1900 (Meiji 33)
Samuel L. Leiter
[Note: This is Chapter 14 in a series devoted to the early history of the Kabuki-za (1889-1911). It is largely based on Vols. 1 and 3 of the Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi (A Hundred Year History of the Kabuki-za), edited by Nagayama Takeomi (1995). A team of 10 writers worked on the project although none are identified in the books for specific contributions. Some material has been cut, some expanded, and other material added from different sources. Links are given selectively and usually only for items not so identified in previous entries. Prof. Kei Hibino of Seikei University offered helpful comments during the preparation of this and all previous entries. Corrections and documented additions are welcome.]
In January 1900, the first month of the first year of the new century, the magazine Kabuki began publication. The characters used on the cover were done by the writer Ozaki Kōyō and the image of Okuni kabuki, the earliest form of the genre, was by the famous artist Nakamura Fusetsu. The magazine contained criticism, discussions, historical essays, and production records; it was Japan’s first scholarly magazine about theatre. It lasted until January 1915, with a run of 175 consecutive issues. The editor was Miki Takeji (brother of the writer Mori Ōgai), who was succeeded by Ihara Seiseien. Financing was supplied by the entrepreneur Yasuda Zennosuke (later Yasuda Zenjirō II). Yasuda was the great-grandfather of Yoko Ono, whose husband, John Lennon, said a picture of the man made him think it was him in a former life. Ono didn’t like hearing this because, she noted, Yasuda was assassinated in 1921, a fate that would also end Lennon’s life.
During this year, North China saw the spread of the Boxer Rebellion.
In 1900 Nagai Kafū, later to be one of Japan’s most celebrated writers, became a disciple of the Kabuki-za head playwright, Fukuchi Ōchi. His birth name was Nagai Sōkichi, which he used in his position as apprentice playwright (minarai sakusha); this required him to begin by studying the beating of the wooden clappers (ki or hyōshigi) so crucial to a kabuki performance. A student of Chinese poetry, he took a job as Yokohama branch manager of his father’s firm, the Nippon Yūsen shipping company. He wanted to be a writer, a dream his father, Nagai Kyūichirō, opposed, but, in 1901, when Fukuchi left the Kabuki-za to become editor-in-chief of the Yamato Shinbun newspaper, Nagai went with him as a journalist, writing general articles, and serializing his novel Shin Umegoyomi (The New Plum Calendar) in the same paper.
My job as an apprentice playwright was to practice using the ki for every act by “making the rounds” (mawari) backstage by beating them twice (nichō) as a 10-minutes to places warning before each act; to announce the arrival of the actors backstage with a beat called chakuto tome; to perform the shagiri tome beat, striking them twice, separated by a long pause, following the shagiri music played at the end of a scene; to enter the opening and closing times of each scene in a journal; to deliver news of any emergency to each actor’s dressing room, as well as to everyone involved in sets, props, costumes, and wig making; and from the beating of the opening drums to the end of the day, going coatless even in the severest winter cold, looking after the provision of cigarettes in the playwright’s room and seeing to it that the producer (zamoto) or any guests had their tea politely poured for them, and their sandals neatly arranged; and making sure that when the head playwright was present his haori jacket was folded, his food served, and that he was attended to from start to finish. Backstage visitors whose sandals I’ve arranged and tea I’ve poured include man of letters and lexicographer Ōtsuki Joden and lyricist Nagai Sōgaku. (From Nagai Kafū, Kakademonoki.)
Also in January, the brothers Shirai Matsujirō and Ōtani Takejirō, co-leaders of what then was called the Matsutake producing company (changed in 1937 to Shōchiku), took over the Tokiwa-za in Shin Kyōgoku, Kyoto.
The year’s opening production at the Kabuki-za, starring Onoe Kikugorō V, ran from January 12, at 11:00 a.m., to February 5, a 25-day run. The first item was the premiere of Kawatake Shinshichi III’s Narita Michi Hatsune no Yabuhara (Yabuhara and the First Sounds of Spring on the Narita Road), a.k.a. Yabuhara Kengyō (one of several characters played by Kikugorō). Kikugorō, also playing Fudō devotee Seigorō, received plaudits for his enactment, even in mid-winter, of the cold-water ablutions performed at Naritasan by Fudō’s followers.
