Thursday, May 11, 2017

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA (1889-1911): Chapter 16: 1902 (Meiji 35)

Chapter 16

1902 (Meiji 35)

Samuel L. Leiter

[Note: This is Chapter 16 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 that 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.]

How Shōchiku was born:

January 3, 1902, article in Osaka Asahi Shinbun with first mention of the Matsutake (later Shōchiku) company name. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Matsutake’s New Year 

We have already written about the other day’s ritualistic opening ceremony (kokera otoshi), which continues, for the Meiji-za in Kyoto’s Shinkyōgoku district, whose rebuilding was completed this winter. The theatre’s producers (zanushi), Shirai Matsujirō and Ōtani Takejirō, are actually brothers. Takejirō, who succeeded to the headship of their birth family, and Matsujirō who was adopted into the Shirai family, are partners in the theatre business, with Takejirō running Kyoto’s Kabuki-za and Matsujirō Kyoto’s Itani-za and Tokiwa-za.
Ōtani Takejirō, From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Sadly, the Tokiwa-za was lost in a conflagration and its corporate ownership was dissolved. Regretting this setback, the “Matsutake” brothers quickly joined together to build a new theatre on the site of the burned-down one, and, within two months of the disaster, had it completely finished and opened for business. Matsujirō, 25 at the start of this year, only a few years after having attained adulthood, has attained swift success in the prime of his life, and looks forward to an auspicious new year. People speak earnestly of the brothers’ abilities and of the trust everyone puts in them. (From the Ōsaka Asahi Shinbun, January 3, 1902, quoted in Shōchiku Nanajū Nen.)
Shirai Matsujirō. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The previous year, the brothers Shirai and Ōtani had built the Meiji-za on the site of Kyoto’s Shinkyōgoku’s burned-down Tokiwa-za and opened it on New Year’s Day, 1902. This was their second such effort following their having dismantled the Gion-kan and moved it in remodeled form to the site of the Sakai-za, where it opened as Kyoto’s Kabuki-za.

 However, this was the first time the public saw the new name Matsutake, combining the first character of each brother’s name. Theatres operated by Shirai were referred to as “Shirai theatres” (Shirai no shibai) and those operated by Ōtani as “Ōtani theatres” (Ōtani no shibai). The Meiji-za’s illustrated posters (e-banzuke), however, began the practice of advertising the management by writing, “Producers Shirai, Ōtani (Zanushi Shirai Ōtani). After the above newspaper article appeared, theatres operated by the brothers referred to them not with in terms of their respective names but as “Matsutake theatres.” Since it was more convenient to refer to their business with a single term rather than by thinking of the brothers Shirai and Ōtani, the Matsutake Gōshi Kaisha (Matsutake Limited Partnership Company) was formed.

Shōchiku emblem of pine and bamboo. 
 The company emblem showed entwined pine (matsu) and bamboo (take) elements, and had a lantern shop near Shinkyōgoku print the name on lanterns, after which the name Matsutake represented their company. The Matsutake Limited Partnership Company later became the Matsutake Unlimited Partnership Company (Matsutake Gōmei Kaisha). Finally, after undergoing many changes, it became today’s Shōchiku Joint Stock Corporation (Shōchiku Kabushiki Kaisha), Shōchiku being an alternate reading of Matsutake. The beginning of all this happened in Meiji 35 or 1902. (From Shōchiku Nanajū Nen.)

The year’s first production at Tokyo’s Kabuki-za was on January 9, with an 11:00 a.m. curtain. The New Year’s program always starred Onoe Kikugorō V but, at the end of 1901, as described in the previous chapter, he had suffered a serious stroke, so the show focused on Nakamura Shikan IV (later Nakamura Utaemon V), Ichikawa Yaozō VII (later Ichikawa Chūsha VII), Onoe Eizaburō V (later Onoe Baikō VI), Ichimura Kakitsu V (later Ichimura XV), and Ichikawa Somegorō IV (later Matsumoto Kōshirō V), all of them to become major stars of the 20th century.

