Tuesday, January 10, 2017

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA (1889-1911) Chapter 12: 1898 (Meiji 31)

Chapter 12

1898 (Meiji 30)

Samuel L. Leiter

[Note: This is Chapter 12 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 that 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 and all previous entries. Corrections and documented additions are welcome.]

The year 1898 was filled with turmoil for the Japanese government, which witnessed three changes of its cabinet. There was little stability in the relations between the clan-oriented government and the parties, with the second Matsukata cabinet and the third Itō cabinet being dissolved one after the other. In June, the Jiyū (Liberal) and Shinpo (Progressive) parties, previously enemies, combined to form the Kensei (Constitutional Government) Party, thus creating Japan’s first party cabinet, the so-called “Waihan Cabinet,” or Ōkuma-Itagaki cabinet.

January saw the end of the era’s major literary magazine Bungakukai, five years after its founding (it would later be revived) and the publication of 58 issues. The same month Kunikida Roppo published his important short story, “Musashino” (The Musashi Plain). 
The Kabuki-za sometime during the late 1890s. The play is Shibaraku Drawing by Senji, From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Danjūrō was not involved in the Kabuki-za’s January production, which opened on January 12 at 10:00 a.m. and closed after 25 days on February 5. It focused on Kikugorō’s actors, including Nakamura Shikan and Nakamura Fukusuke, starting with Suteobune Yorozu Ōjime (Small Drifting Boat and 10,000 Large Sacred Ropes), followed by the dance drama Hagoromo (The Feather Robe)—part of Kikugorō’s family collection, the Shinko Engeki Jūsshu. In between was a kiyomoto orchestral performance of Sasayaki Take (Whispering Bamboo). 

Suteobune was a cropped-hair play (zangiri mono) adaptation by Kawatake Shinshichi of a serialized detective novel, Suteobone, by Kuroiwa Ruikō,that had run in Yorozu Chōhō, the widely-read newspaper he had founded.
Onoe Kikugorō
 V as Baron Tokiwa in Suteobune. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Kabuki-za advisor Nakano Kyūjirō (Zenkichi), who was interested in popular, offbeat, and unique material, hoped to keep up with the times, so he asked Kawatake Shinshichi to do the dramatization of Kuroiwa’s novel, itself an adaptation of British writer Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Diavola, or Nobody’s Daughter (1866-67). Kikugorō was persuaded to star in Suteobune and the theatre’s management to produce it, and Kikugorō used the opportunity to seek Shinshichi’s reinstatement as a resident playwright. Fukuchi Ōchi couldn’t refuse and not only Shinshichi but several Takeshiba writers associated with him were added as company members.
Onoe Kikugorō V in Suteobune. From Tsubouchi Engeki Hakubutsukan. 
But writing a nine-act play based on a story that had been published in 156 installments was beyond Shinshichi’s dramaturgical skills; its novelty wore off, and the use by the onnagata actors of old-fashioned expressions, like “warawara” (I) or “shanshan shita” (alive and well), and the inclusion of kiyomoto music seemed too conventional, causing the critics to pan it sharply. It was said that, twenty years earlier, when Kikugorō appeared in a zangiri play using modern expressions like “boku” (I) and “kimi” (you), and sentence endings like “shitamae” (please do [something]), he came off worse than did non-kabuki actors Mizuno Kōbi (Yoshimi) and Shizuma Kojirō when they acted in a sōshi shibai play by this same Kuroiwa Ruikō at the Fukagawa-za.

On the other hand, Hagoromo, based by Shinshichi on a famous nō play, and with nagauta and tokiwazu music and choreography by Hanayagi Jusuke and Hanayagi Fujirō, was strongly approved. Kikugorō played the angel and Onoe Eizaburō V (later Onoe Baikō VI) the fisherman who finds the angel’s robe in a pine grove near the sea. Nonetheless, audiences failed to show up and the theatre took a financial hit.

