Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA (1889-1911) Chapter 14: 1900 (Meiji 33)

Chapter 14

1900 (Meiji 33)

Samuel L. Leiter

[Note: This is Chapter 14 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 the project although none are identified in the books for specific contributions. Some material has been cut, some expanded, and other material 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 during the preparation of this and all previous entries. Corrections and documented additions are welcome.]

In January 1900, the first month of the first year of the new century, the magazine Kabuki began publication. The characters used on the cover were done by the writer Ozaki Kōyō and the image of Okuni kabuki, the earliest form of the genre, was by the famous artist Nakamura Fusetsu. The magazine contained criticism, discussions, historical essays, and production records; it was Japan’s first scholarly magazine about theatre. It lasted until January 1915, with a run of 175 consecutive issues. The editor was Miki Takeji (brother of the writer Mori Ōgai), who was succeeded by Ihara Seiseien. Financing was supplied by the entrepreneur Yasuda Zennosuke (later Yasuda Zenjirō II). Yasuda was the great-grandfather of Yoko Ono, whose husband, John Lennon, said a picture of the man made him think it was him in a former life. Ono didn’t like hearing this because, she noted, Yasuda was assassinated in 1921, a fate that would also end Lennon’s life.

During this year, North China saw the spread of the Boxer Rebellion.

In 1900 Nagai Kafū, later to be one of Japan’s most celebrated writers, became a disciple of the Kabuki-za head playwright, Fukuchi Ōchi. His birth name was Nagai Sōkichi, which he used in his position as apprentice playwright (minarai sakusha); this required him to begin by studying the beating of the wooden clappers (ki or hyōshigi) so crucial to a kabuki performance. A student of Chinese poetry, he took a job as Yokohama branch manager of his father’s firm, the Nippon Yūsen shipping company. He wanted to be a writer, a dream his father, Nagai Kyūichirō, opposed, but, in 1901, when Fukuchi left the Kabuki-za to become editor-in-chief of the Yamato Shinbun newspaper, Nagai went with him as a journalist, writing general articles, and serializing his novel Shin Umegoyomi (The New Plum Calendar) in the same paper.
My job as an apprentice playwright was to practice using the ki for every act by “making the rounds” (mawari) backstage by beating them twice (nichō) as a 10-minutes to places warning before each act; to announce the arrival of the actors backstage with a beat called chakuto tome; to perform the shagiri tome beat, striking them twice, separated by a long pause, following the shagiri music played at the end of a scene; to enter the opening and closing times of each scene in a journal; to deliver news of any emergency to each actor’s dressing room, as well as to everyone involved in sets, props, costumes, and wig making; and from the beating of the opening drums to the end of the day, going coatless even in the severest winter cold, looking after the provision of cigarettes in the playwright’s room and seeing to it that the producer (zamoto) or any guests had their tea politely poured for them, and their sandals neatly arranged; and making sure that when the head playwright was present his haori jacket was folded, his food served, and that he was attended to from start to finish. Backstage visitors whose sandals I’ve arranged and tea I’ve poured include man of letters and lexicographer Ōtsuki Joden and lyricist Nagai Sōgaku. (From Nagai Kafū, Kakademonoki.)

Also in January, the brothers Shirai Matsujirō and Ōtani Takejirō, co-leaders of what then was called the Matsutake producing company (changed in 1937 to Shōchiku), took over the Tokiwa-za in Shin Kyōgoku, Kyoto. 

The year’s opening production at the Kabuki-za, starring Onoe Kikugorō V, ran from January 12, at 11:00 a.m., to February 5, a 25-day run. The first item was the premiere of Kawatake Shinshichi III’s Narita Michi Hatsune no Yabuhara (Yabuhara and the First Sounds of Spring on the Narita Road), a.k.a. Yabuhara Kengyō (one of several characters played by Kikugorō). Kikugorō, also playing Fudō devotee Seigorō, received plaudits for his enactment, even in mid-winter, of the cold-water ablutions performed at Naritasan by Fudō’s followers.

The only other piece, also by Shinshichi, was a new dance play, Yami no Ume Hyaku Monogatari (100 Tales of the Dark Plum Grove), a.k.a. Osakabe (Princess Osakabe), using tokiwazu, kiyomoto, and nagauta. The score was by Kineya Rokuzaemon, Kishizawa Shikisa, and Kiyomoto Umekichi, with choreography by Hanayagi Jusuke. Kikugorō played multiple roles but only its final scene, Osakabe-hime (Princess Osakabe), remained in the repertory, where it became part of Onoe Kikugorō V’s Shinko Engeki Jūsshū best hits collection.

The Kabuki-za’s resident playwright roster, headed by Fukuchi Ōchi, included Eto Kenji, Emoto Torahiko, Hama Masagosuke, Segawa Jokō, Tanba Matsuzō, Hayakawa Shichizō, Takeshiba Seikichi, and Kawatake Shinshichi.

In February Izumi Kyōka’s important story Kōya no Hijiri (The Saint of Kōya) appeared in the magazine Shin Shosetsu. Also, at this time, the government issued an ordinance restricting the labor conditions under prostitutes were forced to work. On the other hand, the government enacted security laws aimed at controlling the intensification of social movements. February also saw the passing, at 63, of rakugo master, Danshūrō Enshi, head of the Yanagitei faction, who had split the leadership of his field with San’yutei Enchō. 

March’s program at the Kabuki-za opened at 11:00 a.m. on the seventh, with Danjūrō and Kikugorō leading the company. They began with Youchi Soga Kariba no Akebono, then did Keisei Awa no Naruto (The Courtesan and the Straits of Naruto), followed by Mokuami’s much-loved 1881 domestic play Kumo ni Magō Ueno no Hatsuhana (Lost in the Clouds, The First Flowers at Ueno), which included Michitose’s kiyomoto dance “Shinobiau Haru no Yukidoke” (Secret Meeting in the Spring Thaw). Naturally, with Dan-Kiku in the company, both the popular “Kochiyama” and “Naozamurai” scenes were produced, with Danjūrō as Kochiyama and Kikugorō as Naozamurai. The production marked the return of Bandō Shūchō, who had been out with a dangerous case of pneumonia. His recuperation was reported formally by Danjūrō in a kōjō announcement but on day 10 Danjūrō himself fell ill, which forced the production to close. 
A scene from Youchi Soga Kariba no Akebono at the Kabuki-za, March 1900.  Danjūrō had to withdraw during the production because of illness. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Production costs were 26,000 yen but attendance was good, with the income taken in before the show closed being 13,000 yen. Manager Inoue Takejirō went to the ailing Danjūrō’s home and paid him for 10 days of work, returning the rest of the money to the company’s coffers,n. Since this was of serious concern to everybody who had been forced to stop working the staff consulted with Kikugorō and a decision was reached to switch the opening play to five scenes from the great classic Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura, eliminate Keisei Awa no Naruto, and reopen on April 1. Kikugorō agreed to play, for the first time in his career, Kochiyama (he continued playing Naozamurai as well). He also tackled Igami no Gonta, Tadanobu, and Genkurō the fox, but attendance was disappointing and the production limped along for 25 days until April 25.

