle against the Xinha Revolution.

Then, for seven days beginning on November 28, the Bungei Kyōkai revived its recent trial performance of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for a professional showing (the company’s second) at the Imperial Theatre, with Matsui Sumako repeating her acclaimed role of Nora. As before, the bill also included Kanzan Juttoku and Oshichi Kichiza. And another important modern theatre group, the Jiyū Gekijō offered its fifth public production, Gerhardt Hauptmann’s 1891 drama Lonely People (Sabishiki Hitobito), translated by Mori Ōgai.

Major events of December 1911 included naniwabushi star Tōchūken Kumoemon making his first recording. On December 12, the Brazilian-themed Café Paurisuta (Paulista) opened in Kyōbashi. For three days, beginning on December 15, the Tōkyō Gekijō hosted a festival celebrating the work of 18 theatres, with young actors performing traditional dance and music. The money earned was put into a joint fund for the participating theatres. Rakugo star Katsura Bunji died at 66 on December 17. Onoe Baikō’s disciple, Onoe Kikutarō (eldest son of dancer Hanayagi Jusuke, and later Hanayagi Jusuke II) left kabuki to specialize in nihon buyō and took the name Hanayagi Yoshitarō.

The year 1911 ended on December 31 with a Tokyo streetcar strike, led by Katayama Sen, which lasted for three days until January 2. Over six thousand workers took part, forcing traffic to stop on New Year’s Eve.

Among major events of 1911, Japan’s production of raw silk surpassed China’s, making it number one in the world. Fur overcoats and the like became all the rage, as did sailor-style clothes for children and women. Dr. Hideo Noguchi discovered the agent of syphilis as the cause of progressive paralytic disease. And Roald Amundsen reached the geographic South Pole.


For all other major world events of 1911, click here; for theatrical events click here



T

Friday, June 1, 2018

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA (1889-1911): Chapter 24. 1910 (Meiji 43)



Kabuki Woogie began in 2011 as a way to record a research trip to Japan I took on a Mellon Fellowship a year earlier. My day-to day-experiences on that trip, including videos and photos, can be found at the beginning of the blog. For the past couple of years, Kabuki Woogie has been used to post entries on the history of the first Kabuki-za, Japan’s leading kabuki playhouse, founded in 1889, and still on the same site. It continues to be extremely successful, albeit after four major reconstructions.

Samuel L. Leiter

Chapter 24

1910 (Meiji 43)

Shōchiku Invades Tokyo

[Note: This is Chapter 24 in a series devoted to the early history of the Kabuki-za (1889-1911). It is largely based on Vols. 1 and 3 of the Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi (A Hundred Year History of the Kabuki-za), edited by Nagayama Takeomi (1995). A team of 10 writers worked on that project although none are identified in the books for specific contributions.

Each chapter includes not only data on the Kabuki-za but information regarding each important theatrical development of the specific year, including non-kabuki genres such as shinpa, shingeki, and so forth. It thus serves as a survey of Japanese theatre in the Meiji period, as well as a detailed account of the Kabuki-za in particular. Also cited are the major cultural and political developments of each year, as well as notifications of the deaths of important figures, mainly theatrical but often from other fields as well.

Some material has been cut, some expanded, and other material has been added from different sources. Links are given selectively and usually only for items not so identified in previous entries. Prof. Kei Hibino of Seikei University offered helpful comments and answered translation queries during the preparation of this and all previous entries. Corrections and documented additions are always welcome.

The year’s activities will again be provided in segments, the first covering January to June.]

1.      1. January-June 1910

With the move of Ichikawa Komazō from the Kabuki-za to the Meiji-za, Kataoka Nizaemon XI, who had until then been Ichikawa Sadanji II’s main supporter at the latter theatre, began to feel uncomfortable about his position. Sensing his feelings, Yamashita Seibei invited him to join the Kabuki-za company, where he wound up being Komazō’s replacement, bringing along his son, Chiyonsuke.

Opening day at the Kabuki-za in 1910 was January 14, with the show beginning at 11:00 a.m.. With Nizaemon and Ichikawa Danzō now part of the company, the program began with Kichirei Kotobuki Soga, which was followed by Nakamura Shikan V and Onoe Baikō VI starring in Enomoto Torahiko’s new Toyotomi Tenshūni, whose titular figure, a woman (1609-1645), was the last member of the historically important Toyotomi clan. Enomoto’s play was an adaption of Schiller’s Mary Stuart, which pits Queen Elizabeth I against Queen Mary of Scotland, with Enomoto's version of Mary written to resemble Lady Macbeth.