Important events of this month included the beginning of great popularity not only for the Asakusa-za’s children’s kabuki (kodomo shibai) company, but the one at the Shintomi-za featuring Bandō Yasosuke II (later Bandō Mitsugorō VII), Bandō Mitahachi III (later Morita Kanya XIII), Bandō Tamasaburō (sister of Yasosuke and Mitahachi), and Ichikawa Danko (later Ichikawa Ennosuke III and Ichikawa En’o I). Playwright Kubota Hikosaku died at 53 this month, which also witnessed the opening in Osaka’s Ōsaka Kabuki-za, in  Kita-ku, Umeda-chō. This  product of that city’s Engeki Kabushiki Kaisha (Theatrical Joint Stock Corporation) was a large playhouse built in Western style. It was not easy but Danjūrō’s services were acquired to honor the ceremonial opening production at the unusually high salary of 50,000 yen.

In February, novelist Izumi Kyōka’s Tatsumi Kōdan (A Tale of the Southwest Quarter) was published. Also that month, revolutionary haiku writer Masaoka Shiki challenged the poetry community with his arguments in Utayomi ni Atauru Sho (Letters to the Tanka Poets).

With Danjūrō busy in Osaka, the Kabuki-za again turned to Kikugorō for its next presentation, which opened at 10:00 a.m. on March 8 and ran till April 1, totaling 25 days. The show opened with Uraomote Harugi (or Haregi) Date Ori, a retitled production of the classic Meiboku Sendai Hagi (The Precious Incense and Autumn Flowers of Sendai), with Kikugorō in several roles, including Nikki Danjō and Otokonosuke. The middle piece was Somemōyō Ume no Inakaya (Dyed Plum Pattern at a Country Cottage), a new title for the famous “Nozaki Mura” (Nozaki Village) scene of Shinpan Utazaimon (The Balladeer’s Tale), starring Kikugorō as Kyūsaku, the farmer. The third piece, also featuring Kikugorō, was a kiyomoto dance, Momo Sakura Hina no Danmaku (Peach and Cherry Blossom Dolls before a Striped Curtain) a.k.a. Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival). Shikan and Fukusuke were also in the company.
Nakamura Fukusuke as the courtesan Miuraya Takao in Uraomote Haragi Date Ori. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The theatre tried a publicity idea suggested by Fukuchi of publishing a request in the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper for readers to list the plays they wanted to see (“Mitai Kyōgen”), with the most votes going to the first play on the current program. The second most votes went for Tsubouchi Shōyō’s as yet unproduced historical drama Maki no Kata (Lady Maki no Kata), and the third to the well-known Kawatake Mokuami play, Nezumi Kozō. There seems to have been an effort by literary playwrights to vote for productions of their own new plays, and the Kabuki-za was not especially thrilled about the possibility of having to produce dramas like Shōyō’s difficult-to-understand Maki no Kata, which, at any rate, only made it to the stage in 1905 at the Tōkyō-za.

At the Meiji-za, an adopted son of Ichikawa Sadanji’s, five-year-old Ichikawa Michinosuke (later Ichikawa Enshō III, a minor player), made his debut with the name Ichikawa Botan, previously held by his brother Ichikawa Koyone. And the Haruki-za was destroyed by fire on March 23. The Masago-za produced a dramatization of San'yutei Encho's famous rakugo story, Shinkei Kasane ga Fuchi (Reckoning at Kasane Swamp), later made into at least seven horror films. On April 1 the great bunraku shamisen player Toyozawa Danpei III, 72, died suddenly during a performance at Osaka’s Inase-za, and on April 11, Suzuki Kyōhei, an important Kabuki-za manager (ōfuda) passed away at 49. 

