1895 (Meiji 28)
[Note: This is Chapter 9 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. 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 entry. A new blog, "The First Kabuki-za," is being created to provide all these chapters in chronological order. Corrections and documented additions are welcome.]
|Young women enjoying tea on a verandah across from the Kabuki-za. From Tōkyō Meisho Bijin Gō Kobikichō Kabuki-za.|
The Sino-Japanese War had a significant effect on theatre and literature of the time. It was all that was on anyone’s mind in both the theatrical and literary worlds as 1894 slipped away and 1895 began, and it colored everything it touched. The publishing industry quickly capitalized on the mass hysteria. In January, for example, Hakubunka, the Tokyo publishing house, issued three major periodicals: the general-interest magazine Taiyō (The Sun, 1895-1928), the literary magazine, Bungei Kurabu (The Literary Club, 1895-1933), and the young readers’ magazine, Shōnen Sekai (Boys’ World, 1895-1934). Also making its debut was the literary magazine Teikoku Bungaku (Imperial Literature, 1895-1920).
Koyama Fumio writes of what the war meant for Kabuki-za playwright Fukuchi Ōchi:
The fighting was trending toward success for Japan. In February 1895, with victory in the offing, a conference was held at the Momiji-Kan in Shiba to discuss playwriting reform, and Ōchi attended along with Ichikawa Danjūrō, Suematsu Kenchō, and Minister of Education Saionji Kinmochi. It was reported that Tsubouchi Shōyō also had been asked to take part. A decision was made that there henceforth would be a meeting at the Genroku-Kan photo studio in Kobiki-chō to critique new dramas on the second Wednesday of every month.
On this day, the subject of discussion was Ōchi’s play Mukai Shōgen, about Tokugawa Ieyasu’s naval commander. Right in the middle of the meeting it was announced that the commander of the Chinese fleet, Ding Ruchang (Ting Ju-ch’ang; Tei Jōshō in Japanese), had surrendered and a shout of “Hurrah!” went up from all. Ōchi’s Mukai Shōgen and Shōyō’s Kiri Hitoha were about the only fruits of this year’s crop of new plays.
Ōchi wrote other works inspired by the war but when the Diet met in Hiroshima instead of Tokyo that year, and the Kabuki-za thereby lost a good portion of its usual clientele, Danjūrō is said to have had the idea of temporarily closing the theatre. And that was all that Ōchi had to do with the Sino-Japanese war. (From Koyama Fumio, Meiji no Isai Fukuchi Ōchi.)
Chiba Katsugorō, the Kabuki-za’s owner, who lost money even when producing topical war plays, was growing increasingly unhappy with theatre management and once more turned over the reins to Tamura Nariyoshi. The latter had not done any plays based on the writings of storyteller San’yutei Enchō since Kikugorō’s Annaka Sōza flopped in 1893, even turning down a proposal to do Awataguchi, an Enchō-based play originally seen at the Haruki-za in 1889. Anticipating a production after the New Year’s festivities, he took Awataguchi to Yokohama for a tryout where he could polish it before bringing it to the Kabuki-za but the anti-Tamura faction at the theatre wouldn’t have anything to do with second-hand goods from Yokohama.
After Tamura produced Awataguchi for 12 days in Yokohama he put it on at the Shintomi-za on a bill shared with the classic Kamakura Sandaiki. The show played to full houses, leaving Chiba with egg on his face.
|Ichikawa Danjūrō as Otokonosuke in Date Kurabe Okuni Kabuki. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.|
Danjūrō and Ichikawa Kyūzō (the later Ichikawa Danzō), learning of the discord, tried to broker peace with the Chiba faction and, for the first time in 13 years, agreed to perform together. After a long period of inactivity the first Kabuki-za production of 1895 opened on February 28. First on the bill was the four-act Date Kurabe Okuni Kabuki (The Date Rivalry and Okuni Kabuki) with Kyūzō as Nikki Danjō and Danjūrō as Masaoka, a female role, and Otokonosuke, played in the powerful aragoto style. The middle play was Ōchi’s aforementioned Mukai Shōgen and the final piece was Teikoku Banzai Ueno no Nigiwai (Celebrating the Empire: The Goings-On at Ueno).
|A street poster (tsuji banzuke) listing all the details for the February 1895 Kabuki-za program. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.|
The popular actor Ichikawa Shinzō, who had been suffering from an eye disease, took a turn for the worse and had to stop performing the roles of Yorikane and Katsuyori, which were taken, respectively, by Sawamura Tosshō and Ichikawa Somegorō from March 16 to the end of the 25-performance run, on March 24. Stirred by the joint performance of Danjūrō and Kyūzō audiences turned out in large numbers at first, but the tide turned and empty seats prevailed.