In March, five-year-old Nakamura Yonekichi, second son of Nakamura Tokizō II, debuted at the Asakusa-za as a courtesan’s servant in Kurotegumi Sukeroku;  he later became Tokizō III. On March 26, Osaka actor Nakamura Komanosuke died at 52.

On April 16, registration was finally completed for the transfer of 48,000 yen from former owner Chiba Katsugorō to Kabuki-za Joint Stock Corporation director Sakata Sanji for the plot of land covering 1,955 tsubo.

Also in April the monthly literary magazine Myōjō (Morning Star) began publication under the leadership of Yosano Tekkan; beginning as an outlet for new tanka poetry, it served as a stage for the splendid development of the romantic movement that flourished in the 1890s. The poems of Yosano’s gifted wife, Akiko Tekkan, coeditor of the magazine, began appearing in the second volume.

Danjūrō was still too sick to perform in the May production so the Kabuki-za opened at 11:00 a.m. on May 21, featuring the Kikugorō company. The opening play was Mokuami’s zangiri play Shimachidori Tsuki no Shiranami, after which came the nō-based nagauta dance drama Tsuchigumo, part of Kikugorō’s Shinko Engeki Jūsshu collection, with the final piece being another dance play, Tazukuri no Tamagawa (Bleaching Hand-Made Cloth at the Tamagawa River) a.k.a. Nunosarashi (Cloth Bleaching). At this time of new drama’s emergence, the once advanced Shimachidori already seemed a bit dated to critics, but Kikugorō’s Shimazō was praised while Ichikawa Yaozō’s Senta was a disappointment. The show failed to draw customers and closed four days early, taking a loss of 2,300 yen. Kikugorō was experiencing leg pain that forced him to stay at his villa in Ōiso while he recuperated, and he wasn’t able to perform all summer.

On May 10, Crown Prince Yoshihito’s wedding was a grand state ceremony requiring all government offices to close down. On the same day, classical scholar Ōwada Takeki’s first volume of Tetsudō Shōka (Railways Songs), and would continue to be sung for many, was published. According to one source, these songs “which narrated railways travelogues, were intended to help students strengthen their national consciousness through learning geographical facts and cultivating ‘a collective illusion of nature.’” On May 24 mixed public bathing for those over the age of 12 was prohibited by law. And, on May 29, actor Bandō Hinasuke, died at 81.

In June the Kabuki-za produced a report of its recent finances in which it disclosed that its income for its last four productions was 78,054 yen while its expenditures were 81,362 yen, putting the firm over 3,000 in the red.

On June 4 the foreign legations in Beijing, China, came under siege by the antiforeign Boxers, who had initiated their rebellion a year earlier, and had since gained power. They declared war on the great Western powers on June 24. As Marius Jansen notes in The Making of Modern Japan “This brought on international intervention. Japan played a major role in the suppression of the 'Boxers,' as Westerners termed them; the 10,000 men it sent were as many as the forces of all the others combined.” 

A major theatre event in June was the restarting of the early shinpa company Seibidan by Kitamura Rokurō.

On July 1 master woodblock print artist Toyohara Kunichika, famous for his many kabuki actor portraits, died at 81. 

For the first week of July, Tamura Nariyoshi rented the Kabuki-za for a company headed by a French magician, advertised as a master of the dark arts (ōmajutsushi). As given in Japanese his name was Juwagasuta Do Derufu (ウガスタ ド デルフ), but it’s not clear what the original was. His hyperbolic advertising in which he claimed to be “the world’s greatest magician,” and announced such acts as “Cutting Off a Horse’s Head” and “Cutting off a Human Head,” led to a crush of people arriving on opening day to see a magician at the Kabuki-za. However, the show was extremely artless, the translation from the French was crude, and the “Cutting off a Horse’s Head,” and so on, hard to watch; it all ended with the audience in a turmoil of discontent.

Since Derufu did things like aiming a pistol the audience grew even further agitated and Tamura himself had to apologize from the stage, with the result that opening day, which had two shows, was also closing day, although an entire week had been planned. Since it wasn’t possible to give everyone their money back the proceeds were contributed to an orphanage and the disturbance settled down. The following day the opening day’s take of over 400 yen was delivered City Hall but this didn’t completely close the book on the incident since Derufu followed up by suing Tamura.

The summer production (bon kōgyō) began at 10:00 a.m. on July 11, with Danjūrō and Kikugorō taking the time off and giving the stage over to mid-level actors. The show opened with Buyū no Homare Shusse Kagekiyo (Honored for Bravery, Victorious Kagekiyo). The second piece was a new nagauta/takemoto dance play by Fukuchi, Onna Benkei (The Female Benkei). It was followed by the popular Yowa Nasake Ukina no Yokogushi (Sympathetic Chatter and the Scandalous Hair Comb), better known as Genjidana (a place name), showing the scenes from Yosaburō’s falling in love with Otomi at first sight to his visit to her Genjidana residence. Finally, there was the tokiwazu dance Yasasugata Kumo ni Narukami (Graceful Clouds over Narukami).

The young trio of Kakitsu, Eizaburō, and Matsusuke, who would later rank on the level of national treasures as Ichimura Uzaemon XV, Onoe Baikō VI, and Onoe Matsusuke IV, gave a forgettable performance of Genjidana in the roles, respectively, of Yosaburō, Otomi, and “Bat” Yasu. Few people showed up and the program closed after only 16 days, with a box office take reported to have been a mere 3,200 yen. Even the Kabuki-za’s first electric fans couldn’t attract audiences.

July also saw the premiere of Kawatake Shinshichi’s Hoshi Yadoru Tsuyu no Tamagiku (Tamagiku, Dwelling in the Starry Dewdrops) at the Haruki-za, a play revived after World War II by both Nakamura Utaemon VI and Onoe Baikō VII. Nakamura Fukusuke, who starred as the famed courtesan Tamagiku, would also produce if after he became Utaemon V.

Once again, the Kabuki-za was turned into a movie theatre, when two programs of moving pictures were shown on August 7. And on August 19, the theatre was used by an amateur gidayū troupe from Osaka. The same month, on August 11, the rakugo master San’yutei Enchō died at 62. August also saw the showing at the Hongō-za of a film made of Nio no Usuki (The Floating Nest of Nio). This kabuki play that had premiered at the Masago-za a year earlier, starring Nakamura Ganjirō, and a scene of it had been shot by Tsuchiya Tsuneji in May at a temple near Nagoya’s Misono-za.

The next production, which opened on September 6 and ran for 14 days until September 19, was not kabuki but shinpa, with Ii Yōhō and his company. They performed Meiji Chūshingura (The Meiji Period Chūshingura), based on a draft by theatre critic and novelist Nemoto Yuichi. It was a zangiri piece in which the story of the 47 rōnin was transposed to modern times with the men’s hair cut short. The second play—a topical one about the siege of Beijing—was in two parts, the first being Kōtoku Shikai ni Oyobu (The Emperor’s Benevolence Extends Worldwide) and the second being Jakago ga Fuchi Shitto no Ada Nami (The Abyss of Jakago and the Waves of a Jealous Resentment) a.k.a. Hidakagawa (Hidaka River), a takemoto version of the classic Dōjōji plot about a jealous woman who turns into a serpent. The show closed with the comedy (kigeki) Yaedasuki (Many-layered Sleeve Cords). The show lasted 14 days with middling box office results. 
A street poster (tsuji banzuke) advertising Ii Yōhō's company at the Kabuki-za. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
On September 11 the first automatic public phones were installed in Shinbashi and Ueno Stations. On October 2, rules regulating the labor conditions of prostitution were promulgated as Ordinance No. 44, allowing sex workers to leave their employment at will. This month Shirai Matsujirō bought the Daikoku-za in Shin Kyōgoku, Kyoto, constructed on the site of the Kyōgoku-za, and immediately began producing. On September 26, Yamagata Aritomo resigned the prime ministership after a dustup regarding the foreign minister’s going behind his back to request the emperor to declare war on Russia.