Next month, in May, the program opened at 10:00 a.m. on the seventh with Danjūrō and Kikugorō sharing the stage. The run lasted 25 days, through May 31. Play number one was the old standard Kagamiyama Kokyō no Nishiki-e (Mirror Mountain: A Woman’s Treasury of Loyalty), the centerpiece was the Shin Kabuki Jūhachiban dance Nakamitsu, a living history play by Mokuami about the title character. And the final piece was Shinshichi’s Edo Sodachi Omatsuri Sashichi (Festival Sashichi, Raised in Edo), in its premiere performance.

It was generally held at the time that Danjūrō was an effective onnagata but that Kikugorō was always a disappointment in female roles. Danjūrō made for a homely onnagata but his body conveyed sex appeal, while Kikugorō was facially more appealing but his shoulders were stiff and he was weak in the sex appeal department. In Kagamiyama his Ohatsu was deemed proficient by kabuki connoisseurs but the average person did not much care for it. Nakamitsu was panned but Omatsuri Sodachi, closely based by Shinshichi on Tsuruya Nanboku IV’s original, Kokoro No Nazo Toketa Iroito (Untying the Colored Threads of the Heart’s Mysteries), was very well received.


On May 3 the Kotobuki-za, an important minor theatre (koshibai), opened after being rebuilt. According to the Engeki Hyakka Daijiten, this theatre, whose name means “Celebratory Theatre,” had been founded as the Tatsumi-za (Southeast Theatre) in 1873 in Tomioka Kadomae-chō, Fukagawa, after a law was passed allowing Tokyo to have ten theatres. (It had been restricted to three since 1714.) In March 1875 it moved to Midori-chō, 5-chōme, Honjo, where it changed its name to the Tokiwa-za, only to instantly change it to the Kotobuki-za.

In June 1881 it moved to Aioi-chō, 5-chōme, Honjo, and continued producing plays as a mid-sized theatre (chūshibai). In 1892 the time for its rebuilding expired so it was abandoned, unfinished. Its 1898 rebuilding was nearby, at Midori-chō, 2-chōme, Honjo, where it continued as one of the city’s ten koshibai until burning down in 1908, only to be rebuilt a year later.

It housed shinpa during the Taishō (1912-26) era, was destroyed by fire again during the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, and remained active as a kabuki venue until it was irreparably damaged during the bombing of Tokyo in March 1945. It held on while other dedicated kabuki koshibai could not afford to stay open, taking the name Kotobuki Gekijō and even including actresses in its performances. It produced all year long without ever closing, giving two shows a day until February 1945, becoming not only Tokyo’s but Japan’s sole kabuki-dedicated playhouse

June 1898 saw the replacement of the third Itō Hirobumi cabinet by Japan’s first party cabinet. led by Prime Minister Ōkuma Shigenobu.

The June Kabuki-za program, featuring the Kikugorō troupe, opened at 10:00 a.m. on the 24th and ran 23 days through July 20, with three days off between July 11 and 14th for bon vacation. There were four pieces produced. First was Nanboku’s Oto ni Kiku Tenjiku Tokubei (The Famous Tenjiku Tokubei). Then came Mokuami’s popular Suitengū Megumi no Fukagawa (The “Me” Fire Brigade of Fukagawa’s Suitengū Shrine). The third part of the program was a kiyomoto instrumental with music from Mokuami’s 1885 Kaze ni Kurū Kawa Soeyanagi (Windblown Willows Along the River). Offering number four was Shinshichi’s dance drama Mukashi Banashi Shitakiri Suzume (The Old Tale of the Tongue-Cut Sparrow), using tokiwazu and takemoto music. 

Tenjiku Tokubei was a specialty of Kikugorō’s Otowaya family line and he received glowing praise. It happened that Danjūrō was performing Jiraiya at the Meiji-za the same month, so there was a competition between the stars playing roles associated with magical toads; in the end, though, the Kabuki-za attendance suffered.

In August, a local bigshot called Kushitoku (Prof. Hibino suggests he may have been someone called Tokubei the Comb [kushi] Seller) used his influence so that Kawakami Otojirō could rent the Kabuki-za. His “Nihon Shin Engeki” (Japan’s New Theatre) company created a considerable disturbance among the theatre’s staff of musicians, costumers, and wigmakers, who were not given any work to do, but their concerns are said to have been ignored by the management.