Then came the program’s highlight, with Ichimura Uzaemon XV, gaining accolades as Sanemori, played as per Onoe Kikugorō V’s kata, in the classic history drama Genpei Nunobiki Taki, better known as Sanemori Monogatari. Sanemori would become Uzaemon’s greatest history drama role. Danzō, replacing Ennosuke as Senō, also received raves.

The fourth piece starred Nizaemon in his famous role of Hachirōbei in the “Unagidani” scene of Sakuratsuba Urami no Samezaya (The Cherry Blossom Sword Guard and the Resentful Sharkskin Scabbard), costarring Baikō as Otsuma. Nizaemon’s success was said to be linked to his having studied his role under the guidance of gidayū chanter Takemoto Tsudayū II. 
Sakuratsuba Urami no Samezaya, with Kataoka Chiyonosuke, left, Kataoka Nizaemon, and Onoe Baikō. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi
The cast included Nizaemon’s six-year-old son, Kataoka Chiyonosuke, later Kataoka Nizaemon XIII (1903-1994), who had debuted as a two-year-old at Kyoto’s Minami-za in 1905. The future star, cast as Hachirōbei’s daughter, Ohan, was here making his debut at the Kabuki-za, where he’d still be performing over 80 years later. Late in life he could still remember that his father was so pleased with his performance he bought him an imported toy steam train from Mitsukoshi. 
The program illustration for Sakuratsuba Urami no Samezaya. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The production closer was the dance Haru Geshiki Kumoi no KyokumariAlthough it ran 25 days, the program, despite New Year's productions usually being profitable, was a financial failure.
                                                                                                  ,
On January 20, Ōtani Takejirō, acting as the agent for his brother, Shirai Matsujirō, came to Tokyo and, for 45,000 yen, purchased the Shintomi-za from Nakamura Shikaku (later Denkurō VI), who had run it from 1904. [See Atsumi Seitarō’s comments on this deal in the previous chapter.] The market value was 27 or 28,000 yen, so Shikaku made a considerable profit. But Ōtani later said that the theatre had a hidden value that he respected in its being the direct descendant, through its first proprietor, Morita Kan’ya, of the Morita-za, which was one of the three great Edo theatres (Edo Sanza). The acquisition was the first major step in the Shōchiku company’s domination of the Tokyo theatre market. It also marked the beginning of Shōchiku’s responsibilities being divided between the brothers, with Ōtani in charge of business in the east (Tokyo) and Shirai in the west (Osaka and Kyoto).

The Kabuki-za was empty from February through March, during which the company’s actors, in the wake of Komazō’s departure, were considerably agitated. Lurking in the background of this unease was Shōchiku’s incursion into Tokyo and rumors that a major new theatre was going to be built somewhere along the Imperial Palace moat in Marunouchi. Meanwhile, producer Tamura Nariyoshi fell ill. From his sickbed he directed his son, Tamura Toshijūrō, Sekine Mokuan, Ogasawara Shinbei (brother-in-law of the late Morita Kan’ya XII), and others to act on his behalf.

On January 23, 1910, the boating club of Zushi Kaisei High School suffered a tragic accident when their boat capsized on it way to Enoshima, off Shichirigahama, Kamakura, with the loss of thirteen lives. In March, facial powder, makeup, and tooth powder with what became the popular brand names Kurabu Senko, Kurabu Oshiroi, and Kurabu Hamigaki went on the market.

The Shintomi-za opened under Shōchiku’s management in March, with Shōchiku’s Tokyo business offices located in the Tsukiji section of Kyōbashi. On March 25, Kurokawa Nō made its first Tokyo; it was performed at the Kudan Nōgakudō. March also saw the first experimental performances of Tsubouchi Shōyō’s home of the Bungei Kyōkai (Literary Association), with Hamlet and other works. And Kawakami Otojirō’s company gave the first performances at the newly opened Teikoku-za in Osaka’s Kitahama. The production was Hall Caine’s Bondman, a “melodrama of peasant revenge” says Joseph Anderson in Enter a Samurai, which Kawakami had done recently at Tokyo’s Hongō-za.

But more noteworthy was the premiere at the Ichimura-za of Migawari Zazen (The Zen Substitute), starring Bandō Mitsugorō VI as Tamanoi, the wife, Onoe Kikugorō VI as Yamakage Ukyō, the cheating husband, and Nakamura Kichiemon as Tarō Kaja, the servant. Okamura Shikō’s kabuki adaptation of a kyōgen play, Hanako, has remained one of the funniest and most popular of the so-called matsubamemono dance drama genre, performed on a stage suggestive of the one used for and kyōgen. Kikugorō later included it in his collection of hits associated with the Kikugorō line, the Shinko Engeki Jūshū. The play was also the first in a series of matsubame based by Shiko on kyōgen and starring Mitsugorō, including Tachi Nusubito (The Sword Thief) and Bōshibari (Tied to a Pole).

