Wednesday, November 9, 2016

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA (1889-1911). Chapter 7: 1893 (Meiji 26)

Chapter 7: 1893 (Meiji 26)

Samuel L. Leiter

[Note: This is Chapter 7 in a series devoted to the early history of the Kabuki-za (1889-1911). It is largely based on Vols. 1 and 3 of 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 but none are identified for their contributions. Some material has been cut, some expanded, and other material added from different sources. Special sections with new material have been provided within borders. Links are given selectively and only for items not so identified in previous entries. Prof. Kei Hibino of Seikei University offered helpful comments during the preparation of this entry. Corrections and documented additions are welcome.]  

The January 1893 program at the Kabuki-za began at 10 a.m. on the 15th with, as was becoming usual, Tamura Nariyoshi the lessee. Star Onoe Kikugorō V was the main attraction. Tamura, after a series of San’yutei Enchō-inspired productions, decided to shift to one based on a kōdan story by Matsubayashi Hakuen as dramatized by Kawatake Shinshichi, with assistance from Fukuchi Ōchi. In seven scenes, it opened the bill under the title Ansei Mitsugumi Sakazuki (Three Sake Cups of the Ansei  Period) and was followed by the program closer, a tokiwazu dance play by Kawatake Mokuami, Yakko Tako Sato no Harukaze (The Footman Kite and Hometown Spring Breezes). A revision of a piece Mokuami had written in 1867, it proved to be Mokuami’s final work. The music was by Kishizawa Koshikibu and the choreography by Hanayagi Jusuke.

Onoe Kikugorō as the "footman kite" in Tako Yakko. Photo: Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The program, which ran for 25 days through February 8, was a hit, with Kikugorō being especially successful in Yakko Tako when, suspended by wires, he danced in the air as if he were a kite designed to resemble a footman. To publicize it, on January 6 and 7, several hundred “footman kites” were set loose from towers in Asakusa, Shiba, and Shinbashi, and whoever retrieved one and brought it to the theatre was given free admission, which proved a popular scheme and was even depicted in woodblock prints.

At 3:30 p.m., on January 22, in the midst of a production, the oldest of the three great Edo theatres (Edo sanza), the Nakamura-za, now called the Torigoe-za and located in Nishi Torigoe, Asakusa, caught fire, burned down, and was never rebuilt. The theatre had been struggling in recent years. Then, within the hour, between 4:15 and 4:30 p.m., Kawatake Mokuami, 78, last of the great Edo-period playwrights, died. In 1881, after writing Shima Chidori Tsuki no Shiranami, he had announced his retirement and changed his name to Furukawa Mokuami, but even then he continued to write numerous plays. After the Kabuki-za opened he again retired to live quietly but agreed to do Yakko Tako when asked by Kikugorō. He passed away at his home at Minami Futaba-chō, Honjo. Not only the theatre world but Japanese society as a whole was extremely saddened by his passing. All the newspapers carried numerous encomiums and expressions of mourning.

The Hōchi Shinbun (Information Newspaper) eulogized: “Such was the respect due to the greatness of his orbit that the five characters of his name, Kawatake Mokuami, could represent the word ‘playwright’ (kyōgen sakusha).” The Kokumin Shinbun (People’s Newspaper) lamented: “In our nation’s 19th-century theatrical world, the loss of this master is to be deeply mourned.” And the Yomiuri Shinbun extolled: “Furukawa Mokuami, the greatest modern playwright, the best since Chikamatsu.” (Akiniwa Tarō, Tōto Meiji Engeki-Shi.)

However, while Mokuami’s death was a severe loss to the theatre world, his disciples—Kawatake Nōshin, Kawatake Shinshichi III, Takeshiba Kisui, and others—were active as house dramatists at theatres in Tokyo and Kamigata, and the power of the so-called Kawatake Faction continued to grow. Years later, the writer Masamune Hakuchō noted:

I was intoxicated at first by Mokuami’s domestic dramas (nibanmemono). Later, even though long feeling disillusioned by the old-time theatre, I occasionally went out of boredom, and what I definitely recall of interest in his plays is that his poetry remained unchanged. His old poetry had invaded my mind. On the one hand, I continued to oppose him, while on the other I couldn’t get his singing poetry, passing through the actors, the stage, and the musicians, out of my head. The plays of the academic playwright Fukuchi Ōchi were almost completely devoid of poetry. And the work of Mokuami’s successors, too, while showing theatrical skill, had not a whit of poetry about them. Tsuruya Nanboku was a greater genius than Mokuami and a certain group of people nowadays prefer him, but while he has realistic ability, and a talent for shocking audiences with fantastical ideas, he lacks the poetry of Mokuami. (From “Mokuami ni Tsuite” in Chūō Kōron, December 1926.)