Kawakami’s production opened on August 13, beginning at the early hour of 9:00 a.m. (changed to 10:00 from August 16 on) with Iwasaki Shunka’s Mata Igai (Strange Again), his company’s 1894 hit at the Asakusa-za. The play, one of several by Iwasaki based on a political scandal of 1893 called the Soma Affair, made a star of Takada Minoru, “the Danjūrō of the new theatre,” according to Komiya Toyotaka. The other play was the premiere of San Kyōetsu (Three Delights), a comedy by Osada Shūtō (Chūichi), a scholar of French literature, who adapted it from a French play. The company was something of a gathering of the top new theatre actors; although Ii Yōhō and Yamaguchi Sadao were not included, Satō Toshizō and Mizuno Kōbi were involved.

San Kyōetsu, a satire of the “high-collar” world of the Meiji elite, such as Itō Hirobumi, was poorly received and quickly withdrawn, which led to a quarrel between Shūtō and the theatre management, requiring a mediator to step in and calm things down. Even Mata Igai, a noted crowd puller, failed to recapture the excitement of its first production and could do nothing to prevent the enterprise from ignominious defeat, causing it to close after only 20 days.

Kawakami had suffered a crushing loss in March when he stood for political office; many of his critics in the press, especially the aforementioned Kuroiwa Ruikō, editor of Yorozu Chōhō, used Kawakami's lowly status as an actor to rail against him. The effort ruined him financially and he had to give up his company. Later in the year, he was so desperate he even considered killing Kuroiwa. The Kabuki-za production was intended to restore his finances and prestige but its failure only deepened the debt and despair that had followed him since his founding of the Kawakami-za.

He then purchased a small roofless boat, about 14 feet long, called the Nippon Maru. Accompanied by his wife, the geisha Sadayakko (who later became an internationally renowned actress under Kawakami’s leadership), his 13-year-old niece, Shige, and his pet dog, Fuku, he set sail from the Tsukiji riverside on a madcap “South Seas Expedition,” that nearly came to disaster. Shige and Fuku were put back on land early on but the foolhardy actor and his wife continued their journey off the Japan coast for 210 days, buffeted by a typhoon and other nasty weather. They made land a number of times, with Kawakami gaining attention by offering local Japanese stories of his adventure in return for food and shelter, and even sending accounts to the newspapers, but he didn’t give up until finally limping into port in Kobe on January 2, 1899. Soon after, Kawakami returned to the stage, only to become seriously ill with dropsy. 
Kawakami Otojirō. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Leslie Downer sums up her telling of the story:
It had been a strange and not entirely comprehensible interlude. At least Otojiro and Yakko [one of several ways her name is given] had escaped their creditors. Traveling like vagabonds, they had freed themselves from the constraints of society. They had learned that they had the talent and performance skills to survive wherever they went. They had also discovered each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Yakko had shown that she was far from just the little woman. She was a powerful asset. (From Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha Who Bewitched the West.)

Kawakami and Sadayakko, of course, soon became international stars, the first to bring Japanese theatre to the West.

The Kabuki-za, searching for a way to fill the gap this debacle produced, decided to rent the theatre to the early shinpa star Ii Yōhō and his company, which included Takada Minoru. A local man of influence named Ishisada used his influence to get this done on behalf of II, who had long hoped for a Kabuki-za assignment. They opened at 10:00 a.m. on September 16 with an adaptation of Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo called Mateba Kanro, dramatized by Takeshiba Hyōzō; another Hyōzō work, Sei wa Zen (Human Nature Is Good), about a dashing commoner; and, to end the program, a comedy (kigeki) by Ozaki Kōyō called Natsu Kosode (Summer Robe), an adaptation of Molière’s The Miser. The production got better reviews and made more money than Kawakami’s the previous month, but closed after 17 days.