At the Meiji-za in March the 15-year-old son of Ichikawa Sadanji, Ichikawa Botan (later Sadanji II), took his father’s previous name of Ichikawa Koyone.
On September 17 of the previous year, 1894, the Imperial Japanese Navy defeated China’s Beiyang Fleet near the mouth of the Yalu River, and took over control of the Yellow Sea. By November 21 the Japanese had occupied Port Arthur (Lüschunkou), conducting the infamous slaughter of Chinese called the Port Arthur Massacre. In February 1895 the Japanese won the Battle of Weiweihai, which fell on the 12th, soon afterward taking command of the approaches by sea to Beijing. In March the Japanese were victorious in the Pescadores Islands Campaign, and China sent Li Hung-chang (Ri Kōshō in Japanese) to Japan to sign the controversial Treaty of Shimonoseki on April 17, which forced China to recognize Korea’s independence, among other painful concessions forced upon the defeated nation.
April witnessed the death of Osaka star Kataoka Nizaemon X, aged 45. Also in April, at the fourth Domestic Exposition to Promote Industry, in Kyoto, famed Western-style painter Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924) exhibited his Morning Toilette, the first painting of a nude to be publicly shown in Japan, winning a prize but also creating a great scandal for its flaunting of standards of public morality.
Kawakami Otojirō’s play, Kawakami Otojirō Senchi Kenbunki having been a big hit the previous spring at the Ichimura-za, in January he produced at that same theatre his Meiji Yonjūsan Nen (Meiji 43); his acting greatly impressed Fukuchi Ōchi. This was all the inspiration needed by Kawakami, who had longed for some time to perform on the Kabuki-za stage, and he took advantage of it to wrangle a production there. Danjūrō and Kikugorō’s objections were expected but Chiba, increasingly dissatisfied with recent kabuki plays, shook Kawakami’s hand and welcomed him to the Kabuki-za.
The news that Kawakami was going to perform at the Kabuki-za immediately caused a fuss; the teahouses and theatre personnel, learning that Kawakami’s very popular “Oppe-kepe” number was going to be sung in battledress on Japan’s most respected cypress stage (hinoki butai), made their apologies to Danjūrō and Kikugorō; Danjūrō went off to perform at the Meiji-za while Kikugorō took over the Shintomi-za. The replacement actors did poor business, though, and the opposition movement fizzled.
The Kabuki-za program opened on May 17, beginning with Fujizawa Asajirō’s Sino-Japanese war drama Ikaiei Kanraku (The Fall of Weiweihai), followed by the four-act Mawari Dōrō (Revolving Lantern), dramatized by Hirooka Ryūkō from a Victor Hugo novel translated as Gen’ei (Phantom) by Morita Shiken. The show was popular enough to run until June 9, for 23 days, although on May 30 the production was cancelled so Kawakami’s company could welcome the emperor at Shinbashi Station.
The success of Kawakami’s Kabuki-za production was largely owing to its capitalizing on the Sino-Japanese War. An advance had been made from the old days when acting skill conquered, but their so-called “new drama” (shin engeki) was, after all, quite crude and shallow. Their success this time ultimately had no roots. . . . Mounting war plays to gain popularity could be said to disregard the new theatre’s original mission by returning to the sensationalism it had at the time of its creation. (From Akiniwa Tarō, Tōtō Meiji Engeki-Shi.)
For a time in which there were no film or TV news media and when newspapers were the only source of news, the informational role played by theatre based on direct observation of events was huge. This was truly the idea behind Kawakami’s plays. (Kawatake Toshio, Kindai Engeki no Tenkai.)