Kawatake Mokuami (1816-1893) was, with Tsuruya Nanboku IV, one of the two greatest kabuki playwrights of the 19th century. He was born at Edo’s Nihonbashi, his real name being Yoshimura Yoshisaburō. His family was in the bathhouse business, later running a pawnshop. When he was 14 he went off on his own, learning as much as he could about the world. He excelled at kyōka (comic verse) and chaban farces (done mainly by amateurs). While working at a lending library he read voraciously. Mokuami’s father died when he was 19, leaving his estate to Mokuami’s older brother, which led him to become a kabuki playwright. His master was Nanboku V, grandson of Nanboku IV.

Kawatake Mokuami. Photo: Engekikai.
The first to acknowledge Mokuami’s abilities was the star Ichikawa Danjūrō VII, when the playwright served as the actor’s stage assistant (kōken) for a production of Kanjinchō and knew the script by heart. After Danjūrō was banished from Edo during the Tenpō Period Reforms, the playwright took the name Kawatake Shinshichi II, following which he entered a period when little is known of him. After Ichikawa Kodanji IV moved to Kamigata the playwright took advantage of the opportunity to collaborate with him.

Thereafter, for about 10 years, he and Kodanji formed a popular combination, with such plays lighting the theatre’s firmament as Miyakodori Nagare no Shiranami, Utsunoya Tōge, Nezumi Kozō, Kozaru Shichinosuke, Izayoi Seishin, Sannin Kichisa, Kurotegumi Sukeroku, Gosho no Gorozō, etc.  At the foundation of his male bandits in female garb, his ornately colorful speeches (yakubarai), and his musical skills, was the decadent world of his times, which perfectly suited Kodanji’s personality and captured the sadness and gloom of mid-19th-century Japan. Mokuami’s writing grasped the sense of fate (inga) affecting the lives of the life-sized, backstreet commoners in his domestic plays, in which the heroes were ordinary city folk whose stories came close to those of the era’s kōshaku and ninjōbanashi tales.

Kodanji’s death in 1866, along with the Meiji Restoration of 1868, led him to partner with Ichikawa Danjūrō IX for whom he wrote “living history” (katsureki) plays that hewed closely to the manners and speech of historical times, while, for Onoe Kikugorō V he wrote zangiri (cropped hair) plays that mingled modern manners and clothes with conventional kabuki motifs. These plays, while rarely revived, nonetheless cast an illuminating light on the changing world of Meiji Japan.

Other important works of this prolific playwright, who wrote over 360 plays, also clearly depict Japan’s transition from the Edo period: such plays as Kamiyui Shinza, Kumo ni Magō Ueno no Hatsuhana, Sakanaya Sōgorō, Shisen Ryō, and Kaga Tobi preserve an image of the lost Edo of Mokuami’s youth.

He announced his retirement in 1881, when he changed his name from Shinshichi to Mokuami, but the lack of anyone to step into his shoes led to his continuing to write plays almost until the day he died.

Also in January, the Naka-za in Osaka’s Dōtonbori hosted the name-taking ceremony of Suketakaya Kōsuke’s adopted son, Sawamura Genpei IV, who changed his name to Sawamura Tosshō. The Masago-za, a minor Tokyo theatre, opened on January 2 at Nakasu, Nihonbashi. Meanwhile, writers Kitamura Tōkoku, Togawa Shūkotsu, Shimazaki Tōson, Hirata Tokuboku, and others founded the important literary magazine Bungakukai (Literary World), which opened the door for the so-called modern Romanticism movement.

January 1893 abroad included the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, an action involving the participation of the U.S. Marine Corps. In February Thomas A. Edison built the first motion picture studio, in West Orange, New Jersey, while the diesel engine was patented the same month by Rudolf Diesel.