Famed writer Nagai Kafū offered this description of the Kabuki-za in his Kōcha no Ato (After Tea; 1911):

The melancholy sky seemed to turn purple. Completely unlike the winter, the street somehow glowed in softly beautiful firelight. Walking in the evening along the Ginza I noticed it was opening day at the Kabuki-za.

On either side of the entrance, barrels of Masamune brand sake and boxes of Daigaku brand face powder were perched precariously, one atop the other, while the adjoining teahouses on both sides displayed whirlpool patterned noren curtains and motion picture advertisements along with various hanging flags. However, they seemed not at all like the first-class banners seen in Edo-period woodblock prints. A group of four or five publicists (kōkokutai), wearing Western-style garments that looked as though they’d been inspired by the bicycle boys of the Mitsukoshi Dry Goods Store, were lined up beneath the picture billboards, holding bicycle handlebars, and wearing Kabuki-za crests hanging around their chests like medals.

When I climbed to the one act-only seating on the third floor, the curtain for the “Kuramayama Danmari” pantomime had just opened, and the ōzatsuma musician, dressed in formal kamishimo, had entered on the hanamichi to the audience’s applause. The manly musician Kineya Rokuzaemon immediately mounted a platform and produced a resonant nasal sound. [From Nagai Kafū, Kōcha no Ato.]

April 1 was opening day for the next Kabuki-za production, which began at 11:00 a.m. with Shin Usuyuki Monogatari, whose famous "Sannin Warai" (Three People Laughing") scene in which two parents, Sonobe Hyoe and Iganokami, unbeknownst to each other, slit their bellies and laugh upon discovering their mutual act of suicide, was played by Nizaemon as Sonobe Hyoe, and Yaozō as Iganokami, with Shikan as the onlooking Umenokata. The next offering was the one seen by Kafū from the seats reserved for those interested in viewing only one act: Kuramayama Kisei no Kakegaku. Uzaemon’s son, the six-year-old Ichimura Takematsu IV (later Uzaemon XVI), made his debut in it as Ushiwakamaru. The company’s 13 leading and supporting players performed in the play to honor his debut. 
Shin Usuyuki no Monogatari, with Ichikawa Yaozō VII, Nakamura Shikan V, and Kataoka Nizaemon XI. From Engei Gahō.
The next piece was Yuki no Yūbe Iriya no Azemichi, best known as Naozamurai, with Baikō as the courtesan Michitose, Uzaemon as Naozamurai, and Matsusuke as the blind masseur Joga; all three were praised for the unity of their ensemble work, although Ennosuke, in his first performance of Kaneko, was panned. The singer and shamisen player accompanying the performance were highly praised.

Usuyuki was so disliked that it had never drawn customers, even when paired with Hakkenden or coupled with the Mountain Scene in Imoseyama, so when the production, unusually, packed the house day after day, theatre gossips knocked its success by pinning it on the beginner’s luck of Takematsu’s debut. It seems that Uzaemon had gone all out to promote the news of his son’s debut, Eventually, an Osaka-style banner was hung outside the entrance announcing how many people had attended for the first 20 days, a total said to have been 52,791. So many people were mobilized to attend by his aggressive campaign that it drew the attention of the police, and it became necessary to closely control the lobbying, fan clubs, and obligatory behavior. The theatre staff was even instructed that the usual celebratory gifts to the geisha world were strictly forbidden.

Moreover, with such unprecedented full houses, Miyake Hyōza, who was then a Kabuki-za board member, said that Usuyuki pastries inspired by that play’s fortunate production were ordered from the Ginza pastry shop Kikujuen and then distributed to theatregoers, the media, and even backstage. [From Kazuma Eichi, “Gakuya Dango” in Kabuki-za Sujigaki, April 1940.]

This April, the magazine Shirakaba (White Birches) began publication with the participation of avant-garde writers such as Shiga Naoya, Arishima Takeo, and Mushanokōji Saneatsu, who professed interest in ideas promulgated by Leo Tolstoy.

Nakamura Kichizō (Shun’u), a well-educated former kabuki actor with a strong interest in Ibsen, returned from studying Western theatre abroad and created the Shin Shakai Gekidan (New Society Theatre) in April, the goal being to help introduce Western drama to Japan. His offerings, directed at the Tōkyō-za by Doi Shunsho,  included his own play, Bokushi no Ie (The Minister’s House), a social drama (shakai geki) and Ide Shōu’s Oya (Parent), using a cast including kabuki actor Arashi Kikkaku as well as actresses, still unusual in Japan.