The opening play was Kamakura Yama Haru no Asahina, the second was Honchō Nijūshikō with Eizaburō as Yaegaki-hime in the “Kitsunobi” scene, the third was a new play, Kin no Shachi Uwasa no Takanami. Honchō Nijūshikō, adapted from a puppet play, employed the services of bunraku chanter Takemoto Datedayū (later Takemoto Tosadayū VI) and shamisen player Tsuruzawa Tomomatsu (later Tsuruzuwa Dōhachi).
Nakamura Fukusuke (later Utaemon V) as Lady Matsushima in Kamakura Yama Haru no Asahina. From Kabuki Hyakunen-Shi.
Fukuchi Ōchi monopolized the writing of new plays at the Kabuki-za, while at the Meiji-za Matsui Shōō was writing such successful plays for Ichikawa Sadanji I as Aku Genta and Genzanni. These were considered the first products of nontraditional playwrights writing for kabuki. Noting this, Kabuki-za production head Inoue Takejirō began to search for new playwrights himself and found them in three contemporary critics. They were Jōnō Saigiku (who died at 72 on January 27), Okamoto Kidō, and Oka Onitarō, who wrote Kogane no Shachi Uwasa no Takanami (The Legend of Golden Dolphin and the High Waves) for this program.

Written to relate to the New Year’s season, it dramatized the legend of the bandit Kakinoki Kinsuke, who, in order to get his lord, Hagino Gennoshin, out of a financial pickle, was tempted by the villainous Okeya no Gonji to ride a weight-bearing kite to the roof of Nagoya Castle and shave off the golden scales on its golden dolphin statuette. Ichimura Kakitsu played Kinsuke, Ichikawa Yaozō was Gonji, Kataoka Ichizō was Gennoshin, Nakamura Shikan played Gennoshin’s superior, Onoe Eizaburō was Gennoshin’s wife, with Ichikawa Somegorō and Ichikawa Omezō in other roles. However, with both Danjūrō and Kikugorō out ill, the production felt flat and drew few spectators and closed on February 2, after 25 performances.

Still, it was the start of the Kabuki-za’s practice of hiring freelance playwrights from the literary world outside the traditional system of resident dramatists. The traditional playwrights made their displeasure known. According to Kidō’s Meiji no Engeki (Meiji Theatre), a playwright received 50 yen for a new play.

On January 12, the Jiji Shinpō newspaper began to publish a series of topical cartoons. On January 25 occurred a famous disaster when the Fifth Infantry Regiment of the Imperial Army’s Eighth Division lost nearly 200 men who froze to death as they marched through the snow in freezing temperatures on the Hakkōda Mountains. Also around this time, the Trans-Siberian Railroad was completed in Russia, and on January 30, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance (Nichi-Ei Dōmei: 1902-23) was signed in London.  

In February a movement to petition for the closing of the Ashio Copper Mines began, with a great number of mine pollution victims going to Kyoto to make their appeal. This was around the time that the First Higher School’s dormitory song (ryōka) “Aa Gyokuhai Hana ni Ukete” (Ah! To Receive Flower Petals in a Crystal Drinking Cup), music by Kusunoki Masakazu, lyrics by Yano Kanji, was created.

In March hopes rose that, after a long layoff, Danjūrō and Kikugorō would once more join together at the Kabuki-za, with the theatre management preparing for it refinishing the stage floor, abolishing the “snake-eye” (janome) revolving stage in which one disc is set within another so they can move in opposite directions, and digging a basement (naraku i.e. “hell”) beneath the stage. However, only Danjūrō was well enough to return, the plays chosen were poor, and the opening was eventually delayed until March 27.
Danjūrō as Katō Kiyomasa. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The show opened at 11:00 a.m., with Danjūrō as Katō Kiyomasa in Zōhō Momoyama Monogatari, known as Jishin Katō. Next on the program were two dances, Hanabusa Jishi (Calyx Lion) and Fukitori Tsuma (The Would-Be Flute Player Takes a Wife). Then came the domestic drama Katsuragawa Renri no Shigarami (Lovers Entwined at the Katsura River), the “Obiya” scene, with Danjūrō, Shikan, and Yaozō. The conclusion was the tokiwazu dance Obi no Aya Katsura no Kawamizu (The Obi Pattern and the Waters of the Katsura River), featuring the musician Rinchū.