The only other piece, also by Shinshichi, was a new dance play, Yami no Ume Hyaku Monogatari (100 Tales of the Dark Plum Grove), a.k.a. Osakabe (Princess Osakabe), using tokiwazu, kiyomoto, and nagauta. The score was by Kineya Rokuzaemon, Kishizawa Shikisa, and Kiyomoto Umekichi, with choreography by Hanayagi Jusuke. Kikugorō played multiple roles but only its final scene, Osakabe-hime (Princess Osakabe), remained in the repertory, where it became part of Onoe Kikugorō V’s Shinko Engeki Jūsshū best hits collection.
The Kabuki-za’s resident playwright roster, headed by Fukuchi Ōchi, included Eto Kenji, Emoto Torahiko, Hama Masagosuke, Segawa Jokō, Tanba Matsuzō, Hayakawa Shichizō, Takeshiba Seikichi, and Kawatake Shinshichi.
In February Izumi Kyōka’s important story Kōya no Hijiri (The Saint of Kōya) appeared in the magazine Shin Shosetsu. Also, at this time, the government issued an ordinance restricting the labor conditions under prostitutes were forced to work. On the other hand, the government enacted security laws aimed at controlling the intensification of social movements. February also saw the passing, at 63, of rakugo master, Danshūrō Enshi, head of the Yanagitei faction, who had split the leadership of his field with San’yutei Enchō.
March’s program at the Kabuki-za opened at 11:00 a.m. on the seventh, with Danjūrō and Kikugorō leading the company. They began with Youchi Soga Kariba no Akebono, then did Keisei Awa no Naruto (The Courtesan and the Straits of Naruto), followed by Mokuami’s much-loved 1881 domestic play Kumo ni Magō Ueno no Hatsuhana (Lost in the Clouds, The First Flowers at Ueno), which included Michitose’s kiyomoto dance “Shinobiau Haru no Yukidoke” (Secret Meeting in the Spring Thaw). Naturally, with Dan-Kiku in the company, both the popular “Kochiyama” and “Naozamurai” scenes were produced, with Danjūrō as Kochiyama and Kikugorō as Naozamurai. The production marked the return of Bandō Shūchō, who had been out with a dangerous case of pneumonia. His recuperation was reported formally by Danjūrō in a kōjō announcement but on day 10 Danjūrō himself fell ill, which forced the production to close.
|A scene from Youchi Soga Kariba no Akebono at the Kabuki-za, March 1900. Danjūrō had to withdraw during the production because of illness. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.|
Production costs were 26,000 yen but attendance was good, with the income taken in before the show closed being 13,000 yen. Manager Inoue Takejirō went to the ailing Danjūrō’s home and paid him for 10 days of work, returning the rest of the money to the company’s coffers,n. Since this was of serious concern to everybody who had been forced to stop working the staff consulted with Kikugorō and a decision was reached to switch the opening play to five scenes from the great classic Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura, eliminate Keisei Awa no Naruto, and reopen on April 1. Kikugorō agreed to play, for the first time in his career, Kochiyama (he continued playing Naozamurai as well). He also tackled Igami no Gonta, Tadanobu, and Genkurō the fox, but attendance was disappointing and the production limped along for 25 days until April 25.
In March, five-year-old Nakamura Yonekichi, second son of Nakamura Tokizō II, debuted at the Asakusa-za as a courtesan’s servant in Kurotegumi Sukeroku; he later became Tokizō III. On March 26, Osaka actor Nakamura Komanosuke died at 52.
On April 16, registration was finally completed for the transfer of 48,000 yen from former owner Chiba Katsugorō to Kabuki-za Joint Stock Corporation director Sakata Sanji for the plot of land covering 1,955 tsubo.