For the March program, which ran for 33 days, from March 10 to April 11, Kikugorō joined Danjūrō’s company to costar with him under the Dan-Kiku banner, beginning at 10:00 a.m. with Fukuchi Ōchi’s new play, Azuma Kagami Haiga no Maki (The Eastern Mirror and the Congratulatory Scroll), which was panned. Then came another Ōchi offering, a revision and expansion of the nagauta dance play, Keisei Makura Jishi (The Courtesan and the Pillow Lion), called Shunkyō Kagami Jishi (Spring Performance of the Mirror Lion); with music by Kineya Seijirō, and choreography by Danjūrō and Fujima Kan’emon II, it became one of kabuki’s most popular pieces, usually known simply as Kagami Jishi and famous for requiring its star to be a beautiful woman in its first half and a powerful lion in a long white wig in the second. The role later became one the great ones in the repertoire of Kikugorō VI. 

The children playing the butterflies in the premiere were Danjūrō’s eldest daughter, Ichikawa Jitsuko (later Ichikawa Suiisen II), and second daughter, Ichikawa Fukiko (later Ichikawa Kyokubai II). The piece began a trend of dance plays starring actors playing male/female roles. As noted by novelist Tanizaki Jun'ichirō in Childhood Years: A Memoir (translated by Paul McCarthy), Ihara Seiseien wrote in his History of Meiji Drama that the use of these girls in the dance "provided a precedent for the admission of women to the Kabuki stage." Tanizaki also cites Tamura Nariyoshi, writing in his yearbook of kabuki performance, that "this was the first instance of a joint male-female performance on the stage of a major kabuki theater in Japan." Tanizaki recalled the girls dancing with their father: "if my memory does not fail me, at certain points in the dance Danjuro as the spirit of the lion would turn to the the girls and utter a little cry--'Oh!' or 'Ah!--to help them with their timing."

The last performance of the day was the three-act Kurotegumi Tsui no Shiratsuka (The Black-Hand Gang and the Pair of White Sword Guards), performed with kiyomoto music.

Ichikawa Danjūrō as the lion in Kagami Jishi. Photo: Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
It appears Ōchi was not a very popular figure. According to his biographer, Koyama Fumio, in his Meiji Kisai no Fukuchi Ōchi, he was attacked in the Yorozu Chōhō newspaper for holding himself up as the foremost contemporary dramatist, putting up elaborate gilt-edged billboards extolling his talents as a second Chikamatsu Monzaemon reigning over Tsukiji.

Ichikawa Jitsuko and Ichikawa Fukiko as the butterflies in Kagami Jishi. Photo: Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
For Kagami Jishi he had not scrupled to change the courtesan of Makura Jishi to a court lady; the “country bumpkin” Ōchi’s ignorance of ancient customs so rankled specialist Mitamura Engyo that he later took the playwright to task in his book Goten Jochū (Court Ladies). Nonetheless, the work was extremely popular and drew a full house on the fourth day, after which it helped sell out the rest of the run.

In Childhood Years, Tanizaki, who was only eight when he saw this program, was fascinated by it because of his precocious interest in history and geography: 

I must have watched with special interest for scenes like the one in Azuma kagami in which Sanetomo (played by Fukusuke) is killed by Kugyo (Kikugoro) in front of the Tsurugaoka Shrine in Kamakura. I had heard a great deal from my mother about Fukusuke's beauty and elegance, and to see the graceful figure of Sanetomo, Minister of the Right, beheaded at the hands of Kugyo was somehow unutterably sad and painful, even if it was only a play. According to the History of Meiji Drama by Ihara Seiseien, Danjuro, in acting the part of Hojo Yoshitoki in this drama, portrayed him as a great villain by 'showing him secretly inciting Kugyo to his murderous act against Sanetomo'; and this especially in the scene where 'as a member of Sanetomo's retinue during the visit to the Hachiman Shrine, he feigns illness and begins to move away along the [hanamichi], clutching at his stomach; then, pausing and looking back toward the stage as if lost in thought, he relaxes his hands for a time; finally, as if changing his mind, he again presses the violently against his belly and disappears beneath the curtain.' But, according to Seisein's history, 'this was an extremely subtle, intuitive sort of art, which most of the audience could not grasp.'And,alas, I myself remember nothing of Danjuro's performance . . . ; all I can recall is Kikugoro as Kugyo emerging from beneath a curtain, Fukusuke as Sanetomo lying dead on the stage, and Kugyo approaching him to sever his head. (From Tanizaki, Childhood Years, translated by Paul McCarthy.)