Danjūrō’s Jishin Katō lacked its usual spirit, and his Hansei in “Obiya” was not a role he particularly liked. Thus, from day four Jishin Katō, was replaced by Nani Ōshima Homare no Tsuyo Yumi, with Danjūrō as Tametomo; he also gave over his role in “Obiya” to Onoe Kanijūrō II. The plays were tedious but proved popular enough and the production was appropriately lively. It closed on April 20, after 25 showings.
Danjūrō as Tametomo. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Danjūrō’s infirmity was showing and audiences could feel that his days on stage were numbered. In his review Miki Takeji noted sharply:

The recent Kabuki-za plays were middling and, as usual, admission prices were high but nonetheless there was an unexpected turnout. While you could call it a fluke no one can deny that it was because of the current polite society’s respect for him. Of course, this “respect” may sound pleasing to the ear, but if you put it another way, it was only because he hasn’t been given up on yet. So from now on, I would like Danjūrō to behave resolutely and not be disparaged as a worn-out old horse. (From Miki Takeji, “Kabuki-za Gōhyō,” in Kabuki, no. 24.)

Opening day coincided with the bizarre “Butt Flesh Incident” (denniku kiritori jiken) a.k.a. the Noguchi Osaburō Incident, which captured Tokyo’s attention. A man named Noguchi Osaburō was accused of killing a boy, gouging out his eyes, and slicing off his buttock flesh, but the lack of evidence exonerated him from this killing and two others of a similar nature. He was, however, found guilty of another murder and sentenced to be executed.

In March shinpa actors Ii Yōhō, Kawai Takeo, Ōtani Bajū and others presented Shinjū Ten no Amijima (The Love Suicides at Ten no Amijima), the first in a series of eight carefully researched Chikamatsu Monzaemon revivals  at the Masago-za. As Komiya Toyotaka notes:

“Ii had long been fond of period pieces, but his Chikamatsu series was something quite new in the theatre, Kabuki as well as Shimpa. The minutely detailed joint-critique (gappyō) which Kabuki, most respected of the theatre periodicals, gave the June performance . . . suggests how important it was considered.” (From Komiya Toyotaka, Japanese Culture in the Meiji Era, vol. III, “Music and Drama.”)

These performances “attempted to cleave as close to the original text as possible while still following basic kabuki conventions,” writes Ayako Kano in Acting like a Woman: Theater, Gender, and Nationalism. Other productions included Horikawa Nami no Tsuzumi (The Drum of the Waves of Horikawa) and Daikyōji Mukashi Gonomi (The Almanac Maker and the Old Almanac). March also saw the renaming of the Haruki-za as the Hongō-za, the taking of the name Nakamura Kashō I (later Tokizō II) by Nakamura Tanetarō, and name changing of fight scene choreographer (tateshi) from Ichikawa Masuroku to Ichikawa Danpei.

In April, Tamura Nariyoshi, managing Tokyo’s then popular boy’s kabuki troupe, took over the Kabuki-za for seven days to raise money for a nursery school. They opened at 9:00 a.m. on April 12, and their six-play repertoire included three scenes from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, “Kamo Tsutsumi” (Kamo Riverbank), “Kuruma Biki” (Pulling the Carriage Apart), and “Terakoya” (The Village School); Wada Gassen Onna Maiginu; Hanami Doki Kuruwa no Saya-ate; and Ōsakazuki Shūsen no Tsuwamono; Ashiya Dōman Ōuchi Kagami; and Momijigari.

Among the young actors, all to become popular stars, were Nakamura Kichiemon I and Ichikawa Danko (later Ennosuke II and En’o), Bando Yasosuke (later Bandō Mitsugorō VII), Morita Mitahachi (later Morita Kanya XIII), Onoe Kōnosuke (later Onoe Monzaburō IV), Nakamura Matagorō, Sawamura Sōnosuke, Sawamura Tosshō (later Sawamura Sōjūrō VII), Ichikawa Somegorō (later Matsumoto Kōshirō VII), and Ichimura Kakitsu (later Ichimura Uzaemon XV). Kabuki-za manager Inoue was so impressed by the 17-year-old Kichiemon’s Matsuomaru in Sugawara that he began using him frequently at the Kabuki-za thereafter.