Also this month, the wide Ginza streets called Namiki-Dori and Harumi-Dori opened, while in October Tokyo’s government was reorganized under the leadership of its first governor, Matsuda Hideo. Also, the female gidayū chanter Toyotake Roshō was a sensation during her first tour to Tokyo, and, on October 10, the Nihon Bijitsuin (Japan Art Institute) was founded by Okakura Tenshin (Kakuzō) and others.

The production of two shosei shibai programs (as shinpa was still known) in a row at the Kabuki-za threatened to corrupt its standards, so the board of directors reversed policy for November with a kabuki program combining the companies of Danjūrō and Kikugorō. It opened at 10:00 a.m. on October 22 and ran until November 15 for 25 showings. The first item was the classic history drama Ichinotani Futaba Gunki (Chronicle of the Battle of Ichinotani), starring Danjūrō as Kumagai and Kikugorō as Kojirō. The next was Mokuami’s pantomime (danmari) Aburabōzu Yamiyo no Sumizome (The Skilfish and the Night Dyed Black). This was followed by another Mokuami play, Sono Omokage Sato no Saya-ate (That Face and the Scabbard Crossing in the Quarters), with the last play being Hiyokuzuka Obana no Teranishi (Teranishi of the Pampas Grass Double Suicide Grave) a.k.a. Teranishi Kanshin (name of a character). Closing the show was a kiyomoto performance of Kagoshima Fū Kouta (Kagoshima-Style Short Song).

Danjūrō’s tone and ardor as Kumagai were considered weak, but Onoe Eizaburō was excellent as Fuji no Kata. The plot of the second was disposable but Danjūrō and Kikugorō as, respectively, Nagoya Sanza and Fuwa Banzaemon, who confront each other in the famous “Saya-ate” (Scabbard Crossing) scene, were at the top of their game. 
Ichikawa Danjūrō as Fuwa Banzaemon and Onoe Kikugorō as Nagoya Sanza. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
November 8 saw the first Ōkuma cabinet replaced by the second Yamagata Aritomo cabinet. On November 29, 1898, the serialization of Tokutomi Rōka’s (Kenjirō) novel Hototogisu (Cuckoo) began in the Kokumin Shinbun newspaper. Along with Ozaki Kōyō’s Konjiki Yasha, it was a model of the kind of widely popular bestsellers that appealed to contemporary readers. On December 18, at Ueno Park, the still-standing bronze statue of early Meiji political Saigō Takamori, crafted by Takamura Kōun, was unveiled. The year’s fashion hit was the white silk collar muffler worn by Tokyo’s women. 
The first installment of Hototogisu in the Kokumin Shinbun. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Shinpa pioneer Mizuno Kōbi (Yoshimi) founded a company Shōrei Kai (Encouragement Society) on December 7, with a company including Kawai Takeo. It took over the Tokiwa-za in Asakusa and continued making headway for shinpa there for seven years.

From the time of its founding in October of the previous year through September 1898, the Kabuki-za Joint Stock Corporation had lost over 20,000 yen. It was learned that over 4,000 of that amount disappeared under suspicious circumstances so an investigation was undertaken and the results announced at a special meeting of the company. Members thereupon called for the expulsion of production head Inoue Takejirō. Inoue, a self-righteous type, behaved with great deference toward Danjūrō and Kikugorō but, aside from them, he called actors “damned fools” (bakayarō) and tyrannized his employees, who despised him as a despot. However, he showed no fondness for the plays of Fukuchi Ōchi and was the only one who could look the playwright in the eye and say, “Sensei, your plays aren’t interesting.” With such an anti-Inoue mood within the company, there was, naturally, a sense of unity in bringing Tamura Nariyoshi back from Osaka.