On March 18, the actor Bandō Kakitsu I died at 47; he was the brother of Kikugorō V and was previously known as Ichimura Uzaemon XIV. His death came during a production at the Ichimura-za, which was forced to close down so its future could be considered. However, during these discussions, on March 28, at 6:50 p.m. the Ichimura-za, another of the three major Edo theatres, caught fire and burned down. The writer Okamoto Kidō lived nearby and lost his house in the conflagration. Regarding Kakitsu, Okamoto wrote:

He had a large oval shaped face and a soft tone of voice which also earned him the nickname of “hato poppo” (Translator’s note: ‘pigeons cooing’ – from a children’s’ nursery rhyme about pigeons). He was called one of the greatest soft wagoto style actors of his day. He most certainly ranked alongside the great and famous Dankikusa [sic]. . . . Now Uzaemon has become famous, especially for the role of Kirare Yosaburō . . . , his forte. . . . Kakitsu carried himself naturally and tenderly in his performance as Yosaburō, something which others were unable to achieve. His older brother Kikugorō also played the role of Yosaburō at the Kabukiza Theatre though his performance fell short of his younger brother’s expectations. . . . With his sympathetic style of acting he soon became a prominent figure. It was extremely unlucky that he passed away at the age of forty seven from acute peritonitis. (From Okamoto Kidō, Meiji Gekidan Ranpu no Moto Ni Te (Talks on the Theatre of the Meiji Period–Under the Lamp). Online translation by Trevor Skingle.)
Events abroad for March 1893 included the beginning of Grover Cleveland’s presidency in the U.S. He succeeded Benjamin Harrison.

In April an Abt-style rack railway (named for Swiss inventor Roman Abt), intended for steep inclines and first introduced in Germany in 1885, was installed on the Shinetsu Line between Yokokawa and Karuizawa. Also that month, the Japan Women’s Christian Temperance Union (Nihon Kiristokyō Fujin Kyōfūkai) was founded. And, on April 18, the kabuki scholar Sekine Shisei died from influenza, aged 69.

May’s program, which ran from May 6 to June 14 for 37 performances, saw the first assembly in some time of the three great stars—Danjūrō, Kikugorō, and Sadanji—known in aggregate as Dan-Kiku-Sa. The unexpected fire that recently damaged the Ichimura-za was responsible for this gathering of Tokyo’s top actors coming together for this production.

First on the bill, at 10 a.m., was one of Chikamatsu’s so-called “three history play masterpieces,” Soga Kaikeizan (The Soga Brothers at Kaikei Mountain; 1718), revised by Fukuchi Ōchi as the four-act Jūnitoki Kaikei Soga (The Soga Brothers at Kaikei Mountain at Twelve O’Clock), starring Danjūrō as Kudō, Kikugorō as Jūrō, and Sadanji as Gorō. Scholar Miki Takeji later lamented that Fukuchi’s version was considerably inferior to Mokuami’s 1881 adaptation, Youchi Soga Kariba no Akebono (Dawn at the Hunting Field after the Sogas’ Night Attack). Then came the great dance-drama Kanjinchō (The Subscription List), one of the Danjūrō line’s family art collection, the Kabuki Jūhachiban: Danjūrō played Benkei, Sadanji was Togashi, and Fukusuke was Yoshitsune. After it came Mokuami’s domestic drama, Tsuyu Kosode Mukashi Hachijō (The Old Story of the Wet Wadded Silk Cloth), also called Kamiyui Shinza, with Kikugorō as Kamiyui Shinza, Sadanji as Yatagorō Genshichi, Matsusuke as the landlord Chōbei, and Kikunosuke as the apprentice Chūshichi. 

Ichikawa Sadanji, Onoe Kikugorō, Ichikawa Danjūrō, Onoe Eizaburō in Jūnitoki Kaikei Soga. Print by Utagawa Kunisada III in Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.

From early to mid-Meiji Fukuchi Ōchi (1841-1906) was a journalist and politician, after which he was engaged in theatrical work as a founder of the Kabuki-za, becoming its first producer and writing many plays for production there.
Fukuchi Ochi. Photo: Engekikai.