Danjūrō was now completely recovered from his illness and he joined with Kikugorō to appear in the Kabuki-za’s October production. The Kabuki-za company decided to forbid actors from playing at two theatres in the same month (the practice called kakemochi), to set the amount of gratuities for workers at the teahouses at from 10 sen to 15 sen apiece, and to announce all such matters to the company in general.  

The next program, joining Danjūrō and Kikugorō’s companies, opened at 11:00 a.m. on October 12 and closed on November 11. First on the program was Shinchōki Atago Renga (The Chronicle of Oda Nobunaga and the Linked Verse of Atago), which was Fukuchi’s revision of Tsuruya Nanboku’s 1808 history drama Toki wa Ima Kikyō no Hataage (Now Is the Time to Raise the Bellflower Flag), famous for its “Badarai Mitsuhide” (Mitsuhide at the Horse Trough) scene. Danjūrō and Kikugorō costarred. Next was the “Kikubatake” (Chrysanthemum Garden) scene of the classic history play Kiichi Hōgen Sanryaku no Maki. It was followed by Kawatake Shinshichi’s newly rewritten version of Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s Shinjū Ten no Amijima (Love Suicides at Ten no Amijima), commonly called Kamiji (Kamiya Jihei), adapted from the puppet theatre for kabuki, and now formally retitled Sayo Shigure Ten no Amijima (Evening Shower at Ten no Amijima). The show closed with the Kuruma Biki scene from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami. 
Danjūrō as Kiichi Hōgen in Kiichi Hōgen Sanryaku no Maki. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Before the first play began Danjūrō appeared in haori and hakama to make a formal announcement (kōjō) of thanks for having recovered from his serious illness. Tamura Nariyoshi later wrote in his chronicle, Zoku Zoku Kabuki Nendaiki, that Kikugorō’s Torazō in “Kikubatake” and his Jihei in “Kotatsu” were especially fine, as was Bandō Shūchō as Jihei’s wife, Osan, making the program a must see that sold out day after day. 
Danjūrō as Kanki in Kokusenya Kassen. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
From this program forward, Nagai Sōkichi (Kafū) joined the playwrights’ room, using his birth name of Sōkichi in his position as an apprentice playwright (minarai sakusha). His family was very strict so when he left home he always had to wear hakama. Kabuki playwrights didn’t customarily wear such garments, though, so it’s been said that on his way to the theatre he would remove his hakama as he approached his rickshaw and then change from his white tabi to navy blue ones before he entered the backstage area. Fukuchi is said to have told him that if he intended to write real plays he would have to hold his lowly position in the Kabuki-za’s playwrights’ room for three years and attend rehearsals. 
Onoe Kikugoro as Kamiya Jihei. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Kikugorō’s Kamiya Jihei was a rare performance and Nagai’s memory of it from his early days as an apprentice playwright gives us a good picture of Kikugorō’s skill in domestic plays during his late years.
In those days, when [young Osaka star Nakamura] Ganjirō I was still not widely known in theatre circles, Kamiji was a quite unusual thing. The Jiheis of Kikugorō and Ganjirō were considerably different so comparing them would be a mistake. However, with eyes that have become familiar with Ganjirō’s performance in recent years I remember Kikugorō back then when the curtain opened with him lying on his side with his back turned and using a measuring board as a pillow. There aren’t words to describe his form as he took Koharu’s hand, putting his hands behind him to tighten his stiff obi, and looking off into the distance. It was something never to be seen again.

People nowadays would absolutely not believe the care taken with the newly written text or with the rehearsals. On the day the reading of the dialogue sides ended Otowaya (Kikugorō’s yagō or shop name) invited the bunraku takemoto chanter Aioidayū to the second floor at the Sanshūya teahouse and had him chant the first scene of Kamiji and asked all the actors involved to listen to him. Further, after he finished, you can guess how diligent everyone was by the degree to which they asked questions of the master about their dialogue. Even after the show opened and the musical accompaniment (aikata) was changed they continued to feel unsettled. (From Nagai Kafū, Kakademonoki.)

The production proved a success and played to full houses for 25 days, inspiring Inoue Takejirō to recommend to the company that he continue with the November production. 

That month, October, Ichikawa Sadanji I’s eldest son, Ichikawa Koyone III, took his father’s pen name, Enshō, at the Meiji-za. In politics, the second Yamagata Aritomo cabinet was replaced by the fourth of Itō Hirobumi.

On November 15, new regulations controlling the theatre were distributed according to which, thereafter, no one other than the official manager (zanushi) had producing authority. Also, the minor theatres were allowed to have a draw curtain (hikimaku) and a revolving stage (mawari butai), and it became permissible for a day’s performance, currently limited to eight hours, to be extended to nine. 

The November production, costarring Kikugorō and Danjūrō, opened on the 17th. Play number one was Fukuchi’s revision of a classic that he called Nani Takaki Chūshingura (Famous People Chūshingura), including the “Michiyuki Hatsune Tabiji no Hanamuko” (The Son-in-Law’s First Sounds of Spring Travel Dance). Danjūrō played Yuranosuke and Honzō’s wife, Tonase, while Kikugorō was Kanpei and Honzō. Play number two was the Kanki’s Castle scene from another renowned title, Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s bunraku classic Kokusenya Kassen, with Kikugorō as Watonai. And play number three was the nagauta dance drama Oshiegusa Yoshiwara Suzume (The Lesson of the Yoshiwara Sparrows).

However, on November 23, Kikugorō, who had been feeling poorly, became seriously ill and had to step down to recuperate. Ichikawa Yaozō took over Honzō, while Kakitsu, gifted with a quick memory, was given a big chance with Kanpei and Watonai. He also landed the role of Shinobu in Gotaiheiki Shiroishi Banashi, which was substituted for a scene in the first play featuring Kikugorō as Akagaki Genzō. Costarring were Danjūrō and Eizaburō. Kakitsu made a big impression but not big enough to attract the crowds and the show was forced to close after a mere 13 days, ending on November 29.

In November Shirai Matsujirō purchased the Hotei-za in Shin Kyōgoku and began putting on plays there. The same month, major literary figure Tsubouchi Shōyō published his important Chikamatsu no Kenkyū (Chikamatsu Studies).

On December 6 Asano Tekkan and his wife Akiko Tekkan were prevented from selling their poetry journal Myōjō because it carried nude illustrations. December also witnessed Ōtani Takejirō buying the Sakai-za in Shin Kyōgoku, taking it apart, moving it to the vacant space where the Gion-Kan formerly was, and renaming it the Kabuki-za, with Jitsukawa Enjirō’s company being its opening attraction. In it, Hayashi Nagasaburō (later Mataichirō), eldest son of Nakamura Ganjirō I, made his debut at seven. The production also was the debut of Ōtani Takejirō as an owner-manager (zanushi). During 1900 Ōtani married Funakoshi Tsune.