Also in April the monthly literary magazine Myōjō (Morning Star) began publication under the leadership of Yosano Tekkan; beginning as an outlet for new tanka poetry, it served as a stage for the splendid development of the romantic movement that flourished in the 1890s. The poems of Yosano’s gifted wife, Akiko Tekkan, coeditor of the magazine, began appearing in the second volume.
Danjūrō was still too sick to perform in the May production so the Kabuki-za opened at 11:00 a.m. on May 21, featuring the Kikugorō company. The opening play was Mokuami’s zangiri play Shimachidori Tsuki no Shiranami, after which came the nō-based nagauta dance drama Tsuchigumo, part of Kikugorō’s Shinko Engeki Jūsshu collection, with the final piece being another dance play, Tazukuri no Tamagawa (Bleaching Hand-Made Cloth at the Tamagawa River) a.k.a. Nunosarashi (Cloth Bleaching). At this time of new drama’s emergence, the once advanced Shimachidori already seemed a bit dated to critics, but Kikugorō’s Shimazō was praised while Ichikawa Yaozō’s Senta was a disappointment. The show failed to draw customers and closed four days early, taking a loss of 2,300 yen. Kikugorō was experiencing leg pain that forced him to stay at his villa in Ōiso while he recuperated, and he wasn’t able to perform all summer.
On May 10, Crown Prince Yoshihito’s wedding was a grand state ceremony requiring all government offices to close down. On the same day, classical scholar Ōwada Takeki’s first volume of Tetsudō Shōka (Railways Songs), and would continue to be sung for many, was published. According to one source, these songs “which narrated railways travelogues, were intended to help students strengthen their national consciousness through learning geographical facts and cultivating ‘a collective illusion of nature.’” On May 24 mixed public bathing for those over the age of 12 was prohibited by law. And, on May 29, actor Bandō Hinasuke, died at 81.
In June the Kabuki-za produced a report of its recent finances in which it disclosed that its income for its last four productions was 78,054 yen while its expenditures were 81,362 yen, putting the firm over 3,000 in the red.
On June 4 the foreign legations in Beijing, China, came under siege by the antiforeign Boxers, who had initiated their rebellion a year earlier, and had since gained power. They declared war on the great Western powers on June 24. As Marius Jansen notes in The Making of Modern Japan “This brought on international intervention. Japan played a major role in the suppression of the 'Boxers,' as Westerners termed them; the 10,000 men it sent were as many as the forces of all the others combined.”
A major theatre event in June was the restarting of the early shinpa company Seibidan by Kitamura Rokurō.
A major theatre event in June was the restarting of the early shinpa company Seibidan by Kitamura Rokurō.
On July 1 master woodblock print artist Toyohara Kunichika, famous for his many kabuki actor portraits, died at 81.
For the first week of July, Tamura Nariyoshi rented the Kabuki-za for a company headed by a French magician, advertised as a master of the dark arts (ōmajutsushi). As given in Japanese his name was Juwagasuta Do Derufu (ジユウガスタ ド デルフ), but it’s not clear what the original was. His hyperbolic advertising in which he claimed to be “the world’s greatest magician,” and announced such acts as “Cutting Off a Horse’s Head” and “Cutting off a Human Head,” led to a crush of people arriving on opening day to see a magician at the Kabuki-za. However, the show was extremely artless, the translation from the French was crude, and the “Cutting off a Horse’s Head,” and so on, hard to watch; it all ended with the audience in a turmoil of discontent.
Since Derufu did things like aiming a pistol the audience grew even further agitated and Tamura himself had to apologize from the stage, with the result that opening day, which had two shows, was also closing day, although an entire week had been planned. Since it wasn’t possible to give everyone their money back the proceeds were contributed to an orphanage and the disturbance settled down. The following day the opening day’s take of over 400 yen was delivered City Hall but this didn’t completely close the book on the incident since Derufu followed up by suing Tamura.
