Friday, September 2, 2016

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA: Chapter 4: 1890 (Meiji 23)

Chapter 4

1890 (Meiji 23)

Samuel L. Leiter

[Note: This is Chapter 4 in a series devoted to the early history of the Kabuki-za. For Chapters 1 (Introduction), 2, and 3 and Chapters 1 and 2.  This material is translated and adapted from Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi, edited by Nagayama Takeomi (1995). A team of 10 writers is listed for the volume but none are identified for particular chapters. Nonessential material has been cut and some additional information from other sources has been included. Links are provided only for new items. Corrections and documented additions are welcome.]

In February 1890, scene designer/builder Hasegawa Kanbei died at 65, as did actor Sawamura Yūjirō II, who was only 17.

In March 1890 the Kabuki-za produced its second program, beginning with Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s Kanhasshū Tsunagi Uma (Tethered Steed and the Eight Provinces of Kantō), revised by Fukuchi Ōchi with the title Sōma Heishi Nidai Banashi; followed by Gonjūrō’s Oatsurae Karigane Zome; with the final piece being a so-called once-in-a-lifetime performance of the famous dance about a female shirabyōshi entertainer, Kyōganoko Musume Dōjōji (The Maiden at Dōjō Temple), starring Ichikawa Danjūrō IX. Shows began daily at 11:00 but the time was later changed to 1:00.
Ichikawa Danjūrō in Kyōganoko Musume Dōjōji.
The first play lacked any feeling of novelty, and Danjūrō’s dull and dry katsureki acting was boring, but his performance as Hanako in the final piece was successful enough to keep the production going for over 40 days. With this program Danjūrō became attached to the Kabuki-za and, though he sometimes performed elsewhere, this is where he was usually found until he died.

March also saw the death at 49 of Ichikawa Enjūrō, a disciple of Danjūrō. The same month, Yoshizumi Chōbei, half-sibling of the late Yoshizumi Kosaburō, who had adopted him, took the name Kosaburō IV.

A digression: the Meiji-period British Japanologist Basil Hall Chamberlain’s representative books included A Handbook for Travellers in Japan and Things Japanese (later called Japanese Things), which not only were among the first guidebooks for foreign visitors to Japan but were also excellent discussions of Japanese culture. The third edition of The Handbook came out in 1889 and became a favorite of French ambassador and, later, famed playwright, Paul Claudel, during his residence in Japan. In the book’s “Route 4” section on Tokyo the representative theatres are given as the Kabuki-za in Kobiki-chō, the Shintomi-za in Tsukiji, and the Nakamura-za in Asakusa. In the Tsukiji section is this passage:

On the way from the Shinbashi Terminus to the former Foreign Concession in Tsukiji, several important modern buildings are passed: —l. the Fifteenth Bank, r. the Imperial Department of Communications, and further on the Department of Agriculture and Commerce (Nōshomushō), a huge building, one wing of which is occupied by a small but interesting Commercial Museum, open from 9 to 3 in summer, and 10 to 3 in winter. Nearby stands the Kabuki-za, one of the best theatres in the metropolis. (From Handbook for Travelers in Japan. I take this quote from the 1904 edition, which contains some changes from the earlier version quoted in Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi, in which the Kabuki-za’s proximity to the famed Seiyōken Hotel is mentioned.)
Ironically, in September 1966, Onoe Baikō VII performed Nama Miko Monogatari (A Tale of False Fortunes) at the Kabuki-za, a play based on a 1965 novel by Enchi Fumiko, who herself had a connection to Dr. Chamberlain.

The preface to Enchi Fumiko’s novel Nami Miko Monogatari begins with her remembering that in the winter of 1935 the unparalleled Japanologist Basil Hall Chamberlain died at 86 at a lonely lakeside in Geneva.