On April 4 Kansai actor Nakamura Kōro died, aged 59. On April 11, Hanabusa Ryūgai, calling his work “Western-style theatre” (yōshiki engeki), produced his adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People (Shakai no Teki) at the Kinkikan movie theatre in Kanda. In Acting like a Woman Ayako Kano quotes Matsumoto Shinko’s Meiji Engeki Ron Shi, which says that Hanabusa attempted to “fundamentally depart from musical theater (gakugeki), eliminate the narrator (chobo), abolish dance-like gestures, and perform in the manner of Straight Theater (seigeki-teki).”

In May Nakamura Harusame’s Nihon no Katei (The Japanese Family), originally called Ichijiku (The Fig), was done at the Masago-za starring Ii Yōhō and Kawai Takeo, with the latter gaining such acclaim for his role as Emiya that he thereafter became a specialist at playing foreign women. The same month Shima Bunjirō (?), Takayasu Gekkō, Shirai Matsujirō, and others formed an Osaka Theatre Reform Society, and the Fukui Mohei troupe presented Molière’s Tartuffe, translated by Takayasu Gekkō, at Kyoto’s Itani-za. And actor Yoshimura Isaburō died in Tokyo at 80.
Kikugorō, said to have been beyond recovery, began to make strides toward convalescence. Although his left hand and arm remained useless he wanted to get back on stage as soon as possible and planned to rejoin Danjūrō at the Kabuki-za for the May program, which opened at 11:00 a.m. on the 17th. At first, Danjūrō was to give a “once-in-a-lifetime” (issei ichidai) performance of the female lead in Kasuga no Tsubone, and he got through the rehearsals without incident, but then his nephritis flared up and he had to bow out just before opening day.

As a result, the 10,000 yen spent on the play’s expensive new costumes and props, were lost, which the management is said to have complained about in the interests of garnering publicity. The first play was quickly changed to Fukuchi’s 1892 adaptation of Chikamatsu’s Motomezuka Migawari Nitta, starring Yaozō. Then came a new dance play by Fukuchi, Kumo no Furumai (The Spider’s Behavior), starring Eizaburō. A drop curtain contributed by the Chūō Newspaper Company was revealed, after which Kikugorō appeared in Aoi no Ue Tegara no Kumadori, with the final piece being the tokiwazu dance play Yamanba, in which Eizaburō, Kakitsu, and Somegorō alternated daily in the role of Kaidōmaru.
Kikugorō V as Yamanaka Heikurō. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Kikugorō, with half his body paralyzed, essayed the roles of Raikō in Kumo no Furumai and Yamanaka Heikurō in Aoi no Ue, but Danjūrō’s absence and the last-minute program arrangements led to empty seats and a run cut short to only 20 days.

It was reported that Kabuki-za resident playwright Fukuchi Ōchi proposed that, from this production forward, the playwrights wear old-fashioned hakama so as to preserve thei4 dignity as literary men. (From the Miyako Shinbun, May 9, 1902.)

Also, the theatre ordered that from this show on the auditorium security men (tomeba) and ushers (dekata) all wear white, vertically striped uniforms, that the young employees in the teahouses wear white momohiki (work pants) with narrow stripes, and that the operators of the stage traps wear navy blue outfits with tight sleeves.

Afterward, the Kabuki-za hosted a variety of non-kabuki performances given brief runs, such as a German acrobatic troupe (June 7-12), an old-style martial arts tournament (June 13-15), motion pictures and a reformed style of naniwabushi narrative singing (June 18-23). Then there was a so-called “Masters’ Group” (Meijinkai), created by Tamura Nariyoshi, of song and dance in a “Great Kabuki Families’ Competition” (Gigei Kurabu), presented in evening performances and featuring such eminent musicians as Takemoto Datedayū, Tokiwazu Rinchū, Kiyomoto Enjudayū V, Yoshimura Ijūrō VI, Kineya Rokuzaemon VIII, and choreographer Fujima Kan’emon, with young actors such as Kakitsu, Somegorō, Eizaburō, Ushinosuke, and Eizō dancing in the uncostumed, basic kimono and hakama-style called suodori. It was a sellout.

In June Nakamura Omocha (later Ōtani Tomoemon VI) became Nakamura Komasuke at the Ichimura-za. On June 6, 1902, the Tokyo Stock Market crashed and trading was suspended.