In 1900, the expression “haikara” (high collar), meaning “stylish” because of its reference to Western-style shirts, became popular in Japan. Important international cultural events of the year included Joseph Conrad’s publishing of Lord Jim; the publication of Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up from Slavery; the publication of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; the publication of Colette’s first Claudine novel, Claudine a l’école; the premiere of composer Giacomo Puccini’s opera Tosca in Rome; and the beginnings of popularity for ragtime music and jazz in the U.S.

In theatre, 1900 was known for such important plays as Edmond Rostand’s L’Aiglon; George Bernard Shaw’s Captain Brassbound’s Conversion; August Strindberg’s Dance of Death and To Damascus; Leo Tolstoy’s The Living Corpse; David Belasco’s Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan; Henry Arthur Jones’s Mrs. Dane’s Defence; Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde; James Herne’s Sag Harbor; and Clyde Fitch’s Sapho.

And major new theatres opening around the world (and still standing) included Denmark’s Aarhus Theater; the Calumet Theatre, Calumet, Michigan; Hamburg’s Deutsches Schauspielhaus; the Folly Theatre (also known by other names), Kansas City, Missouri; the Gaiety Theatre, Douglas, Isle of Man; the Garcia Barbon Theatre, Vigo, Galicia, Spain; the Grand Theatre, Clapham, London; the Hippodrome, London; the Jersey Opera House, Jersey, Channel Islands; the Camden Theatre (now KOKO), Camden Town, London; the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth, England; Solomiya Krushelnytska Lviv State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Lviv, Ukraine; the Onawa Opera House, Onawa, Iowa; the Pella Opera House, Pella, Iowa; and the Salford Theatre, Salford, Greater Manchester, England.

For details on major world events, including births and deaths, in 1900, see here.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA (1889-1911) Chapter 13: 1899 (Meiji 32)

Chapter 13

1899 (Meiji 31)

Samuel L. Leiter
[Note: This is Chapter 13 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 the project although none are identified in the books for specific contributions. Some material has been cut, some expanded, and other material 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 during the preparation of this and all previous entries. Corrections and documented additions are welcome.]

Ichikawa Danjūrō IX smugly noted that he was vacationing at his villa in Chigasaki in January 1899 rather than “showing my acting to those guys celebrating ‘Servants’ Day Off’ [January 16]” when the Kabuki-za opened its New Year’s production, at 10:00 a.m. on January 12, featuring Onoe Kikugorō and his troupe. 

There were only two plays offered, one being Fukuchi Ōchi’s new Katakiuchi Gojiingahara (Vendetta at Gojiingahara), the other the two-part dance, Kabuki no Shunkyō (Kabuki New Year’s Performance): one part was the celebratory nagauta piece Ayatsuri Sanbasō (Puppet Handler Sanbasō), during which Kikugorō performed a flying (chūnori) stunt; the other was the kiyomoto piece “Hatsuni” (First Cargo of the New Year), during which audiences viewed a bustling scene on the Ginza reflecting the seasonal display of new sales items; it seemed like a commercial for Tokyo Beer with its “Chicken Trademark.” Despite Fukuchi’s play being panned the production was popular and played to full houses for 26 days, until February 6.
Nakamura Shikan IV as Kumagai in Ichinotani Futaba Gunki  From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.

Nakamura Tokizō I and his son, Nakamura Shūtarō (later Tokizō II) joined Kikugorō’s company with this production. On January 26, Nakamura Shikan IV, adoptive father of Nakamura Fukusuke, passed away at 70.
Nakamura Shikan IV. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
This month saw the first publication of the still important literary magazine Chūō Kōron. Tragically, on January 12 the Ōsaka Kabuki-za caught fire during a performance and completely burned down. On January 21 the important statesman Katsu Kaishū passed away, aged 77.

In mid-January Tamura Nariyoshi returned to Tokyo from Osaka. The Kobiki-chō boss, Ishisada (pseudonym of Takahashi Bunko), who had sympathized with Tamura when he cut off his relationship with the Kabuki-za, became a mediator between the forces led by the tyrannical Inoue Takejirō and the stockholders who sharply opposed him; he worked hard to get Tamura back in the theatre’s good graces. In accordance with this train of events, the management, acknowledging Tamura’s service in imposing order on the company, recommended that he become a board member but he firmly refused, preferring instead to have the freedom of renting the theatre out from time to time to produce his own programs. The company was happy to accept this offer. And, Ōnoya, a purveyor of Western alcoholic beverages in Izumi-chō, agreed to be a backer, making a 20,000 yen investment that allowed the March program to jointly star Danjūrō and Kikugorō.

March 6 was the next opening day, with the curtain opening at 11:00 a.m. on play number one, Hachijin Shugo no Honjō (The Protective Castle of Hachijin), by Nakamura Kaigan and Sagawa Fujita, with a newly written prologue by Fukuchi called Nue Taiji (Overcoming the Nue Monster), the special attraction. Then came the powerful Terakoya (The Village School) scene from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, followed by Sakura Doki Tateshi no Goshozome a.k.a. Gosho no Gorozō. During the first play’s prologue Danjūrō and Kikugorō entered simultaneously by rising on the small elevator trap. The show ended with a kiyomoto recital of Harugasami Asamagatake (Spring Haze over Asamagatake).

In Fukuchi’s play Danjūrō displayed his history play artistry, while in the closing piece Kikugorō showed his skill at domestic drama. Their joint appearance in Terakoya was a theatre fan’s dream in which each demonstrated his particular artistry, helping the production to become a huge hit. Tamura wanted to extend the run but this would have interfered with the following production’s schedule, so the Kabuki-za management declared that the show had to close on March 30, after 25 days. But, rare for the time, every performance through the last was sold out and both Tamura and Ishisada’s prestige rose when the show made a profit of 12,000 yen.  

In Terakoya’s head inspection scene, Danjūrō (as Matsuomaru) and Kikugorō’s (as Genzō) timing was perfectly in accord, creating an indescribable impression. Because of the stars’ superb, the kubijikken or “head inspection” scene was so riveting that the 6 yen 80 sen for renting a gallery (sajiki) box didn’t seem expensive at all—it was said that only five minutes’ watching of it was satisfying enough.

During this program Danjūrō played Yorimasa, Kiyomasa, Matsuomaru, and Hoshikage no Doemon, while Kikugorō portrayed Inoshishi (Boar) no Hayata, Imazu Yoshihiro, Genzō, and Gosho no Gorozō, offering audiences a chance to gaze in astonishment at a rival display of the two greatest actors of their day at the pinnacle of their artistry. On the other hand, there was one other actor who should be remembered as of equal esteem during late Meiji, Ichikawa Sadanji. But he was ensconced under his own management at the Meiji-za, where, in January, he performed Hosokawa Chidaruma (Blood-Stained Hosokawa) and Kurotegumi Sukeroku (Sukeroku and the Black Hand Gang); he wasn’t able to match his rivals’ popularity at the Kabuki-za, however. 
Ichikawa Sadanji I at the Meiji-za in Hosokawa Chidaruma.  From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
For this production, Danjūrō’s disciple Ichikawa Danshichi rose to the rank of “name” actor, becoming Ichikawa Shinjūrō. Also, Ichikawa Dankichi, son of Osaka actor Ichikawa Ichijūrō, became a disciple of Danjūrō and served as kōken (onstage assistant) in Kanjinchō. And house playwright Kawamura Taichi became Segawa Jōko IV. Finally, the Kabuki-za saw its first phone installed this month, its number being Shinbashi 427.