At the Yūraku-za on April 4, the Tōkyō Haiyū Gakkō (Tokyo Actors School) gave an experimental production.

Shōchiku didn’t immediately begin producing kabuki at the Shintomi-za after they bought and renovated it. They set about by skillfully preventing an all-out attack from their competition by offering magic shows, performances of the narrative music called rōkyoku, Soganoya comedy (shinkigeki), and other forms of light entertainment. Meanwhile, the brothers created a troupe by hiring Osaka actors Jitsukawa Enjirō I (later Enjaku II), Arashi Kichisaburō VI, Onoe Usaburō II, Arashi Rikaku, and others.

They began doing kabuki in May, with a program including the first Tokyo production of the kabuki version of Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s puppet drama Onna Goroshi Abura no Jigyoku, as well as Gojitsu no Hachinoki and Sekenshi. The Kabuki-za’s Tamura Nariyoshi then put all his efforts into using Kikugorō and Kichiemon at the Ichimura-za to compete with the new Shintomi-za team. He even went so far as to append to the program a challenge, saying: “It’s been rumored recently that a certain very active production company in the Kansai area has brought a number of young Osaka actors here and hoisted its flag at the Shintomi-za, where it will be opening around the same time as us.” A certain publication took him to task for doing what it called something unworthy of a “son of Edo.”

At the Meiji-za in May, Ichikawa Ichijūrō III became Ichikawa Gangyoku II, while his son, Ichikawa Dankichi took the name Ichijūrō IV. On May 4, the stage fight master (tateshi) Ichikawa Enjūrō II, a disciple of Ichikawa Danjūrō IX, died at 49. On May 22, Ichikawa Sannen, the eldest son of Ichikawa Danzō, died at 38. And at the Yūraku-za this month, the Jiyū Gekijō gave its second production, Frank Wedekind’s The Court Singer (Die Kammersänger), translated by Mori Ōgai, a translation of Chekhov’s Marriage Proposal, and Ōgai’s own Ikutagawa (The Ikuta River). The company included kabuki actors Ichikawa Sadanji, Sawamura Sōnosuke, Ichikawa Danko (later Ennosuke II), Ichikawa Sumizō, and Ichikawa Sashō.

In May, Mita Bungaku (Mita Literature), a new literary magazine (still active) associated with Keiō University, one of whose sponsors was Nagai Kafū, began publication, joining the ranks of Subaru, which began the previous year. With Mita Bungaku, the anti-naturalism literary camp gained powerful support. This was a year of significant activity by such anti-naturalistic writers as Kinoshita Mokutarō, Yoshida Isamu, Kitahara Hakushū, Nagata Hideo, Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, and others.

May 14, 1910, was when the Japan-Britain Exhibition opened in London, and on May 19, Halley’s Comet brushed the earth with its tail, as a later report puts it. On May 25, arrests began in connection with the High Treason Incident, which plotted the assassination of Emperor Meiji. Anarchist leader Kōtoku Shūsui was captured on June, ushering in a year of extreme pressure on Japanese socialists. Kōtoku was one of those executed in early 1911 for their association with the assassination plot.   

The June Kabuki-za production opened on the first, beginning with Fukuchi Ōchi’s Nue Taiji (Overcoming the Nue Monster), after which came a “once-in-a-lifetime” performance by Ichikawa Danzō as Sakura Sōgorō in Sakura Giminden. Next was Ihara Seiseien’s Izumo no Okuni, about kabuki’s female founder, which was followed by Takayasu Gekkō’s Sakura Shigure (Cherry Blossom Shower), with the closer being the multiscened dance Rokkasen Kyōga no Suminuri. Danzō was so good as Sōgorō in Sakura Giminden critics wondered where the actor left off and the character began, asking whether they were watching Ichikawa Sōgorō or Sakura Danzō. Comments during the intermission were especially warm.