He was born into the family of a Nagasaki doctor, his real name being Fukuchi Gen’ichirō. He displayed ability at languages from his youth and, when he was 17, he created a Japanese-Dutch dictionary. He moved to Edo during the Ansei period (late 1850s), and became a diplomat during the last years of the Edo shogunate, even representing the shogunate on a mission to Europe in 1862, and learning about the business of journalism.
In 1868, he founded the Kōko Shinbun (Public Newspaper), earned the respect of Meiji statesman Ito Hirobumi, and went abroad three times as an ambassadorial aide. Thereafter, he became a participant in the Theatrical Reform Movement.

In 1873 Fukuchi founded the Tōkyō Nichi Nichi Shinbun (Tokyo Daily Newspaper), now known as the Mainichi Shinbun (Daily Newspaper), serving as both publisher and editor-in-chief and gaining considerable influence. He penned the ceremonial address for the new Shintomi-za’s opening and poured his energy into increasing kabuki’s prestige. He also became president of the Tokyo Prefectural Assembly and founder-leader of the conservative, short-lived (1882-1883) Constitutional Imperial Rule Party (Rikken Teiseitō), intended to support the Meiji oligarchy. He quit politics after his political career was bruised by a bribery scandal in which he was involved.

In 1889 he and Chiba Katsugorō cofounded the Kabuki-za, sharing its management, but in 1891 he resigned from as manager and became the theatre’s head playwright. His representative works included the “living history” (katsureki) plays Kasuga no Tsubone (1891) and Ōmori Hikoshichi (1897), the “new kabuki” (shin kabuki) Kyōkaku Harusame Kasa (The Chivalrous Commoner and the Spring Rain Umbrella; 1897), and dance plays like Kagami Jishi (1893). His prolific brush also produced political novels, translations, and historical writings. Because of his tireless work on kabuki’s behalf he was considered Ichikawa Danjūrō’s “brain.”

The successful program took in a handsome sum of 20,000 yen. With the demise of the Nakamura-za, the recent fire at the Ichimura-za, and the inactivity of Morita Kanya, the Kabuki-za was reaping the profits of being the center of Tokyo’s theatrical attention. Even the emerging new theatre couldn’t hold a candle to its prosperity. But the Kabuki-za did have a setback during its May production, when a fire forced it to close briefly.

On May 12, at 4:30 p.m., a fire broke out in the box lunch (bentō) shop owned by Kasahara [sic] Shōei, at the rear of the Kabuki-za, during the opening scene of the domestic play [Kamiyui Shinza]. Although the full house was thrown into great confusion, not a person was injured, only the shop itself was lost, and the fire was extinguished by 5:40 p.m. The theatre was closed down for three days. (From Ihara Seisein, Kabuki Nenpyō.)

According to the next day’s newspapers:

Yesterday, May 12, at 5:10, a fire broke out inside the brick Sasa-ya box lunch building attached to the Kabuki-za, at 3-20, Kobiki-chō, Kyōbashi-ku, owned by Sasahara Shōei of Fukushima Prefecture. Five places were burned down (only one of them built of brick, though) and all was quenched. . . . Whatever caused the fire was destroyed and went up through the Sasahara chimney, so it remains unclear. Meanwhile, the theatre has posted announcements that “Because of the recent fire there will be a three-day cessation of business” and more details will be provided in the next issue. (From the Tōkyō Asahi Shinbun, May 13, 1893.)

The next day, the same paper provided more information, including this:

Onoe Kikugorō, still in costume and makeup as Shinza, and Ichikawa Sadanji, with his sleeve-holding cords (tasuki) still across his body for the role of Yatagorō Genshichi, both rushed out of the backstage area, their kimonos hitched up for greater mobility, shouting to their disciples to help fight the fire; then the two actors climbed onto the roof of the burning confectionary shop [kashiya; sic]; as soon as people heard that they were working with the firefighters, even young housewives braved the danger and rushed to see the sight, offering a most unusual sight. . . .

Onoe Matsunosuke, normally very timid, was so frozen in fear he had no idea where he was and just stood there in his boots looking around in a daze; Ichikawa Danpachi lost sight of his second son and ran through the dressing rooms looking for him until, at last, he was located in the dressing room of Ichikawa Sumizō and rescued by carrying him out piggyback, like the kids taken home by their parents in Terakoya (The Village School). . . .