April also saw a Dan-Kiku partnership at the Kabuki-za, where the show opened at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th with an all-classics program: three scenes from Imoseyama Onna Teikin (“Yoshinogawa,” “Michiyuki,” and “Goten”), Kanjinchō, and Shinpan Utazaimon, each a great classic. Once again the theatre had a hit, critical and commercial. Danjūrō and Kikugorō’s Daihanji and Sadaka were of certifiable artistic quality in Imoseyama. Bandō Kakitsu’s Koganosuke also was lauded.
Ichikawa Danjūrō IX as Benkei and Onoe Kikugorō V as Togashi in Kanjinchō.  From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Onoe Ushinosuke’s (later Kikugorō VI) Omiwa in the “Michiyuki” scene of Imoseyama was transmitted to him directly from Danjūrō; he put his heart and soul into his rehearsals and was rewarded with an excellent performance. Kanjinchō gained much interest because Danjūrō was giving the last Benkei in his career while Kikugorō was doing his first Togashi. They were said to be wearing the same costumes as were worn for the famous imperial viewing of kabuki in 1887. Danjūrō was impressed by his partner's Togashi and, using Kikugorō’s private family name, praised him: “Terajima, of course, does what only Terajima does.” Danjūrō’s Benkei, though, sounded strained, he coughed, his breathing was difficult during the mondō or questioning scene, and one could feel the weakness of age during the ennen mai dance sequence.

According to Nakamura Tetsurō, in his book on the discovery of Japanese theatre by Westerners:
In April 1899 the Kabuki-za’s English-language program noted at one side, under the heading “History Drama Outline: Synopsis of the Old World Play” [the latter phrase in English], that foreign traveler S.C.F. Jackson, had seen Danjūrō’s Imoseyama “Goten” (Palace) scene after coming all the way from Bombay. Jackson, calling the actor “Great Danjūrō” (Ō-Danjūrō), wrote in his travel notes that “His acting was of the highest quality. He handled all the incidents leading to climax with true skill, with impressive actions and sonorous classical Japanese. The audience was deeply moved and many, in sympathy with the actor, wept silently along with him. When danger threatened they held their breaths, and from time to time they broke out in applause that resounded throughout the house.” (From Nakamura Tetsurō, Seiyōjin no Kabuki Hakken. The source for Jackson’s words is unclear so they’re rendered here as translated from their Japanese version.)

Nakamura goes on to quote Marshall P. Pinckney, who overcame his dwarfism to become a very popular American actor-humorist of the day. Pinckney also wrote several books, one of which, Smiling ‘Round the World (1908), recounts in charming detail his travels across the American continent and his journey to Hawaii, China, Japan, Ceylon, the Philippines, Singapore, and Italy. His chapter on “A Visit to a Japanese Theater, Tokyo” contains interesting reflections on what he saw both at the theatre and during his rickshaw trip to get there. No year is mentioned but the events seem to be around 1902, a year before Danjūrō died.

Marshall P. Pinckney on Visiting Kabuki
Nakamura cites only a few of Pinckney’s comments but I’ve quoted him more extensively (retaining his spelling) as so little is now known of them. His account must, however, be taken with at least a grain of salt. It’s not clear which play he’s describing (he observes that it’s a rare “modern” play), nor who the actors he calls “Takata” and “Sata” are, although the latter may be an abbreviation of Sadanji; he spells Danjūrō as Danjirō, whom he describes, incorrectly, as primarily a player of female roles. He also refers to the use of living trees in the scenery, which is very questionable. Further, the presence of a European orchestra come as a surprise. 
We reach the theater, quite an imposing building of stone, and alighting from our ‘rickshas enter the lobby. Quite likely the attendant will insist that we remove our shoes, but if we have a guide he can gain a concession for us.

When we enter, the play is in progress, and we realize at once that Europe or America can teach the Japanese very little about stage setting. It is a night scene, a crescent moon in the sky, and black hills in the distance, against which the lights of houses show brightly. A bridge in the center leads back over a river, and trees and shrubs that are not painted, but real and growing, are disposed naturally about the stage.

A man and a woman are on the stage, she crying, and he is trying to comfort her. Our guide explains to us that she was about to commit suicide because of the financial ruin of her husband.
The part of the woman is played by Takata, one of the greatest impersonators of women in Japan. There are no actresses, all the parts being assumed by men. This particular actor is so conscientious that, in order to retain the atmosphere of his impersonations, while at home he dresses, talks, acts, and generally comports himself as a woman would.

Danjiro, another of the most famous impersonators of women in Japan, is reported to have made up so perfectly as a girl of seventeen, when he was sixty-five years old, that when he went to his own house and asked to see Danjiro, his wife did not know him, and in a fit of jealous anger berated him for a shameless girl coming there to see her husband.

Meantime, the play goes forward. The old man, who is a relative of the girl he has saved, gives her notes of the bank of Japan for three thousand yen. Her tearful gratitude and his modest depreciation of his generosity are as fine bits of acting as may be seen on any stage in the world.
Her husband approaches and the old man runs off across the "Flowery Way," begging her not to let his charity be known.

The husband is suspicious and asks her why she was talking with that man. Her promise given, she can not answer, and after a fiery scene he spurns her and the curtain is drawn to the solemn banging of a drum and the high-pitched mournful song of some one in the distance. Each principal actor has his own curtain with his name on it, usually the gift of a number of admiring friends or of some firm that wishes to gain the advertisement. This one belongs to an actor named Sata, and has been presented to him by a large tea company. Its name is printed on one side, and “Compliments to Sata” on the other in Japanese characters of course.

Danjiro owns the finest curtain in Japan, presented to him by the Geisha of Tokyo, who each gave a hundred yen. It is of silk, embroidered as only the Japanese know how, and to see it is well worth the price of admission.

When the lights go up we can see the audience, many of the women reduced to tears by the sad plight of the unhappy young wife. The theater is the only place where custom permits any public exhibition of emotion. As women are generally supposed to enjoy nothing so much as a good cry, this privilege must be a great comfort to the Japanese female sex.

The entire lower floor of the theater is divided into little boxes about four feet square, by partitions not more than four or five inches high. About five yen are paid for these boxes, and they hold four people, who kneel on matting rugs.

The best seats are the boxes along the sides of the balcony, which also hold four people, and cost six yen. As a yen is worth fifty cents of American money, it may be seen that the prices of Japanese theaters, by comparison with those of Europe or America, are very reasonable.
Cheaper seats are to be had back of a walkway on the lower floor, and the cheapest of all are in the back part of the balcony, which compares with the gallery in an American theater.