The summer production (bon kōgyō) began at 10:00 a.m. on July 11, with Danjūrō and Kikugorō taking the time off and giving the stage over to mid-level actors. The show opened with Buyū no Homare Shusse Kagekiyo (Honored for Bravery, Victorious Kagekiyo). The second piece was a new nagauta/takemoto dance play by Fukuchi, Onna Benkei (The Female Benkei). It was followed by the popular Yowa Nasake Ukina no Yokogushi (Sympathetic Chatter and the Scandalous Hair Comb), better known as Genjidana (a place name), showing the scenes from Yosaburō’s falling in love with Otomi at first sight to his visit to her Genjidana residence. Finally, there was the tokiwazu dance Yasasugata Kumo ni Narukami (Graceful Clouds over Narukami).
The young trio of Kakitsu, Eizaburō, and Matsusuke, who would later rank on the level of national treasures as Ichimura Uzaemon XV, Onoe Baikō VI, and Onoe Matsusuke IV, gave a forgettable performance of Genjidana in the roles, respectively, of Yosaburō, Otomi, and “Bat” Yasu. Few people showed up and the program closed after only 16 days, with a box office take reported to have been a mere 3,200 yen. Even the Kabuki-za’s first electric fans couldn’t attract audiences.
July also saw the premiere of Kawatake Shinshichi’s Hoshi Yadoru Tsuyu no Tamagiku (Tamagiku, Dwelling in the Starry Dewdrops) at the Haruki-za, a play revived after World War II by both Nakamura Utaemon VI and Onoe Baikō VII. Nakamura Fukusuke, who starred as the famed courtesan Tamagiku, would also produce if after he became Utaemon V.
Once again, the Kabuki-za was turned into a movie theatre, when two programs of moving pictures were shown on August 7. And on August 19, the theatre was used by an amateur gidayū troupe from Osaka. The same month, on August 11, the rakugo master San’yutei Enchō died at 62. August also saw the showing at the Hongō-za of a film made of Nio no Usuki (The Floating Nest of Nio). This kabuki play that had premiered at the Masago-za a year earlier, starring Nakamura Ganjirō, and a scene of it had been shot by Tsuchiya Tsuneji in May at a temple near Nagoya’s Misono-za.
The next production, which opened on September 6 and ran for 14 days until September 19, was not kabuki but shinpa, with Ii Yōhō and his company. They performed Meiji Chūshingura (The Meiji Period Chūshingura), based on a draft by theatre critic and novelist Nemoto Yuichi. It was a zangiri piece in which the story of the 47 rōnin was transposed to modern times with the men’s hair cut short. The second play—a topical one about the siege of Beijing—was in two parts, the first being Kōtoku Shikai ni Oyobu (The Emperor’s Benevolence Extends Worldwide) and the second being Jakago ga Fuchi Shitto no Ada Nami (The Abyss of Jakago and the Waves of a Jealous Resentment) a.k.a. Hidakagawa (Hidaka River), a takemoto version of the classic Dōjōji plot about a jealous woman who turns into a serpent. The show closed with the comedy (kigeki) Yaedasuki (Many-layered Sleeve Cords). The show lasted 14 days with middling box office results.
|A street poster (tsuji banzuke) advertising Ii Yōhō's company at the Kabuki-za. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.|
On September 11 the first automatic public phones were installed in Shinbashi and Ueno Stations. On October 2, rules regulating the labor conditions of prostitution were promulgated as Ordinance No. 44, allowing sex workers to leave their employment at will. This month Shirai Matsujirō bought the Daikoku-za in Shin Kyōgoku, Kyoto, constructed on the site of the Kyōgoku-za, and immediately began producing. On September 26, Yamagata Aritomo resigned the prime ministership after a dustup regarding the foreign minister’s going behind his back to request the emperor to declare war on Russia.
Danjūrō was now completely recovered from his illness and he joined with Kikugorō to appear in the Kabuki-za’s October production. The Kabuki-za company decided to forbid actors from playing at two theatres in the same month (the practice called kakemochi), to set the amount of gratuities for workers at the teahouses at from 10 sen to 15 sen apiece, and to announce all such matters to the company in general.