Other theatres competing with the Kabuki-za in 1898 were the Shintomi-za, the Engi-za, the Kawakami-za (which went out of business after July), the Asakusa-za, the Miyato-za, the Masago-za, the Tōkyō-za, the Haruki-za (which burned down in March), the Meiji-za, and the Ichimura-za. 

Among major events elsewhere in 1898 were the founding of the Moscow Art Theatre by Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko; Thomas Hardy published Wessex Poems and Other Verses; Stephen Crane wrote the model short story, “The Open Boat”; Henry James published The Turn of the Screw; Auguste Rodin completed his sculpture The Kiss; Emile Zola published his “J’accuse” letter in response to the Dreyfus affair; the Spanish-American war erupted; Greater New York City was formed by the amalgamation of surrounding areas into five boroughs; Britain rented Hong Kong from China for 99 years; the Philippines declared their independence; the U.S. annexed the Hawaiian Islands; Pepsi Cola received its name; Britain gained control of the Sudan; the dowager empress of China executed a coup d’état; Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium;

Important new plays of 1898 on the world stage included Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac in Paris; Sir Arthur Wing Pinero’s Trelawney of the Wells in London; Jacob Gordin’s Yiddish play Mirele Efros (“The Jewish Queen Lear”); George Bernard Shaw’s The Philanderer; Gerhart Hauptmann’s Drayman Henschel; August Strindberg’s To Damascus; and Charlotte Blair Parker’s Way Down East. Also in 1898, Clorindy: The Origin of the Cakewalk, was the first all-black musical produced on Broadway.

Important international theatres that opened in 1898 included Bratislava’s Arena Theatre; London’s Coronet Theatre; Montreal’s Her Majesty’s Theatre (demolished in 1963); Odessa’s Philharmonic Theatre; Rome’s Teatro Adriano; and the Vienna Volksoper.

A partial list of major cultural figures born in 1898 would include director Sergei Eisenstein, playwright Bertolt Brecht, dancer Tony DeMarco, actor John Loder, actor Art Baker, singer-comedian Gracie Fields, director Irving Rapper, director-cinematographer Rudolph Maté, actor Randolph Scott, actor Ōkochi Denjirō, actor Wallace Ford, actor-poet-comedian Toto, race car driver Enzo Ferrari, actress Molly Picon, actress Therese Giehse, actress Dorothy Gish, director Henry Hathaway, actress Joyce Carey, comedian George Jessel, actor-singer-activist Paul Robeson, actress-singer Lily Pons, actor Lee Tracy, actress Constance Talmadge, director Sidney Lanfield, actor-director Wallace Forde, cinematographer Ernest Laszlo, writr Vicente Aleixandre, director Uchida Tomu, actress-model Arletty, painter Tamara de Lempicka, director Mizoguchi Kenji, entrepreneur-art collector Armand Hammer, actor Frank McHugh, publisher Bennett Cerf, playwright-poet Federico Garcia Lorca, actor Walter Abel, dancer Ninette de Valois, actress Virginia Valli, artist M.C. Escher, writer Erich Maria Remarque, composer George Gershwin, actress-singer Gertrude Lawrence, composer Hanns Eisler, photographer Berenice Abbott, writer Stephen Vincent Benét, artist Alexander Calder, director Arthur Lubin, sculptor Henry Moore, actor Oskar Homolka, art director Van Nest Polglase, art collector Peggy Guggenheim, director-writer Preston Sturges, actress Shirley Booth, actress-dancer-singer Marilyn Miller, actress Queenie Smith, actress Bessie Love, actress Renée Adorée, actor Morgan Farley, director Mitchell Leisen, pianist-composer Clarence Williams, milliner Lilly Daché, actor George Curzon, actress-singer Lotte Lenya, actress Marie Prévost, director-writer René Clair, composer Maurice Journeu, artist René Magritte, actor Rod La Rocque, writer C.S. Lewis, singer-actress Grace Moore, photojournalist Alfred Eisenstadt, clown Emmett Kelly, and actress Irene Dunne. 

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