In each box is a little stove rented from the theater. They are about six inches square and ten or twelve inches high, with a little fire of charcoal smoldering in them. These are to warm the hands by, and also for lighting pipes. Both men and women are smoking the Japanese pipe, which has a ridiculous little bowl, about as large as a fair-sized marrowfat pea, that is good for about three puffs and then has to be refilled and lighted again. Mild tobacco is used that smells and looks like burning red hair.

At this juncture our ears are assailed by the most heartrending sounds that chill the blood in our veins. It is the European orchestra! The smiling guide tells us, “European orchestra very nice Japanese people like very much!”

It is to be hoped that their ear for European music will develop with their appreciation, for at present, with the exception of the Imperial Band, and that belonging to one of the hotels in Yokohama, the orchestras and bands in Japan are things to dream about after dining on Welsh rarebit and mince pie. And even the two exceptions have many things to learn, one in particular being that rag-time coon-songs should not be played like funeral dirges. The native orchestras of samisen, drum and whistle are a positive relief in comparison. . . .

In the audience men are hurrying about with large trays containing bowls of rice, fruit and tea. The people are eating and drinking. The children, who have unlimited privileges in Japan, are running about unrebuked, even tho some of them climb on the stage and peep under the curtain.
There are many women in the audience with babies strapped on their backs, some of them mere tiny bundles of flowered stuff enwrapping babies of not more than two or three months, and tho there are numbers of these, not one is heard to cry. One wonders, are they hypnotized or drugged?
Young children are drest very gaily; the younger they are the brighter the colors, so that the babies are veritable butterflies. As they grow older the clothes become darker, until in old age they are transformed into little gray moths.

A sharp noise, made by striking two pieces of hard wood together, announces that the next act is about to begin. The intervals between acts are usually about ten minutes.

As the curtain is drawn aside, the pieces of wood tap together faster and faster, until the stage is disclosed.

This time it is a house, the front open, chrysanthemums growing about the door. At intervals the shrill note of an insect is heard. Sata, the great actor, is seated on the floor; he is in a state of intoxication, and keeps drinking from a bottle in front of him.
His father-in-law is pleading with him to grant a divorce to his daughter, as his constant intoxication and ill treatment of her are hard to bear. The drunkard refuses, and the scene between the men is a powerful one, a knowledge of the language being unnecessary in order to appreciate their really great acting.

The revolving stage, used in all Japanese theaters, is seen in this act, as the entire stage turns, bringing into view a different scene, the old man's house.

The play proceeds through several acts, to a European or American in rather a disjointed manner and without much sequence, but with no lack of fine acting.

Just before the last act the ushers bring in the sandals and clogs that have been checked, so there will be no confusion and delay when the theater is out.
But three days are allowed for rehearsal, and in that time they must be letter perfect, for a Japanese audience is a critical one. Approbation is announced by clapping the hands, but audible comments are frequent.

When we go out our ‘ricksha-men, wrapt in their rugs, hurry from the gallery where they have been enjoying the play. The orchestra and the electric lights are not the only innovations in this theater. The idea of a play of modern Japanese life is entirely new, and we were fortunate in seeing the first performance of one of the few modern plays ever enacted in Japan.

Sawamura Tanosuke IV. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
On April 4, Sawamura Tanosuke IV died at 43 while touring in Jōshū.
The Kawakami Otojirō troupe just before it left on its famous tour. Kawakami is sitting at center, Sadayakko at his right. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
On April 4, the onnagata Sawamura Tanosuke IV died at 43 while touring in Jōshū. April was also when the Kawakami Otojirō-Sadayakko troupe began its epochal, three-year tour to the U.S.A. and Europe, receiving great approval wherever they appeared. Further, the “heyday of poetry in the Meiji 30s (the 1890s)” was represented in Tsuchii (or Doi) Bansui’s (Tsuchii Rinkichi) collection of his own poems, Tenchi Ujō (Heaven and Earth Have Feelings), and the publications one after the other of poets Susukida Kyūin and Yokose Yau. Meanwhile, the poets nurtured in Masaoka Shiki’s literary magazine, Hototogisu, were rising to the fore, as in the work of haiku specialists Kawahigashi Hekigotō and Takahama Kyoshi.

In May the Boxer Rebellion erupted in China. Yokoyama Gennosuke’s important study, Nihon no Kasō Shakai (Japan’s Lower Class Society), was published this month.

June’s Kabuki-za program, which opened at 11:00 a.m. on May 26 and ran until June 12, costarred Danjūrō and Kikugorō. The first number was Uraomote Chūshingura, the second was Yoshitsune Koshigoejō, the third was Suzugamori Tsui no Mio Gui, and the closing piece was Hidari Kogatana. Compared to Kikugorō’s Kanpei, Danjūrō’s Sadakurō in Chushingura seemed old and weak; his Gotō in Koshigoejō, which used Nakamura Nakazō’s kata, was unobjectionable but before going on he downed two or three cups of sake. Kikugorō, hearing of this, said it didn’t become Danjūrō to do so and that if he drank just a single cup before entering his speech would be lively and things would go smoothly. Danjūrō and Kikugorō’s Suzugamori had no problems but the production ran only for 18 days, closing seven days earlier than anticipated.

Starting on June 20 the Nihon Sesson Katsudō Daishashin Kai (Association of Japanese Motion Pictures) used the Kabuki-za to show films from America and France in what is said to have been the first public presentation of Japanese-made movies, which included geisha dances accompanied off-screen by nagauta music and an explanation by producer Komata Yoshihiro. But this is debatable. According to the Chronology of Japanese Cinema website:
Up until recently, 20 June 1899 and Tokyo's Kabuki-za theater had been believed, originally proposed by Junichiro Tanaka, perhaps the most influential Japanese film historian, the date and place of the first public screening of Japanese-made films. Two main sources confirmed this theory. The first one is an article published in the Hochi Shinbun on 13 July 1899 advertising the screening of film actualities, featuring titles, performers and sponsors, at the Meiji-za theatre between July 14-31. This article also adds that the same show had been previously presented at the Kabuki-za. The second source is an article that appeared in the . . . Yomiuri Shinbun on 27 June carrying a short description of a film programme at the Kabuki-za which included films of dances by maiko from the Dotonbori area in Osaka. The films are believed to have been OSAKA DOTONBORI NO ZU and OSAKA MAIKO NO ODORI, both also part of the Meiji-za's programme presented a few days later.
There is, however, evidence that earlier performances might have taken places at alternative venues. Film historian and collector Yoshinobu Tsukada . . . proposes 13 June 1899 as the first exhibit of domestic films which was held at the Hongo Chuo Kaido (Hongo central church). Although there are no records of which films were shown at the Hongo Chuo Kaido between June 13-16, this date has been supported by an article appearing in the Tokyo Asahi Shinbun on 15 June which made reference to a screening of over 60 new imported American productions and the addition, for the first time, to the line-up of Japanese-made works. . . . This new date for the first exhibition of Japanese films is hardly conclusive as Manabu Ueda points to newspaper articles alluding to screenings of geisha dances before the one at Hongo Chuo Kaido.
 
The Kabuki-za as it looked on the day it was used to show movies. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
On June 23 kabuki actor Onoe Taganojō II had a relapse of a previous condition while performing in Kanazawa and died, aged 61. Also in June, prostitutes from the Shinonome brothels walked out on their employers, inspiring a popular song called the “Shinonome Strike.”