The writer’s father, Ueda Kazutoshi, who had been the prize pupil of “Oudou” Chamberlain (his penname), had been given the scholar’s library of 11,000 rare volumes of Chinese and Japanese books, collected over many years, when Chamberlain returned to his native land. Among them was a handwritten volume that later became the inspiration for Enchi’s novel. . . . In the 1905 edition of one of Chamberlain’s representative books, Things Japanese, there is a chapter on “Theatres,” in which the two peaks of Japanese traditional theatre, and kabuki, are quite carefully contrasted. A reading reveals Chamberlain’s genius as the first Westerner to see Japan’s traditional stage arts from a 20th-century viewpoint, and as the first foreigner to clearly recognize the differences between and kabuki. (From Nakamura Tetsurō, Seiyōjin no Kabuki Hakken.)
We return now to the months immediately preceding the Kabuki-za’s second program when Danjūrō, as part of the anti-Kabuki-za scheming of Morita Kanya, suddenly appeared in the ceremonial opening production (kokera otoshi) of Kyoto’s new Gion-kan (formerly the Gion-za). This caused great consternation among Fukuchi Ōchi and his cohorts, whose troubles had continued since the opening of the Kabuki-za and who desperately wanted the second program to be problem-free. At that time, major Tokyo actors only rarely performed west of Nagoya so Danjūrō’s appearance at the Gion-kan was considered highly unusual.

On the Gion-kan’s opening day, January 13, 1890, the bill included Ichinotani Futaba Gunki (A Chronicle of the Battle of Ichinotani), Takatoki, Torime no Jōshi (The Night-blind Envoy), Domo Mata (Matahei the Stutterer), and Rokkasen. Ōtani Takejirō, later one-half of the twin brother team that created the Shochiku theatrical empire and that still controls kabuki, was then 14-years-old and working with his parents running a concession at the Gion-kan. The young Ōtani was overwhelmed with excitement at the prospect of seeing Japan’s greatest actor, Danjūrō, on the same bill with the favorite star of the Kamigata (Osaka-Kyoto) region, Nakamura Ganjirō I.

And, whenever he could snatch a minute from work, Takejirō would find a spot at the rear of the galleries or in a corridor corner to stare at the stage where he’d be overwhelmed by Danjūrō’s onstage presence. Takejirō could barely believe the theatre could have such emotionally expressive power. Danjūrō’s Kumagai and Ganjirō’s Atsumori (in Ichinotani) were like figures come to life from a woodblock print. Only the gods could be so excellent. Takejirō always declared: “Whenever I later thought about it, I’d say unequivocally that my never having regretted spending my life in the theatre stemmed from having seen Danjūrō and Ganjirō when I was 14.” (From Tanaka Junichirō, Ōtani Takejirō.)

It was highly ironic that a byproduct of Kanya’s plotting, which so frightened the Kabuki-za managers, Ōchi and Chiba Katsu, ultimately led to the rise of the great producer Ōtani Takejirō, founder of Shōchiku kabuki, called the “Demon of Kabuki” (Kabuki no Oni).

At any rate, the Kabuki-za’s second production didn’t replicate the grand lineup of the first, since Kikugorō and Sadanji were employed at the Shintomi-za and it was left to Danjūrō nearly alone to keep the ship afloat. The critic called Takenoya wrote this enthusiastic praise:

The theatre’s program combines three arts and five excellences worthy of a nowadays rare critical appreciation. The three arts are those of the unparalleled playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon, the peerless contemporary literary man Fukuchi Gen’ichirō (Ōchi), who revised Chikamatsu’s writing, and Japan’s foremost actor Ichikawa Danjūrō, who performed it. The five excellences are 1) the lack of overlong intermissions; 2) the well-built theatre and its bright electric lighting; 3) the costumes and sets by which the spectators feel as if they’d been born in the Kanwa-Eien periods (10th century); 4) the extreme absence of errors in the dialogue, quite unusual in theatre these days; and 5) the considerable reduction in admission prices for the galleries and pit. (From Aeba Kōson, Takenoya Gekihyō Shū.) 
This production concluded with Dōjōji, given with the actual choreography of Nishikawa Senzō, including the hanamichi entrance to tokiwazu music, the ranbyōshi section closely following the original, and the nō-like praying of five priests, all of which delighted kabuki connoisseurs. And the eros-filled “koi no tenarai” section was well received by all so it was regrettable that this was considered a once in a lifetime performance. Both Ōchi and Chiba were well satisfied with the sold-out houses, unprecedented in recent years, and the show’s run of 33 days (beginning on March 25) was extended for 8 more (to close on May 4 after 41 performances) which mortified the Shintomi-za’s Kanya.