These are two representative views regarding Kawakami’s theatre. But the new theatre’s having advanced to the point of being produced at the Kabuki-za was an epochal event.
Chiba, having tasted success with this experience, rehired Kawakami’s company for the July production, which opened at 11:00 a.m. on the 14th. First on the bill was actor-playwright Fujizawa Asajirō’s dramatization of the Western-style Gohan Roku (Record of a Mistake), published by the Ministry of Justice. The second piece was Fukuchi Ōchi’s two-act Ōeyama (Mount Ōe), but since it was a history play it was beyond the abilities of Kawakami’s company; both Kawakami, as Yorimitsu, and the onnagata Fujizawa, as Shūten Dōji (a mythical demon living on Mount Ōe), were completely out of their depth. The piece was criticized as goods unsuited for the Kabuki-za stage and business was so bad the show was forced to close after only 19 days.
On July 20, 1895, 55-year-old Osaka actor Nakamura Jakuemon II contracted cholera and died while performing in Kobe. The spread of the disease through the three main Kansai cities, Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, led to a suspension of all theatrical performances that lasted through August and lifted in early September.
Chiba’s July experience with Kawakami taught him a lesson; he decided that, henceforth, only mainstream kabuki actors would appear at his theatre, and he asked Danjūrō to serve as their exemplar. However, the star replied, “I’ll not set foot on a stage on which sōshi shibai actors have trod unless it’s shaved clean with a plane.” This only served to anger Chiba so Tamura Nariyoshi stepped in and the matter was resolved by having the stage washed with lye, and Danjūrō’s salary raised.
On October 6 the Hakuhōdō public relations and advertising agency, now a global enterprise, began doing business. On October 29, Nakamura Kanzaburō XIII, 69-year-old hereditary manager of the recently burned-down Nakamura-za, died at a traveler’s inn in Asakusa. On November 21, Ichikawa Gonjūrō resigned as head of the kabuki actors’ union.
The next production at the Kabuki-za was supposed to begin on November 7 but Prince Kitakawa no Miya Yoshihisa died of malaria (some say he was killed by guerillas) while militarily involved in Taiwan; an official declaration was therefore made for the suspension of song, dance, and music for three days. The production, which had to wait for the completion of funeral services, was moved to November 12. Nakamura Tomijūrō III, so popular recently at the Haruki-za, joined Danjūrō’s company, as did Nakamura Kametarō (now called Ichikawa Kasen).
The program opened with a revision of Kawatake Mokuami’s 1880 history play, Chausuyama Gaika Jindate (The Battle Formation’s Song of Victory at Chausuyama), renamed Ōsaka Jin Shoke Kakitome (A Record of the Families at the Osaka Battle Camp). The middle play was the major aragoto classic Shibaraku (Wait a Minute!), which Danjūrō hadn’t done in years, and the final piece, a domestic drama, was another classic, Igagoe Dōchū Sugoroku (Through Iga Pass with the Tōkaidō Board Game), the scenes shown being those at Shinseki and Okazaki, and the revenge scene.
Ōchi’s new version of the famous tsurane speech in Shibaraku was criticized for its crudity but otherwise the program was a hit, with full houses day after day, and the show didn’t close until December 12, after 28 performances.
On closing day, Danjūrō arranged to have famed Genroku-Kan photographer Kajima Seibei bring his equipment to the theatre, where he set it up at the front of the second-floor balcony. Shibaraku was moved to the last place on the program. Powerful arc lights were installed in the western gallery (sajiki) seating and photos were taken of Shibaraku. First, a photo was successfully taken of the grand pose called the genroku mie, then another of the play’s final tableau, but the power line was cut and the photo was spoiled. Nonetheless, this was the first time a mid-performance photo was taken of a Japanese production.