Further, Tanakaya Yoneko (?), Tanakaya Kohyaku (?), and Shin Tanakaya Fukusuke [women who appear to be geisha], their side locks unkempt and their kimonos disheveled, looking more realistic than the character of Ano no Tsubone (a female samurai fighter in the no-longer produced fifth act of Ehon Taikōki), fought their way out where they were rescued and could begin to recover. Also, the bridges of [nearby] Sanjukkenbori Canal and the Tsukiji riverbank were jammed here and there with princesses and their ladies-in-waiting who had just barely escaped with their lives and whose gorgeous clothing and multifarious herbal scents, for a time, brought the clamor of the crowd to a halt. (From the Tōkyō Asahi Shinbun, May 14, 1893.)

This description, while a bit hyperbolic, gives a vivid picture of the actors, backstage personnel, and firefighters, noblewomen, and geisha who endured all the confusion of this experience.

During the May program several nagauta singers changed their names: Yoshimura Ijūrō V became Yoshimura Isaburō III, Yoshimura Ishirō V became Ijūrō VI, and Yoshizumi Kizatarō became Okayasu Kiyohachi.  

Outside of Japan, in May 1893, the World’s Fair a.k.a. the World’s Columbian Exposition opened, and the New York Stock Exchange crashed, starting a depression.

On June 1, Fukui Mohei began producing shosei shibai at the Azuma-za in Asakusa Park. On June 14, the closing day of the May program, a group of South Sea islanders from Truk Island, led by the royal prince, visited the Kabuki-za in their colorful native garb, creating quite a stir among the regular theatregoers. On June 25 the Sawamura-za changed its name to the Asakusa-za. Actors involved under the leadership of Nakamura Zenshirō, proprietor of the recently burned down Ichimura-za, included Ichikawa Kyūzō and Onoe Taganojō.

On June 28 the Asano Shinbun newspaper noted that the employees at the Manyasu restaurant in Kobiki-chō, which Kawatake Mokuami had mentioned in his play Shimoyo no Kane Jūji Tsujiura, had a rule declaring that every time someone made a complimentary remark about an actor they’d have to place a one-sen fine in the “compliment box” (norokebako). When the fines were added up they came to three yen 50 sen, which they contributed to the Charitable Theatre Society for the Tokyo Poorhouse during the annual three days of benefit performances for that cause held at the Kabuki-za.

That benefit production, held from June 25 to June 27, starting at 10:00 a.m. each morning, featured Dan-Kiku-Sa. It began with the Asahina envoy scene at the Iibara residence of Kishi no Hime Matsu Kutsuwa Kagami (Mirror of the Seacoast Princess and the Pine Tree Bridle Bit) a 1762 history play first done by the puppets. The second play was Mokuami’s history play Ōsakazuki Shusen no Tsuwamono (The Huge Sake Cup and the Drinking Battle Warriors). The third was another Mokuami history play, the “Katada Ochi” scene of Sangoku Musō Hisago no Gunbai (The Peerless Gourd Military Fan of the Three Kingdoms; 1872). The fourth was yet another history play, the classic 1749 puppet drama Genpei Nunobiki Taki (The Genji and Heike at the Nunobiki Falls), while the fifth on this overstuffed program was the dance play, Rokkasen.

During the program, Danjūrō, dressed in court dress of the Enryaku era (late eighth-early ninth centuries), read aloud a donation request written by Fukuchi Ōchi on behalf of the reconstruction of Kyoto’s Taikyoku Hall. Meanwhile, distinguished women members of the benefit committee raised money for their charity with a bazaar.

May was also when Mikimoto Kokichi of Japan discovered a way to make cultured pearls.

The May program having been successful, Tamura put his faith in the Dan-Kiku-Sa lineup again for July’s summer program (which began at 10 a.m. and ran from July 14 through July 30) with another in the popular line of plays adapted from storyteller San’yutei Enchō, this one Kawatake Shinshichi’s dramatization of Annaka Sōza (The Thief Annaka Sōza), now called Haruna no Ume Kaoru Uchiwa-e (A Fan Painting of Haruna’s Fragrant Plum Blossoms). The middle piece was the “Daianji Zutsumi” (Daian Temple Embankment) scene from the 1736 puppet theatre history drama Katakiuchi Tsuzure no Nishiki (Vengeance and the Tattered Silk), and the final play was the Mokuami pantomime (danmari) Suikoden Yuki no Danmari (Water Margin Pantomime in the Snow).