During this production, in April, the Imperial Japanese Industrial Exposition (Naikoku Kangyō Hakurankai) opened in Ueno; there were so many foreigners around that the Kabuki-za prepared English-language plot summaries for them, an innovation received very positively. Also, at Ōchi’s instigation, Yokohama’s Western-language newspapers, the Japan Herald, Japan Mail, and Japan Gazette, published plot summaries and outlines, a novel way of advertising the productions that was quite surprising.

And on April 16, England’s Duke of Connaught (the crown prince), his wife, and retinue of over 80 visited the theatre. Danjūrō presented the duke with a potted plant. This visit of such eminences marked a transfer of prestige from the Shintomi-za, where they would previously have gone, to the Kabuki-za, and signified that the Age of the Shintomi-za already was ending.

Mary Crawford Fraser, wife of Hugh Fraser, Britain’s Minister Plenipotentiary to Japan, who wrote about her life in late 19th-century Japan, was in the Duke of Connaught’s theatre party at the Kabuki-za. She noted that Danjūrō closely resembled England’s great Shakespearean actor-director Sir Henry Irving.

[Note: The same subject is treated in detail in Samuel L. Leiter, “Parallel Lives: Sir Henry Irving and Ichikawa Danjūrō IX,” in Frozen Moments: Writings on Kabuki.]

According to Fraser:

Danjuro Ichikawa was acting one of his great parts, in which he assumes four or five characters of men and women, youth and age, all of which he personates so entirely that it seems impssible to believe that he is anything but what he appears to be at the moment. He is a remarkably tall and gaunt-looking man, about fifty years old, rather like Henry Irving in his general appearance; and yet hepersonates a dancing-girl, and old woman, a boy, a court lady, with the most bewildering realism. . . .
It is whispered that Danjuro has been much loved; however that may be, hekind and good to his family, maintaining a whole tribe of relations, who keep him poor in spite of his great popularity, and who live on his bounty with kindly indulgence, as is the manner of people here when one member of the family is earning large sums of money. 
The Duke was delighted with his acting and dancing, and sent for him to thank him for the pleasure he had been given. Danjuro was much gratified, especially by being compared to Henry Irving, of whom he said he had heard much and greatly desired to see. The Duke told him that he ought to come to Europe; but Danjuro replied rather sadly that he should never have time for that, and of course he deprecated his own attainments, as polite people have to do here. Shortly after the interview he sent a present to his Royal Highness, consisting of two plants of rare chrysanthemums in full bloom, a costly offering at this season, and in Tokyo, where valued plants command a price unknown in Europe. (From Mary Crawford Fraser, A Diplomatist’s Wife in Japan: Sketches at the Turn of the Century.)
On May 22, 1890, the Kabuki-za’s third program opened with Osaka’s Nakamura Ganjirō making his Tokyo debut, an honor shared with the Shintomi-za, where he also performed that month. However, the period leading up to the decision for him to offer joint appearances (in different plays) at the two theatres continued the troubles between Kanya and Chiba as they scrambled for the Kamigata star’s services. The program began with Ōchi’s revision of a play already known in both Tokyo and Kamigata, Jitsuroku Chūshingura (A True Account of the 47 Rōnin Story). The centerpiece was Act X of Ehon Taikōki (Picture Book of the Tycoon), with Danjūrō as Mitsuhide and Ganjirō as Atsumori, while the finale was the dance play Hidari Kogatana (Left-handed Small Sword), from Danjūrō’s top hits collection, the Shin Kabuki Jūhachiban (New Kabuki 18 [it actually contains more than 18 plays]). The program ran for 30 days.
Jitsuroku Chūshingura, with (l-r) Ichikawa Gonjūrō, Iwai Matsunosuke, Ichikawa Danjūrō , and Nakamura Ganjirō. Artist: Utagawa Kunisada.
                                                                                    ***
In June 1890 a cholera epidemic that began in Nagasaki spread nationwide, 2,800 people dying in Tokyo alone. In July Japan held its first general elections, with 300 persons being elected to the Lower House of the Diet as the result of votes cast by the 92 per cent of the eligible population, a truly high ratio.

Danjūrō took the month off from the Kabuki-za in July, leaving Ganjirō heading a cheap program with little backup. The first piece was Shiranui Monogatari (The Tale of Shiranui); the centerpiece was Ehon Taikōki’s “Saginomori Scene”; and the next piece was Atami Miyage Ganpi no Tamazusa (An Atami Souvenir: A Silk Love Letter). However, a blistering heat wave kept audiences away so on July 26 the prologue of the first piece was removed in exchange for the “Obiya” scene from Katsuragawa Renri no Shigarami (Strong Bonds of Love at Katsuragawa), but it was like throwing a a hot stone in water.