In July Ebisu Beer opened a beerhall in Shinbashi where one could down a half-liter for 10 sen. Customers came from afar by horse-drawn carriage and business flourished, with an average of 800 visitors said to be arriving daily. Also in July, various laws were passed protecting patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

July 15 saw the first all-bunraku puppet program at the Kabuki-za, with 33 plays performed over a period of 12 days, the programs changing daily, with a nearly full-length production (prologue through Act 9) of Chūshingura given on July 26.

Following resistance from the theatre’s ushers (dekata) the decision to rent the Kabuki-za to new theatre pioneer Ii Yōhō was delayed but the company finally opened on July 28. The program, which opened late in the afternoon, at 4:00 p.m., included Takeshiba Hyōzō’s modern drama adaptation of Watanabe Mokuzen’s novel Tsuki no Wa Sōshi (Tale of the Full Moon), which had been serialized in the Miyako Shinbun newspaper. The second play was Mata Taiheiki (Again, The Tales of the Heike). All seats on day one were 10 sen, but Ii’s attempts to drum up business flopped, and the show closed after only 17 days.

On July 14 the reconstructed Haruki-za opened again for business, with a cast including Kataoka Ichizō, Ichikawa Ennosuke, Sawamura Tosshi, and Ichikawa Otora. On the political front, a major event happened three days later, July 17, when the Western powers signed the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, agreeing to give up their extraterritoriality privileges; one of the principle things granted in return was that foreigners were permitted to purchase property in Japan wherever they pleased.

On August 24 popular children’s kabuki actor Suketakaya Kodenji, son of Sawamura Tosshi, died, aged 15.
Suketakaya Kodenji. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The next offering at the Kabuki-za stirred up a bit of controversy in theatre circles. Yamakawa Kintarō, who later made a name for himself as producer at the Miyato-za, one of the most important minor theatres (koshibai), rented the venue with a program starring a koshibai actor named Bandō Matasaburō, who had gained a reputation in the 90s for how closely he resembled Ichikawa Danjūrō IX.
He simply looked just like Danjūrō IX. Since his stage face and his speaking were so similar to Danjūrō’s he was called the Drop-Curtain Danjūrō [minor theatres used drop curtains (donchō) in contrast to the draw curtains (hikimaku) at the majors]. Or, because you could see this Naritaya [Danjūrō’s yagō or shop name] for two sen (nisen, the equivalent of two pennies) at the Ryūsei-za, a minor theatre where he was a sell-out attraction, he was called the Tupenny Danjūrō (Nisen Danjūrō) or the Tuppeny Danshū (Danshū being a Danjūrō nickname), the word nisen also being almost a homonym for nise or “fake. 
. . .
At any rate, this drop-curtain actor appeared unexpectedly at the Kabuki-za, the stronghold of Danjūrō and Kikugorō, making a good showing in one of Danjūrō’s hit plays. This was a quite exciting and very bold venture, unheard of at the time, but theatre critics and connoisseurs, who were one-sidedly committed to Dan-Kiku, for some unknown reason remained silent and made no positive effort to comment on this problem, perhaps out of consideration for the Kabuki-za and the two great stars. (From Fujiura Tomitarō, “Nisen Danshū” in Kikan Kabuki, supplementary issue, Sōke Ichikawa Danjūrō.)

Day one was August 31 for this troupe that included Matasaburō, Ichimura Kakitsu VI (later Ichimura Uzaemon XV), and Sawamura Gennosuke IV. They opened with Taikō no Oto Chiyū no Sanryaku (The Sound of the Drum and the Secret Book of Wisdom and Courage), followed with Kamakura Sandaiki (Chronicle of Three Generations at Kamakura), then did Sato Kosode Azami no Ironui (Red-Light District Kimono: A Death Shroud for “Azami”), and closed with Yamauba (The Mountain Hag).

There had been tentative plans by the Kabuki-za managers to discuss Matasaburō’s appearance with Dan-Kiku but since it was pretty certain they’d refuse they went ahead and decided on their own. Kikugorō, on returning from a tour of Shinshu, was furious to learn that his nephew Kakitsu had joined the company of the Tuppeny Danshū without first talking it over with him, while Danjūrō, being Danjūrō, stayed at his Chigasaki villa and calmly reported that unless the stage floor was shaved and purified he’d never trod the Kabuki-za boards again. Ultimately, though the production charged the same 10 sen to everyone, was given a cheap rental rate, and  even received good notices, the company was defeated by its low status and faced poor houses, closing on September 15 after a mere 16 performances, with Yamakawa Kintarō suffering a major financial loss. 
This month Nakamura Kasen became a disciple of Onoe Kikugorō and took the name Onoe Kikujūrō.
Visit to Danjūrō's villa at Chigasaki by the Italian ambassador and his staff. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
On September 27, 7,000 workers who, in March 1898 had suffered the effects of mine pollution at Tochigi’s Ashio-Dōzan copper mine, once the greatest such mine in Japan, came to the capital to present an aid-seeking petition to the government.

The October production opened at 10:00 a.m. on September 28, celebrating 10 years since the Kabuki-za had opened; the cast was led by Dan-Kiku. The first piece was a new one by Fukuchi Ōchi. Titled Futa Omote Chūgi Kagami (Twin Faces and a Mirror of Loyalty), it was based on a familiar 1723 puppet play by Takeda Izumo called Ōtō no Miya Asahi no Yoroi (Prince Ōtō no Miya and the Armor of the Sun). Previously, in 1881, Fukuchi had written a katsureki version of the same play for the Haruki-za. The second play was the popular Hikosan Gongen Chikai no Sukedachi (He That Vowed Assistance to the Avatar of Mount Hiko) a.k.a. Keyamura Rokusuke (Rokusuke of Keya Village). The last piece was Mokuami’s Shin Sarayashiki Tsuki no Amagasa (New Mountain of Plates and the Moon Umbrella).  

The first play was panned and, in the second, Danjūrō received sour reviews as Rokusuke, a role in which he was miscast, while only Kikugorō’s Osono was praised. The management tried to create interest with an Inari Festival but, cursed by the bad reviews for Fukuchi’s play and the attacks by all the newspaper, the program endured unprecedentedly poor attendance and, rather oddly, was pulled after a mere 12 days.

The November production opened on the first, starting with Kagamiyama Chigusa no Nishiki (Mirror Mountain and the Flowering Plants Brocade). The second play, a selection from Danjūrō’s Shin Jūhachiban collection, was the dance play Momijigari (Viewing the Autumn Foliage), based by Kawatake Mokuami on the nō play of the same name, while the closer was Mokuami’s comically odd, 1867 dance play Shichiya no Kura Tamashii Irekae (The Pawnshop Warehouse and the Substitution of Souls), performed to tokiwazu and takemoto accompaniment. The show ran 25 days.

This year Danjūrō had thrice refused to play a princess role but, at Kikugorō’s urging, he agreed on such part in Momijigari in which he portrayed Princess Sarashina, in reality the Demoness of Mount Togukushi, with Kikugorō as the samurai Koremochi and young Ushinosuke (the future Kikugorō VI) as the Mountain God. According to Tamura Nariyoshi’s Zoku Zoku Kabuki Nendaiki, “Momijigari, the middle piece . . . was wonderfully sublime, with Danjūrō and Kikugorō being praised as a matchless pair and the performance becoming such a big draw it sold out day after day.”