The plot of Annaka Sōza, though, had too many implausibilities and, while based on an Enchō story, it wasn’t up to the standards of his Shiobara Tasuke and Botan Dōrō, both of which had been hits. Dan-Kiku-Sa appeared in “Daianji Zutsumi” but it, too, flopped. With the heat registering in the high 90s day after day people stayed away and, with 17 days still left on the schedule, the program shut down on the 30th. 

Actor Bandō Hikojūrō, a disciple of Bandō Hikosaburō, died on July 4 at 52. In August Japan experienced a dysentery epidemic. And on August 12, the Ministry of Education required that the national anthem, “Kimi ga Yo,” be incorporated in the public school curriculum and sung at school assemblies.

On September 19, New Zealand became the first nation to give women the vote. Two days later, the Duryea brothers drove the first gas-powered car in America.

October’s Kabuki-za program began on September 28. Opening the program, which featured only Danjūrō and his troupe, was a new six-act Ōchi play, Ōkubo Hikosaemon; the middle play was Musume Kagekiyo Yashima Nikki (Diary of Kagekiyo and His Daughter at Yashima), adapted from a bunraku original of 1725; and the closing dance number, with kiyomoto music, was Hasshōjin Kokkei Chaban (A Funny Eight Laughing People Farce). Danjūrō had a line in Ōchi’s play that included the neologism, “udetate sata” (fighting bout), that he absolutely refused to say, even throwing a spoon, forcing the line to be changed. At the time there was a large group of critics, known as the “Sixty-Five Great Connoisseurs” (Rokujūgo Ōtsū), all of whom hated Ōchi’s plays. When they panned even Musume Kagekiyo, calling it “Sleeping Kagekiyo,” it infuriated Danjūrō who is said to have tried to get the management thereafter to ban the newspaper critics altogether. He himself showed weakness, declaring: “No matter how we break our backs with new plays we can’t please the public, who only open their eyes for history drama so there’ll be no more new plays.” 

Here's how Okamoto, who was present, recalled what happened at that performance:

For the first act nothing much happened. However, during the second act a lot of disturbance and noise was made by the critics from the writers’ guild, who were sitting in the west sajiki gallery. Up to that point the Kagekiyo that had been performed was the traditional version but this performance was an over extended revision (I don’t know who had done the revision, perhaps the independent scholar Ōchi). Clearly I wasn’t in a position, until I saw this latest version of Kagekiyo, to be able to say anything. That day was the death anniversary of Komatsu Daifu (Taira no Shigemori). Buddhist mortuary tablets were carried out on stage and a long speech was made. Standing alone on the stage the person taking the lead wasn’t blind to what was going on as he made his excessively long speech. How long Danjūrō hogged the stage, something which really tormented the audience. And yet, while they kept quietly watching, the experts in the west sajiki gallery were extremely unhappy. Gradually from about mid-way through the speech they started to create an uproar and en masse started to shout and harangue. They started banging the sajiki gallery hand rail and eventually began shouting and jeering. Such a disturbance was unprecedented. Others in the audience were also getting wound up. Though I didn’t actually witness this I was told that in the circumstances what happened was unreasonable. I understand from what was said to me that since the start of the customary invitations issued to drama critics that this was a most unusual occurrence.

In spite of this the actual performance of the middle act continued in silence. Danjūrō was indignant. Furthermore the independent scholar Ōchi straight away drafted a lengthy article which was published in the “Chūō Shimbun” newspaper. As a consequence all the newspaper drama critics, without apologising, drafted letters arguing that it was boring. The reviews, both good and bad, were freely published. However, amongst regular theatre goers there was uproar and a fuss was made that their experience of the play was interrupted. The majority of the audience made an issue of this and that it had been futile to continue watching because of the ill-mannered loutish behaviour which had been completely abusive. Though the theatre critics, for their part, fought back they lost the argument and were eventually obliged to apologise. As far as I am aware this only ever happened on that one occasion and was something which had never happened before or happened since. (From Okamoto Kidō, Meiji Gekidan Ranpu no Moto Ni Te (Talks on the Theatre of the Meiji Period–Under the Lamp). Online translation by Trevor Skingle.)

Turnout was so poor the last piece was cut but the result was disappointing and the show ended after 25 days.