Midway through the run Chiba Katsugorō and his partner, Fukuchi Ōchi, exasperated, grew angry with one another when the theatre’s debts led creditors to threaten seize of its receipts. Knocked for a loop, the production was closed down on July 30, after only 19 performances. Sooner or later there was bound to be a collision between the basic contradictions of Ōchi, who built a new playhouse for theatrical reform, and Chiba, who wanted to use theatre reform to make money. Eventually, the situation was mediated, and Ōchi sold his rights as Kabuki-za manager (zanushi) to Chiba for 10,000 yen and Chiba became sole manager. At the same time, he followed the advice of Tamura Nariyoshi to put rival manager Morita Kanya in charge of all productions while Ōchi confined himself to playwriting duties.

On August 22, the longstanding practice of preventing male and female actors from appearing together was abandoned, the shift having been inspired by the example of Western theatre, where men and women had shared the stage for centuries. The Tōkyō Nichi Nichi Shinbun newspaper wondered how the mingling of the sexes at Tokyo’s theatres would affect the fortunes of their productions. Also in August, regulations governing theatres were revised in August so that entertainment venues using drop curtains (donchō) and known as donchō shibai were reclassified as “minor theatres” (kogekijō). There were 10 theatres classed as “majors” (ōgekijō) and 12 as kogekijō. The building standards for all theatres were confirmed. 
Onoe Kikugorō as Sayuri in Modori Bashi.
With Kanya at the helm, the Kabuki-za’s October program offered a lineup headed by the three top stars, Danjūrō, Kikugorō, and Sadanji (Dan-Kiku-Sa). The show was set to open with Sanpuku Tsui Ueno no Fūkei (a.k.a. Kochiyama) followed by the dance play Modori Bashi (Modori Bridge), and concluding with Yamanba, which received an excellent pre-opening appraisal; unfortunately, before opening day Danjūrō suddenly took ill and Sadanji replaced him as Kochiyama. Also, Ōshū Adachigahara (Adachi Field in Ōshū) was substituted for Yamanba (The Mountain Hag), with Kikugorō garnering acclaim for it. It ran 23 days. However, Kanya lost 3,000 yen on the provincial tour, which led Chiba to remove him from the management shortly after the new year began, thereby severing Kanya’s relationship to the Kabuki-za. Thereafter, none other than Tamura Nariyoshi became Chiba’s chief producing advisor.

In October, Osaka’s Kado-za used a playbill (banzuke) for Tanima-hime Yuri translated into English, making it the first such playbill in Japan. On October 30, 1890, the Imperial Rescript on Education was issued. On November 13 Japan’s first skyscraper, the 12-story, elevator-using Ryōunkaku (commonly called “Twelve Stories” [Jūnikai]), was opened in Asakusa Park (it was destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923). The same month, on the 20th, the Imperial Hotel (Teikoku Hoteru) opened for business in Marunouchi. Built of wood, it had 60 rooms. On the 24th, the Englishman Spencer ascended in a hot air balloon from in front of the Ueno Museum, and a day later, the first assembly of the Imperial Diet was held. (He’d already done the same thing in Yokohama Park on October 12.)

In 1890, the literary world argued over Mori Ōgai’s first short story, The Dancing Girl (Maihime), while rising writers Ozaki Kōyō, Kōda Rohan were all the rage, and serialized novels competed against one another in the newspapers. Also, Wakamatsu Shizuko, who had married Iwamoto Zenji, pioneer of women’s education in Japan, a year before, translated Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, a breakthrough for Japanese juvenile literature, and published it in Jogaku Zasshi (Women’s Educational Magazine), becoming a work that transcended its age and continued to be read thereafter.

In December, traditional hair styles were revived, there was an increase in Western wear, a gladiolus fad spread under the influence of Westernization, and influenza appeared in Tokyo for the first time.

Internationally, major plays included Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, James Herne’s Margaret Fleming, and Maeterlinck’s The Blind. In Buenos Aires the original Teatro Argentina de la Plata opened, as did Broadway’s Garrick Theatre (torn down in 1932).  

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