The next program, joining Danjūrō and Kikugorō’s companies, opened at 11:00 a.m. on October 12 and closed on November 11. First on the program was Shinchōki Atago Renga (The Chronicle of Oda Nobunaga and the Linked Verse of Atago), which was Fukuchi’s revision of Tsuruya Nanboku’s 1808 history drama Toki wa Ima Kikyō no Hataage (Now Is the Time to Raise the Bellflower Flag), famous for its “Badarai Mitsuhide” (Mitsuhide at the Horse Trough) scene. Danjūrō and Kikugorō costarred. Next was the “Kikubatake” (Chrysanthemum Garden) scene of the classic history play Kiichi Hōgen Sanryaku no Maki. It was followed by Kawatake Shinshichi’s newly rewritten version of Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s Shinjū Ten no Amijima (Love Suicides at Ten no Amijima), commonly called Kamiji (Kamiya Jihei), adapted from the puppet theatre for kabuki, and now formally retitled Sayo Shigure Ten no Amijima (Evening Shower at Ten no Amijima). The show closed with the Kuruma Biki scene from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami.
Before the first play began Danjūrō appeared in haori and hakama to make a formal announcement (kōjō) of thanks for having recovered from his serious illness. Tamura Nariyoshi later wrote in his chronicle, Zoku Zoku Kabuki Nendaiki, that Kikugorō’s Torazō in “Kikubatake” and his Jihei in “Kotatsu” were especially fine, as was Bandō Shūchō as Jihei’s wife, Osan, making the program a must see that sold out day after day.
From this program forward, Nagai Sōkichi (Kafū) joined the playwrights’ room, using his birth name of Sōkichi in his position as an apprentice playwright (minarai sakusha). His family was very strict so when he left home he always had to wear hakama. Kabuki playwrights didn’t customarily wear such garments, though, so it’s been said that on his way to the theatre he would remove his hakama as he approached his rickshaw and then change from his white tabi to navy blue ones before he entered the backstage area. Fukuchi is said to have told him that if he intended to write real plays he would have to hold his lowly position in the Kabuki-za’s playwrights’ room for three years and attend rehearsals.
Kikugorō’s Kamiya Jihei was a rare performance and Nagai’s memory of it from his early days as an apprentice playwright gives us a good picture of Kikugorō’s skill in domestic plays during his late years.
In those days, when [young Osaka star Nakamura] Ganjirō I was still not widely known in theatre circles, Kamiji was a quite unusual thing. The Jiheis of Kikugorō and Ganjirō were considerably different so comparing them would be a mistake. However, with eyes that have become familiar with Ganjirō’s performance in recent years I remember Kikugorō back then when the curtain opened with him lying on his side with his back turned and using a measuring board as a pillow. There aren’t words to describe his form as he took Koharu’s hand, putting his hands behind him to tighten his stiff obi, and looking off into the distance. It was something never to be seen again.
People nowadays would absolutely not believe the care taken with the newly written text or with the rehearsals. On the day the reading of the dialogue sides ended Otowaya (Kikugorō’s yagō or shop name) invited the bunraku takemoto chanter Aioidayū to the second floor at the Sanshūya teahouse and had him chant the first scene of Kamiji and asked all the actors involved to listen to him. Further, after he finished, you can guess how diligent everyone was by the degree to which they asked questions of the master about their dialogue. Even after the show opened and the musical accompaniment (aikata) was changed they continued to feel unsettled. (From Nagai Kafū, Kakademonoki.)
The production proved a success and played to full houses for 25 days, inspiring Inoue Takejirō to recommend to the company that he continue with the November production.
That month, October, Ichikawa Sadanji I’s eldest son, Ichikawa Koyone III, took his father’s pen name, Enshō, at the Meiji-za. In politics, the second Yamagata Aritomo cabinet was replaced by the fourth of Itō Hirobumi.
On November 15, new regulations controlling the theatre were distributed according to which, thereafter, no one other than the official manager (zanushi) had producing authority. Also, the minor theatres were allowed to have a draw curtain (hikimaku) and a revolving stage (mawari butai), and it became permissible for a day’s performance, currently limited to eight hours, to be extended to nine.