Recently at the Kabuki-za, when I saw Sakura Sōgorō, I thought of Sōgorō as a Roosevelt-like man, who causes his family to be horribly crucified because he stands up to injustice and speaks out against it. The only way to consider it is as a morality play about not giving in to the powerful. [From Nagai Kafū, Kōcha no Ato,]
Izumo no Okuni, with Ichikawa Monnosuke (fourth from left) as Okuni, Kataoka Nizaemon XI (center) as Nagoya Sanza, Onoe Baikō\VI (third from right) as Yodo no Kata, and Sawamura Sōjūrō VII (right) as Ishida Mitsunari..From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The otherwise commonplace Izumo no Okuni gave the onnagata Ichikawa Metora the opportunity to take the name Ichikawa Monnosuke VI and to be promoted to the top level (kanbu) of Kabuki-za players. In Sakura Shigure all the actors apart from Nizaemon (as Shōyū) were playing their roles for the first time, and all were widely praised, especially Shikan as Yoshinodayū. Despite Japan’s weak economy at the time, and the expected box office doldrums of June, the production did surprisingly good business. It ran 25 days and even followed the previous production’s practice of hanging out a banner announcing the number of attendees, which totaled 56,363.
 
The Kabuki-za at the time of Ichikawa Monnosuke's name-taking. From Tōkyō Fūkei Shachō.
Ever since the previous July, the Kabuki-za had managed the Tōkyō-za in Mizaki-chō, Kanda, under the terms of a three-year contract signed by the late company president Ōkōchi Terutake, who had initiated the idea. However, the theatre fared poorly so, after negotiations with its manager, Suzuki Kintarō, the contract was voided.

Tanaka Sada wrote the following:

At the time, the company’s capital was 350,000 yen, with internal expenses of 187,500 yen, and with around 130 shareholders. Sajiki gallery seats cost 2 yen, 80 sen; seats in the raised areas ] (takadoma) alongside the orchestra were 2 yen, 50 sen; seats in the orchestra itself (hiradoma), where up to five people sat on the floor in a boxed-in area (masu) were 2 yen, 10 sen; and seats in the third-floor balcony were 45 sen. In addition, there were some seats designated as pine, bamboo, plum, crane, tortoise, and thousand year on the first and second floors. On days when every seat was sold, the theatre could take in, at the most, 3,700 yen. [From Kimura Kinka, Kinsei Gekidan Shi, Kabuki-za Hen.]

From June 13 to November 17 the Tōkyō Asahi Shinbun published Nagatsuka Takashi’s soon-to-be famous novel, Tsuchi (The Soil), about rural life. June also was when Danjūrō IX’s son-in-law, Horikoshi Fukusaburō (later Ichikawa Sanshō V, and, posthumously, Danjūrō X), who came from the business world, not kabuki, moved to Osaka, where he became a disciple of Nakamura Ganjirō’s, changed his name to Hayashi Chōbei, and made his debut at the Tokiwa-za in Kokura, Kyūshū. His activity was kept secret in the kabuki world until later. Another June event was the name changing of Ichikawa Hikoroku to Masuroku, and his becoming a fight scene choreographer.


1.       2. July to December, 1910

In July, Shōchiku bought the Hongō-za and began producing there at once. The Kabuki-za was closed all month, and in August, Kikugorō and Kichiemon brought their Ichimura-za Young Stars’ Kabuki (Wakate Ichiza) to the Kabuki-za with a production of “refreshing” (suzumi) theatre. It opened on at 4:00 p.m. on August 7 with Kawatake Shinshichi's dramatization of Satomi Hakkenden, the kyōgen-derived comic dance play Sannin Katawa (Three Invalids) by Takeshiba Kisui, Kawatake Shinshichi's Kiyomizu Ikkaku, and Enomoto Torahiko’s comedy, Shiroto Geshukuya (Amateurs’ Lodging House).

August 8

I went to the Kabuki-za the second day to see their refreshing production. Outside, beneath the billboards, rows of potted autumn plants were lined up looking like those beneath great household gates. They were skillfully made stage props atop mounds of earth. The red rugs in the sajiki and “quail” (uzura) gallery sections were replaced by white cloths with a hospital-like look, making the faces of the spectators there look dark and dirty. It was a light, yellowish green or a pale blue place. Also, where Gifu-style lanterns always hung near the upper and lower sajiki, electrically lit glass globes were hanging with goldfish inside, having cost a considerable sum. As a matter of fact, it did not impress me so much but reminded me of a shoddy attraction often seen in the Asakusa entertainment area, because audience members sitting under the transparent glass balls could see the belly of goldfish swimming in them through glass—as clearly as if a judge saw through culprits (you could even see them crapping), not something to be appreciated. Still, some might argue that you couldn’t ask for more as every seat, in the orchestra and sajiki, was a cheap one yen. On the contrary, being inexpensive was a low trick to attract people as they planned to increase their profits by collecting admission fees from more people. This was how they knew what they should do; lo and behold, how shrewd they were, although the poorer quality of audiences could not be denied! [Ōgudō Kiyofuchi, “Engei Nisshi” in Engei Gahō, No. 9, 1910. Thanks to Prof. Hibino for his help translating much of this passage.] 