July’s summer program (bon kyōgen), lacking Dan-Kiku, was led by Shikan with six plays given in the evening, starting at five. The theatre management made the following business-related innovations for the program.

1) A box rental fee is eliminated in favor of a ticket system ranging from first class to sixth class. No charge will be incurred for tea, brazier, pillows, and footwear-keeping, except for the one listed on the tickets. The management is to give the theatre staff 10-sen for each customer who rents these small items. 2) Third floor (seventh class) customers can rent pillows and braziers for five-sen apiece. If the customers do not want these, do not force them to rent. If they do not pay, do not rent. 3) If the teahouse or other theatre staff serve refreshments without permission, or receive any amount of money for their service except ticket fees, the business office should be notified, and it should punish the people in charge immediately. 4) One-act-only upper-class seats are ready for the convenience of affluent customers. They can have a seat in the East, West, South, and North parts of the box seats and see one act and a little more.  5) Everyone should be present for all the plays on opening day.  6) The custom of half-price for opening day is abolished and full price will be paid. 7) Performances will begin at 5:00 p.m. and the drum announcing the end of the performance will be at 10:00 p.m. (From Kimura Kinka, Kinsei Gekidan Shi: Kabuki-za Hen.)
These reforms were widely welcomed.

The production opened on at 5:00 p.m. on July 15, beginning with the pantomime called Kuramayama Danmari, moving on to Genpei Nunobiki Taki, the scene at “Kurōsuke’s Home.” It was followed by Banshū Sarayashiki, the “Tetsuzan Mansion” scene. Then came “Terakoya” from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami. Unagidani followed, with the final piece being the popular dance drama Modori Kago Iro ni Aikata (The Returning Palanquin). Yaozō took ill during the run and his roles had to be taken over by Kakitsu, Matsusuke, and Somegorō.

Tamura, having spoken with Inoue Takejirō, advised that without the presence of stars on the level of Danjūrō and Kikugorō, the production information printed on the old-style program-posters (banzuke) would look insignificant so the banzuke were abandoned and a program printed from movable type was produced. Since the cost for a first-class gallery seat, with tea and smoking utensils included, was an inexpensive 1 yen, 20 sen, attendance flourished and the production ran for 15 days.

And even without leaders, the actors of the time—a lineup now famous as Utaemon, Uzaemon, Kōshirō, Yaozō, Matsusuke, the late Kataoka Ichizō, Kichiemon, Kikugorō VI—made this into what would have been a major production even had there been a banzuke. (Tamura Nariyoshi, “Ima Mukashi Kabuki-za Monogatari no go—gose Kikugorō no yuki made” in Shin Engei, July 1916.)

In July scholar Ikenouchi Nobuyoshi moved to Tokyo from Matsuyama, where he founded the magazine Nōgaku, and built a theatre. And in August, playwright Izumi Kyōka’s Tsūya Monogatari (The Vigil’s Tale) was staged at the Tokiwa-za.

From July through August thousands of workers went on strike at the Kure Naval Arsenal and the Koishikawa Arsenal. On August 15 there was a gunpowder explosion at an ammunition factory at the Osaka Military Arsenal on Bentenjima, with over 100 casualties. Unrest clearly was in the air.  On September 19 Masaoka Shiki, who revolutionized haiku and tanka poetry, advocated realistic descriptions of nature, and sought to modernize traditional literature, died from TB at only 36.

The Kabuki-za, which had no kabuki in August and September, opened on August 23 for W.A. Davis’s British magic show, which ran six days. From September 23-25 the theatre hosted a fundraising concert of shamisen music.

An controversial problem arose in the world of nagauta music when, following the founding on August 19 of the Society for Reforming the Nagauta (Nagauta Kenseikai), “announcement was made that the sixth Kineya Saburōsuke, father of Rokushirō, would succeed to his teacher’s name as the fifth Kineya Kangorō. At this news, the rival Rokuzaemon faction of the Kineya house hastily announced that one of its sons was becoming Kangorō. There were therefore shortly two musicians with the professional name Kangorō.” (From Komiya, Music and Drama in the Meiji Era.)