The November production, costarring Kikugorō and Danjūrō, opened on the 17th. Play number one was Fukuchi’s revision of a classic that he called Nani Takaki Chūshingura (Famous People Chūshingura), including the “Michiyuki Hatsune Tabiji no Hanamuko” (The Son-in-Law’s First Sounds of Spring Travel Dance). Danjūrō played Yuranosuke and Honzō’s wife, Tonase, while Kikugorō was Kanpei and Honzō. Play number two was the Kanki’s Castle scene from another renowned title, Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s bunraku classic Kokusenya Kassen, with Kikugorō as Watonai. And play number three was the nagauta dance drama Oshiegusa Yoshiwara Suzume (The Lesson of the Yoshiwara Sparrows).
However, on November 23, Kikugorō, who had been feeling poorly, became seriously ill and had to step down to recuperate. Ichikawa Yaozō took over Honzō, while Kakitsu, gifted with a quick memory, was given a big chance with Kanpei and Watonai. He also landed the role of Shinobu in Gotaiheiki Shiroishi Banashi, which was substituted for a scene in the first play featuring Kikugorō as Akagaki Genzō. Costarring were Danjūrō and Eizaburō. Kakitsu made a big impression but not big enough to attract the crowds and the show was forced to close after a mere 13 days, ending on November 29.
In November Shirai Matsujirō purchased the Hotei-za in Shin Kyōgoku and began putting on plays there. The same month, major literary figure Tsubouchi Shōyō published his important Chikamatsu no Kenkyū (Chikamatsu Studies).
On December 6 Asano Tekkan and his wife Akiko Tekkan were prevented from selling their poetry journal Myōjō because it carried nude illustrations. December also witnessed Ōtani Takejirō buying the Sakai-za in Shin Kyōgoku, taking it apart, moving it to the vacant space where the Gion-Kan formerly was, and renaming it the Kabuki-za, with Jitsukawa Enjirō’s company being its opening attraction. In it, Hayashi Nagasaburō (later Mataichirō), eldest son of Nakamura Ganjirō I, made his debut at seven. The production also was the debut of Ōtani Takejirō as an owner-manager (zanushi). During 1900 Ōtani married Funakoshi Tsune.
In 1900, the expression “haikara” (high collar), meaning “stylish” because of its reference to Western-style shirts, became popular in Japan. Important international cultural events of the year included Joseph Conrad’s publishing of Lord Jim; the publication of Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up from Slavery; the publication of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; the publication of Colette’s first Claudine novel, Claudine a l’école; the premiere of composer Giacomo Puccini’s opera Tosca in Rome; and the beginnings of popularity for ragtime music and jazz in the U.S.
In theatre, 1900 was known for such important plays as Edmond Rostand’s L’Aiglon; George Bernard Shaw’s Captain Brassbound’s Conversion; August Strindberg’s Dance of Death and To Damascus; Leo Tolstoy’s The Living Corpse; David Belasco’s Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan; Henry Arthur Jones’s Mrs. Dane’s Defence; Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde; James Herne’s Sag Harbor; and Clyde Fitch’s Sapho.
And major new theatres opening around the world (and still standing) included Denmark’s Aarhus Theater; the Calumet Theatre, Calumet, Michigan; Hamburg’s Deutsches Schauspielhaus; the Folly Theatre (also known by other names), Kansas City, Missouri; the Gaiety Theatre, Douglas, Isle of Man; the Garcia Barbon Theatre, Vigo, Galicia, Spain; the Grand Theatre, Clapham, London; the Hippodrome, London; the Jersey Opera House, Jersey, Channel Islands; the Camden Theatre (now KOKO), Camden Town, London; the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth, England; Solomiya Krushelnytska Lviv State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Lviv, Ukraine; the Onawa Opera House, Onawa, Iowa; the Pella Opera House, Pella, Iowa; and the Salford Theatre, Salford, Greater Manchester, England.
For details on major world events, including births and deaths, in 1900, see here.