Someone else left a record of attending this cooling theatre production. During the run there was an enormous deluge that caused such serious flooding in the shitamachi (lower city) that the theatre had to be shut up for four days, starting on August 12.

“August 19 Suddenly feeling like it, I departed to visit the cooling theatre at the Kabuki-za. . . . The waters hadn’t yet receded so there were six ferries at Tsukuda. The boat rose up on the water and then angled down until it reached Tsukiji.
 
Today, when I said “theatre,” my heart beat from the morning on like a town girl. I wondered why I was feeling so like a novice? But that’s how it was so there’s nothing I could do.
 When I stepped out of the boat I immediately leaped into a rickshaw and, until I got to the Kabuki-za, was pulled along, lost in another world. In my confusion, I wondered: was I passing Saruya? Umebayashi?” 
This is the beginning of Osanai Kaoru’s August 1910 theatre criticism. At the time, he was staying at a seaside resort in Tsukishima, adapting foreign plays for the Jiyū Gekijō. It was at the time that Japan was gradually starting to adopt the practice of ocean swimming. Geisha and others would wear horizontally striped, baggy bathing suits, and, encased in swimming tubes, splash around in the waves. This seaside resort was a first-class lodging house as well as a place for romantic couples. It’s said to have been used in those days by members of the cultural elite. Ferries, rickshaws, teahouses—all associated with the zangiri (cropped hair) plays of Kawatake Mokuami. A year before, the 29-year-old Osanai had cofounded the Jiyū Gekijō, and he was right in the midst of the dazzling glory he was achieving as a standard bearer for the new theatre movement, Nevertheless, the idea of going to see kabuki was enough to turn him into a theatrical innocent. And he kept this innocence until the day he died. Nothing could be more beautiful. [Aoe Shunjirō, “Kyōfu no Kisetsu” in Kikan Kabuki, No. 5.]

The heat made sitting through Kyokutei Bakin’s very long classic, Hakkenden, a trial but Kikugorō (as the “blind” Hannojō) in Sannin Katawa received strong praise, along with his costars. And Kikugorō’s Ikkaku in Kiyomizu Ikkaku drew acclaim from critic Kawajiri Seitan. 

The continuing downpour caused serious flooding in Senjū, Honjo, Asakusa, Fukagawa, and Hamachō, affecting at least 59 members of the Kabuki-za staff, including actors, and there was talk of paying visits to them from the Kabuki-za during the days when the theatre was closed. But a shortage of boats affected the hardest hit areas so the large tubs that had been created to hold the goldfish used in the globular electric lamps was put into service. With “Kabuki-za” written on it in large characters, it carried necessities to the distressed persons, and is said to have been greatly appreciated as a godsend substitute for a regular boat. When the theatre opened again on August 16, a sum of over a 1,000 yen was collected by adding the proceeds of one day’s performance to contributions from the teahouses, the money being given to the Kyōbashi Ward Office for the relief of the flood victims. 

This month, Ishikawa published his Jidai Heisoku no Genjō (The Stagnation of Our Times). On August 21, the Japan-Korea Treaty (Kankoku Jōyaku) was signed, officially designating Japan’s annexation of Korea, which went into effect on August 29, with a government-general put into place. On August 15, the bunraku puppet handler Kiritake Monjūrō I died, aged 66.

On September 1, Shōchiku’s Ōtani Takejirō began producing at his newest acquisition, the Hongō-za, with a company of top shinpa actors, among them Takada Minoru, Kitamura Rokurō, Ii Yōhō, and others, with a sold-out hit adaptation of Ōkura Tōrō’s 1905 novel Biwa Uta (Lute Song). Also in September, the traditional Japanese-style Meiji-za in Shinkyōgoku, Kyoto, gave its first performance after being renovated. This theatre’s existence (from 1870-1915), not to be confused with the Tokyo Meiji-za (still in business), is barely known in English and a photo of it can be found by clicking here. And Kansai actor Nakamura Tamashichi II died this month at 45.

During September, Ichikawa Fukuzō II took the name Ichikawa Arajirō XII at the Meiji-za. Nakamura Tamashichi,  a disciple of Nakamura Baigyoku, died on September 7, at 46. 