Meiji-za. Photo: Meiji-za Hyōbanki.
On November 10, the newly constructed Meiji-za, which continues today as one of Japan’s leading venues, opened on the site of the former Chitose-za at Hisamatsu-chō, Nihonbashi. Sadanji was the company leader. The Chitose-za itself had burned down in 1890.

Ichikawa Sadanji I. Photo: Meiji-za Hyobanki.

The November production at the Kabuki-za celebrated the theatre’s fifth anniversary, for which two rooms were constructed in the second floor lobby area where actors and theatre lovers displayed old kabuki prints and pictures. The catalogue was described in detail in Tamura's Zoku Zoku Kabuki Nendaiki, the masterpiece being a two-fold screen on whose silver backing were placed various documents of the Ichikawa family from Danjūrō I to Danjūrō IX.

The production, with Osaka’s Sawamura Tosshō added to the company, opened with four acts taken from different history plays under the umbrella title: Jidaimono Chinretsu Butai (A Stage Exhibition of History Plays): Yokoyama Kan (“Oguri no Ningyō Mawashi no Ba”), the puppetry scene from an unspecified play about Oguri no Hangan, vaguely referred to as Yokoyama’s Home; Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi (“Tonbei Uchi no Ba”) , the scene at Tonbei’s residence in The Miracle at Yaguchi Ferry; Chūshin Kōshaku (“Yazama Kinai Sumika”), the scene at Yazama Kinai’s home in the play also known as Taiheiki Chūshin Kōshaku  (Loyalties of the Taiheiki); and Awa no Naruto (“Ubuyu Inari”), the Ubuyu Inari Shrine scene in The Straits of Naruto. The second play was the two-act Atago Renga Chikai no Bundai (The Linked Verse Oath Stand of Atago), the program ended with a new work by Ōchi, Shin Nanatsumen (New Seven Masks), starring Danjūrō, and with music by Kishizawa Koshikibu V and Kineya Seijirō III played by tokiwazu, nagauta, and takemoto musicians; the dance was part of his Shin Kabuki Jūhachiban collection.  

Danjūrō appeared this month both at the Kabuki-za and the new Meiji-za (the practice of performing at two theatres is called kakemochi), starring at the latter in Ōgiya Kumagai. At the Kabuki-za his roles as Mitsuhide and in Shin Nanatsumen abandoned the “living history” style, gaining critical praise for opening his big eyes and showing a reflection of his late father. However, ticket sales lagged and the program lasted a mere 20 days.

On the other hand, the opening ceremony at the Meiji-za drew a full house. Originally, since the Meiji-za was having its opening month and Danjūrō and others were planning to participate, the Kabuki-za expected to take the month off, but the theatre teahouses and the Kabuki-za’s various ushers complained that it would be a hardship for them, which led to the actors performing at both theatres and the program of multiple pieces. The Meiji-za wasn’t the Kabuki-za’s only rival either, since the Engi-za in Akasaka’s Tamaike was rented by the new Ichimura-za, where Ichikawa Kyūzō competed against Danjūrō’s Mitsuhide by playing the same character in Toki wa Ima Kikyō no Hataage (Now Is the Time to Raise the Bellflower Flag), drawing full houses to it.

Colorado granted women the right to vote in November.

In 1893 the artist Kuroda Kiyoteru introduced Impressionism to Japan, the poet Masaoka Shiki revolutionized haiku writing, married women enjoyed the fad of wearing navy blue tabi socks, men's hunting caps were fashionable, and rakugo storytelling reached a pinnacle of success in the Kamigata area. This also was the year that the song "Happy Birthday to You" (originally called "Good Morning to All" was written by sisters Mildred and Patty J. Hill, and in which, among others, the following cultural figures were born: Jimmy Durante, Ivor Novello, Katherine Cornell, Cedric Hardwicke, Andres Segovia, Mercedes de Acosta, Beatrice Wood, Ivon Hitchens, Wilfred Owen, Cicely Courneidge, Leslie Howard, Harold Lloyd, Joan Miro, Georges Boulanger, Norma Talmadge, Dorothy L. Sayers, Roy Disney, Mae West, Carl Benton Reid, Dorothy Parker, Arthur Benjamin, Lillian Gish, Gummo Marx, Clarence Williams, John P. Marquand, Fay Bainter, Ann Pennington, and Ruth Chatterton.


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