During the run the Yokota Shōkai motion picture company spoke with Kabuki-za official Inoue Takejirō about filming Momijigari to preserve its performances for future generations. With payment to the families of both stars being privately agreed on, a stage was erected in the garden of the Bairin teahouse behind the Kabuki-za where three scenes were directed by Shibata Tsunekichi. It was a windy day (historians dispute whether it was November 28 or 30), which caused Danjūrō to drop a fan during the scene in which he dances with two of them. The film was shown first in a private viewing at Danjūrō’s home in 1900, but his dislike of movies prevented a public showing until July 1903, when, falling ill while performing in Osaka, he agreed for it to be substituted for his live performance, along with another film, Ninin Dōjōji (Two-Person Dōjōji), produced at the end of 1899 (see below). This was at Osaka’s Naka-za, where its July 7-15 run was so popular it was extended to August 1. The most complete remaining version is six minutes long, most of it is available for viewing here on YouTube. Many film historians consider it the first Japanese movie with a fictional subject. It’s also the oldest extant Japanese film. 
Scene from the film of Momijigari, with Kikugorō, left, and Danjūrō  From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
A major kabuki event took place in October, at the Meiji-za, when Matsui Shōyō's (a.k.a. Shōō) Aku Genta (Wicked Genta) was premiered. Ichikawa Sadanji had commissioned theatre critic Matsui to dramatize it from his serialized novel of that name running in the Hōchi Shinbun newspaper. Considered the first kabuki play written by an outsider--a member of the nontheatrical literati--to be produced, it incited considerable anger from the traditional playwrights, who did all they could over the next few years to obstruct such writers from joining their profession. Matsui was very grateful to Sadanji for the opportunity, especially when the actor rejected traditional playwright Kawatake Shinshichi's request, after providing stage directions for the play, to be given credit as the coauthor. Matsui went on to write other plays for Sadanji at the Meiji-za and to write for Sadanji II as well. Soon, other outsider playwrights, like Oka Onitarō and Okamoto Kidō, began to overcome objections and get their work produced. 

The last program of the year opened on at the early hour of 9:00 a.m. on December 1, with a company featuring the then middle-level actors, Nakamura Fukusuke, Ichikawa Yaozō, Ichimura Kakitsu, and Onoe Eizaburō. The bill began with a play based by Kawatake Shinshichi III on a tale by storyteller San’yutei Enchō about a well-known vendetta, Kagamigaike Misao no Matsukage. Second on the program was Onna Hachi no Ki (The Female Dwarf Tree), starring Fukusuke, with the final work starring Eizaburō and Kakitsu in the nagauta dance play Hana Kurabe Ninin Dōjōji (Flower Competition: Two-Person Dōjōji). Live narrators called benshi who explained what the screen was showing or even spoke the dialogue became popular adjuncts to Japanese silent films this year. 

Tamura, who had produced a program of Kokkei Shibai (Comical Theatre) at the Shintomi-za with lesser-known actors Kichiroku, Kantarō, and Danpachi, planned on imitating his success at the Kabuki-za, but his scheme to make money so the actors could afford expensive rice cakes for the New Year's backfired. The program, with its ghost play Onna Hachi no Ki, was too bleak and the show closed in a mere 15 days when attendance tanked. Still, it had historical significance because the Yoshizawa Shōkai company made a film (now lost) of Ninin Dōjōji, referenced above. It was hand colored and eventually shown at the Kabuki-za.

In Osaka, Benten-za actor Ichikawa Kaoru took the name Kawarazaki Gonzaburo (later Gonjuro II).


Selected Major World Events of 1899

Cuba was freed from Spanish rule; the U.S. took control of Wake Island; the British Southern Cross expedition entered the Antarctic Circle; the U.S. was victorious in the Spanish-American War; the Great Blizzard of 1899 invaded even Florida; voting machines were approved for U.S. federal elections; Edwin Sewell became the first driver of a gasoline-powered vehicle to die in an accident; a cyclone striking Bathurst Bay, Queensland, created Australia's deadliest natural disaster; aspirin was patented; Martha M. Place became the first woman to be executed in an electric chair, at Sing Sing Prison; George Dewey became Admiral of the US Navy; Guglielmo Marconi transmitted a radio signal across the English Channel; Pearl Hart, female outlaw, held up a stagecoach in Arizona; the paper clip was patented; a man nicknamed Mile-a-Minute Murphy became the first cyclist to do a mile in less than a minute; New York's newsies went on strike; the Second Boer War broke out in South Africa; Alfred Dreyfus was pardoned in France; the Bronx Zoo opened in New York; and one of the large stones at Stonehenge fell over.

Important plays that premiered included Augustus Thomas's Arizona, Clyde Fitch's Barbara Frietchie, William H. Young's dramatization of Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur, Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, William Butler Yeats's The Countess Cathleen, Gabriel D'Annunzio's La Gioconda, William Gillette's adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Henrik Ibsen's When We Dead Awaken, and George Bernard Shaw's You Never Can Tell. The popular British musical, later produced on Broadway, also opened in 1899.

Important theatres that opened, most still operating, include the Barre Opera House, Barre, Vermont; the Glasgow Gaiety Theatre (closed in 1965), Glasgow, Scotland; the Graz Opera, Graz, Austria; the Metropolitan Opera House, Iowa Falls, Iowa; the National Theatre, Oslo, Norway; the Paradise Roof Garden (demolished in 1915), New York, situated above the Victoria Theatre (Hammerstein's), also torn down in 1915; the Royal Swedish Opera, Stockholm, Sweden; the Stadttheater Meran, Meran, South Tyrol, Italy; the State Theatre Kocise, Kocise, Slovakia; and Wyndham's Theatre, London.

Cultural events included the publication of William Butler Yeats's The Wind in the Reeds; Mark Twain's "The Man that Corrupted Haddleyburg"; Polish novelist Wladyslaw Reymont's The Promised Land; Jean Sibelius's "Symphony no. 1 in E Minor"; Richard Strauss's A Hero's Life; and the commencement of Claude Monet's "Waterlillies" paintings.

Important cultural figures born in 1899 include composer Francis Poulenc, actress Eva Le Gallienne, actor-writer Goodman Ace, gangster Al Capone, author Nevil Shute, actor Ramon Novarro, composer Georges Auric, actress Gale Sondergaard, poet-novelist Jibanananda Das, writer Erich Kastner, actress Gloria Swanson, author Eric Linklater, composer-musician Duke Ellington, pianist Robert Casadesus, writer Vladimir Nabokov, animator Walter Lantz, illustrator Mary Petty, dancer-actor Fred Astaire, movie producer Irving Thalberg, composer Carlos Chavez, novelist Ernest Hemingway, novelist Kawabata Yasunari, opera singer Helen Traubel, movie director George Cukor, writer E.B. White, baseball player Waite Hoyt, actress Gertrud Berg, actress Evelyn Brent, writer Vera Caspary, movie sound engineer Douglas Shearer, conductor Eugene Ormandy, songwriter-actor Hoagy Carmichael, actress Mona Bruns, actor-playwright Noel Coward, and composer Dimitri Tiomkin.