For the October production at the Kabuki-za, the name changing of Ichikawa Ennosuke and his son Ichikawa Danko, which had been rumored since the summer, became a reality. Having received the permission of the head (sōke) of the Ichikawa family, Ennosuke became Ichikawa Danshirō II, and Danko became Ichikawa Ennosuke II. Opening day was August 1, at 11:00 a.m., starting with Tsubouchi Shōyō’s Kiri Hitoha starring Shikan and Nizaemon, followed by the name-changing production, Kamahige (The Sickle-Shaped Mustache). Closing the show was a comedy by Enomoto Torahiko called Kobannō (Indulgent).

Nakamura Shikan V as Yodogimi in Kiri Hitoha. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi

 Shōyō said of Kiri Hitoha, his revolutionary kabuki play first produced in 1904:

It seemed problematic that Kiri Hitoha, which I wrote before the Russo-Japanese War, was selected at that moment of the Japan-Korea Treaty. Based on my recent argument, it was almost contradictory to produce a play like this but Tamura Nariyoshi said we ought to try so I agreed. However, since it was originally written as a work to be read aloud, the jōruri-style narrative was troublesome, which was easy to resolve by making it more in the old style. Therefore, apart from Yodogimi’s dream scene and the scene at the Nagara riverbank, I removed the chanter-shamisen combination (chobo) and made revisions in every act and every scene before handing it over to the Kabuki-za. [From Kimura Kinka, Kinsei Gekidan Shi, Kabuki-za volume.]

Osanai Kaoru, in his critique, thought that this early play of Dr. Tsubouchi’s (published in 1895) was anachronistic, saying it was “already a relic of theatrical reform history,” and that “it lacks ambition, lacks freshness, and lacks our sympathy. The two syllables of ‘boring’ sum it up.” “Putting this play on the stage at this moment is not likely to bring much happiness to the professor. The play’s crime is the producer’s crime, which is the Kabuki-za’s crime,” he roared.
 
Ichimura Uzaemon as Kimura Shigenari, Kataoka Nizaemon XI as Katagiri Katsumoto, in Kiri Hitoha. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi
Here’s a passage regarding the play in Nagai Kafu’s Kōcha no Ato:
 . . . Looking across at it, it’s just like a banquet.

. . . It seems like a department store sale.

. . . The randomly hanging Gifu paper lanterns are exactly like a Japanese teahouse at an International Exposition.

. . . Now that you mention it, the entire décor makes me feel like saying it somehow has a Yokohama-style Japanese feeling.

. . . Pretty pictures of heavenly maidens, old-fashioned carvings of musical instruments on the transoms, tassels hanging from blinds, and then, speaking of the colors, scarlet men on black lacquer, the materials for all the Japanese-y décor as non-expensive as possible, somehow artificial, exportable, feeling like a samurai-style commercialism. Annoying, isn’t it? There are places where some materials were chosen for their luxury, which nowadays reeks of Takanawa no Asano-san, right? If you want a bit more distance, what about the dining room of the merchant ship Nikkō Maru?

. . . Doing Kiri Hitoha in such a place is inappropriate.

. . . The Kabuki-za is to Tokyo what the Opéra House is to Paris. If you’re going to hear real music you don’t go to the Opéra House, That’s a place where you go to see the nation’s leaders. A place you go to see the shoulders of society women. The Kabuki-za is where you go to see Shinbashi geisha. A place where people from the countryside must visit at least once when coming to Tokyo.

. . . Didn’t Tsubouchi write Kiri Hitoha 15 or 16 years ago so it could be done at the Kabuki-za?

. . . Tsubouchi simply hoped that Danjūrō IX would do it. The theatre was another issue entirely.

. . . Why didn’t Danjūrō do it? Wasn’t that foolish?

. . . In brief, it wouldn’t have pleased his guru, Fukuchi Ōchi.[From Nagai Kafū, Kōcha to Ato.]
Prior to the performance of the Kabuki Jūhachiban selection Kamahige, Danshirō and Ennosuke made their formal name-changing announcements. In the end, Kiri Hitoha was supported b a general audience while the father-son name changing drew fans of Danshirō and Ennosuke, thus creating a successful 25-day run that closed on November 1.
 
Ichikawa Ennosuke II (standing) as Mōsaku, in actuality, Tahara Kotōda; Ichikawa Danshirō II as Rokubu Myōden, in actuality Shogun Yoshikado. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi
By the way, during the run, on the evening of October 27, the Nanman Railroad Company sponsored a theatrical party for His Highness Zaixun, Prince Zuang, with a special program including four pieces: Gojō no Meigetsu (Full Moon over Gojō), Yoshinoyama no Hana (Flowers of Yoshino Mountain), Seki no To no Yuki (Snow at the Barrier Gate), and Momiji no Utage (Foliage Viewing Feast). By chance, the famous poet Kitahara Hakushū was there and read a poem hewrote for the occasion.