|Ichikawa Danjūrō in Shibaraku at the Kabuki-za on December 12, 1895. Taken by Kajima Seibei, it is the first photo ever taken of kabuki in mid-performance. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.|
|A studio shot Ichikawa Danjūrō as Kamakura Gongoro no Kagemasa in the December 1895 production of Shibaraku. From Engekikai.|
According to the reminiscences of theatrical connoisseur Fujiura Tomitarō, headmaster of the San’yutei school of rakugo, born the son of a produce dealer in Kyōbashi, Danjūrō was very fond of luxury. The local Kunii carriage shop sold both one-horse and two-horse carriages. Danjūrō had the two-horse kind, which seated four, and used it to get from his home to the dressing rooms and back, even though it was a very short distance and would have cost very little to hire a carriage for the trip. This was considered a very extravagant way of entering the dressing room. (From Tōkyō Kandan: Kyōbashi—Nihonbashi no Omoide.)
|Print of Shibaraku, December 1895, by Utagawa Kunisada III. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.|
In December, Eikichi, chief concessionaire at Kyoto’s Gion-Kan and Kyōugoku-za, became manager of Osaka’s Sakai-za, in Shinkyōgoku, and put his son, Ōtani Takejirō, to work in the box office as his agent. It was at this time that Takejirō got to know the actor Jitsukawa Enjirō (later Enjaku II). The family’s Shōchiku enterprise came into being this year.
On December 25, Tamura Nariyoshi and businessmen Inoue Takejirō and Kaigawa Shirō received the Kabuki-za’s managerial rights from Chiba Katsugorō and put up a sign outside Tamura’s Ginza 3-chōme home declaring: “Kabuki-za Kabushiki Gaisha Ritsu Jimusho” (Founding Office of the Kabuki-za Joint Stock Company).
In Tokyo, the exceptionally talented female writer Higuchi Ichiyō published her masterpiece novella Takekurabe (Growing Up [a.k.a. Child’s Play]), which was serialized in Bungaku Kai, and quickly followed by Nigorie (Troubled Waters) and Jūsanya (The Thirteenth Night). This was dubbed her “miraculous year” (kiseki no ichinenkan) but, living in poverty even as her fame spread, she contracted tuberculosis and died in 1896. Also in 1895 Japan, Toyoda Sakichi (1867-1930), “father of Japan’s industrial revolution” and founder of Toyota Industries, invented the automatic power loom.
On the international front, 1895 saw Alfred Dreyfus sentenced to life imprisonment in France, the creation of volleyball, the arrest and conviction of Oscar Wilde for “gross indecency,” the first professional American football game (in Latrobe, Pennsylvania), the first patent for an American automobile, Rontgen’s discovery of the X-ray, the first American automobile race, the receipt by W.E.B. Du Bois of the first Ph.D. granted by Harvard to an African-American, and the first screening of a film in Paris by the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiére.
Cultural figures born in 1895 included actor Raymond Griffith, actor Louis Calhern, novelist and playwright Marcel Pagnol, comic Shemp Howard (of The Three Stooges), German writer Ernst Jünger, comics illustrator Milt Gross, singer Alberta Hunter, violinist Olga Rudge, composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, conductor Malcolm Sargent, actor Rudolph Valentino, actor Richard Barthelmess, writer Jiddu Krishnamurthi, documentarian Dorothea Lange, actress Hattie McDaniel, boxer Jack Dempsey, composer Carl Orff, singer Kirsten Flagstadt, architect Buckminster Fuller, critic F.R. Leavis, painter Xi Beihong, poet Léon de Greiff, writer Robert Graves, singer and actress Yvonne Printemps, comedienne Gracie Allen, composer Ernest Lecuona, actor Paul Muni, actor Buster Keaton, poet Sergei Aleksandrovich Yesenin, writer Caroline Gordon, composer Paul Hindemith, historian Lewis Mumford, philosopher and scholar Mikhail Bakhtin, and director and choreographer Busby Berkeley.
Major plays premiering in 1895 included Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and A Woman of No Importance, Frank Wedekind’s Earth Spirit, David Belasco’s The Heart of Maryland, Maurice Maeterlinck’s Interior, Arthur Wing Pinero’s The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith, and Wilson Barrett’s The Sign of the Cross. Among new theatres were England’s Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, New York’s Olympia Theatre (built by Oscar Hammerstein), and the Valentine Theatre, in Toledo, Ohio.