As the tokiwazu is strummed with a plectrum  
The story glows, the night darkens.

Seki no To no Yuki (usually called just Seki no To) uses tokiwazu music, accompanied by a shamisen (thus the plectrum). In this production, Danshirō played Sekibei, Sōjūrō was Kuronushi, and Kichiemon was Munesada.

A major shinpa production at the Hongō-za in October gathered many famous actors for a successful production of Takano no Bijin (The Beauty of Takano), by Nakazato Kaizan. In Osaka, Horikoshi Fukusaburō made his Naka-za debut. On October 10, Bandō Minosuke V fell ill while performing in Kariya, Aichi Province, and died, aged 61. October 1910 also saw the construction of Luna Park in Asakusa. The kabuki training school at the soon-to-open Teikoku Gekijō offered its first trial performance, Tōku no Kojō (The Distant Princess.

On October 22, the Tokyo Theatre Association (Tōkyō Gekijō Kumiai) was established, with its top executive positions held by the Kabuki-za Miyake Hyōza and the Ichimura-za's Tamura Nariyoshi. Komiya writes:

The rules to which the eighteen participating theatres subscribed included most significantly this one: ‘No theatre will make use of the services of an actor attached to another theatre without the permission of the second theatre.’ The association was clearly organized to combat the Imperial [Teikoku] Theatre. The Imperial did not join, nor did Shōchiku. Under Nishino Keinosuke, its managing director, the Imperial set about luring actors from the other theatres. [From Toyotaka Komiya, Japanese Music and Drama in the Meiji Era, tr. Donald Keene and Edward Seidensticker.]

The November issue of the literary magazine Shinshichō (New Tides of Thought) carried Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s story “Shisei” (The Tattooer), in which he expressed a world of erotic perversion. On the 29th, Shirase Nobu and his 27-man team set forth from the Shibaura coast of Tokyo Bay aboard the Kainan Maru with the ambitious goal of exploring the Antarctic. And actor-director Inoue Masao formed the New Age Theatre Society (Shinjidaigeki Kyōkai), which gave its first performance at the Yūraku-za this month. The play was George Bernard Shaw’s 1909 comedy set in the old West, The Showing Up of Blanco Posnet, rendered by Mori Ōgai as Uma Dorobō (The Horse Thief).

Also in November, Seki Sanjūrō V bought the Kokka-za in Asakusa and renamed it the Hōrai-za. It seated 1,303 and would be destroyed by the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. Hayashi Yukio, son of Nakamura Ganjirō, changed his name to Nakamura Senjaku II at Kyoto’s Naka-za. He became one of the great Kansai actors of the last century. And, on November 16, Osaka's Naniwa-za, reconstructed, reopened after seven years. The celebratory opening production featured an all-star lineup including Nakamura Shikan, Ichikawa Yaozō, Onoe Baikō, Ichimura Uzaemon, Ichikawa Monnosuke, and Kataoka Nizaemon.

In December, Ishikawa Takuboku’s Ichiaku no Suna (A Handful of Sand), a collection of tanka poems, was published. The Osaka comedy troupe called Rakutenkai made its Tokyo debut at the Hongō-za. The Jiyū Gekijō gave its third production, Gorky’s The Lower Depths, at the Yūraku-za, translated as Yoru no Shuku (A Night’s Lodging) by Osanai Kaoru. On the 19th, Tokugawa Yoshitoshi piloted Japan’s first successful aircraft flight, flying 3,000 meters over the Yoyogi Parade Grounds. On December 30, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department posted the following proscriptions, called the “New Six Commandments for Theatre” (Engeki Shin Rokkai), as part the Revised Theatre Control Regulations (Gekijō Torishimari Kisoku Kaichō).

1. Opposing the principle of the “encouragement of virtue and the chastisement of vice” (kanzen chōaku).
2. Crossing the boundaries of obscenity in speech and movement, and in cruelty.
3. Doing plays involving politics.
4, Even when not corresponding to the above conditions, anything that might in speech or behavior threaten harm to the public welfare or customs.

In addition to these first four things being strictly forbidden there were the following two items:

Producers sending actors into and out of the audience during performances, or audience members going in and out of the dressing rooms is not permitted.
Actors going in and out of the audience during performances and audience members going in and out of the dressing rooms, or permission for such ingress and egress will not be granted. [From Rikura Kōichi, ed., Zokuzoku Kabuki Nendaiki.]

This year Japan began importing rotating mimeograph machines and thermos flasks.


For world events (including births and deaths) of 1910, click here. For international theatrical achievements, click here.