In September Takayasu Gekkō’s translation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, which he titled Yami to Hikari (Darkness and Light), was produced at Kyoto’s Minami-za by Fukui Mohei’s company. That same month Kawakami Otojirō’s company returned from its triumphant European tour.
Ichimura Kakitsu and Onoe Kikugorō in Ninjō Banashi Bunshichi Motoyui. Woodblock print by Utagawa Hōsai (Utagawa Kunimasa IV). From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
In October those who despaired of ever seeing Dan-Kiku together again were heartened to learn that Danjūrō had recovered sufficiently to consider reappearing on stage after a year’s absence. The joint Dan-Kiku troupe, including Shikan, opened at 11:00 a.m. on October 11, beginning with Nachi no Taki Chikai no Mongaku, a.k.a. Mongaku Kanjinchō, an 1889 katsureki geki by Kawajiri Hōgin, with Danjūrō as Moritō, Kikugorō as Watanabe Wataru , and Shikan as Kesa Gozen. Second was Hirakana no Seisuiki’s “Sakaro” (“Rowing Backwards”) scene after which came a new play dramatized for Kikugorō by Enokido Kenji from Enchō’s rakugo story, Ninjō Banashi Bunshichi Motoyui; it remains popular even today. Kikugorō originated the role of Sakan Chōbei in it. The closer was a dance play, Odoke Niwaka Ataka no Shinseki (Farcical Fun at Ataka’s New Barrier). The program ran for 25 days through November 4.
Kikugorō V as Watanabe Wataru. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Businesses were suffering, heavy rains were falling, and personal finances were strained, so prices like eight yen, 70 sen for a gallery seat were too high even for a production starring Dan-Kiku but an 80% attendance would usually have been enough to constitute a hit. However, as Kawajiri Seitan disappointedly observed, the aged and infirm Dan-Kiku were lusterless, showing nothing of their characters’ youthful valor during their fight scene in the first play when their characters fall into a basin at the foot of a waterfall. And when the curtain closed they had to have their menservants help them to their nearby dressing rooms, showing how really helpless they were. (In Akiba Tarō, Tōtō Meiji Engeki Shi.)
Street poster for October 1902 program at the Kabuki-za. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
In October Ichikawa Metora’s five-year-old adopted son debuted as Ichikawa Otora IV (later Ichikawa Sadanji III) at the Kabuki-za. On October 27 playwright Katsu Genzō III died at 59. The principal disciple of Kawatake Mokuami, he was active chiefly in the Kansai area and wrote around 300 plays.

November 13 was opening day for the next production, which began at 11:00 p.m., when Dan-Kiku made the final joint appearance of their lives. The five-piece program started with Satomi Hakkenden, followed by the scene at Kinai’s home in Chūshin Kanagaki Kōshaku (A Syllabary Lecture on the Faithful), after which came Takatoki, from Danjūrō’s Shin Kabuki Jūhachiban collection. Fourth was the popular domestic drama best known as Benten Kozō and here given the formal title of Enoshima Sodachi Neoi no Chigo Giku (A Chrysanthemum Boy Born and Raised on Enoshima), while the final work was Setsugetsuka Mitsugumi Sakazuki (Three Cups of Snow, Moon, and Flowers). Danjūrō’s Takatoki and Kikugorō’s Benten could truly be called “once-in-a-lifetime” (equivalent to “farewell”) performances.

This November saw the publication of Kunikida Doppo’s Shūchū Nikki (A Drunkard’s Diary) in the magazine Bungeikai (Literary World). At this time, the young Shiga Naoya, who would become one of Japan’s greatest writers, was under the great influence of Uchimura Kanzō, who raised his spiritual awareness over a period of seven years, and who introduced him to reading the Bible and to Christianity. Novelist Agawa Hiroyuki, wrote the following in his serialized biography, Shiga Naoya, for Iwanami Shoten’s magazine, Zusho:

Naoya, however, was not the type of Christian middle school student who closes himself up in his study and does nothing but read books, principally the Bible. From then through his higher education days, the two things that raised his temperature more than reading were kabuki and female gidayū performers. He first began to go to the theatre alone toward the end of his high school days, when the performance he saw is said to have been Kikugorō V making his last appearance in Benten Kozō. . . . He liked it well enough to see it not once, but two or three times.

But, whether it was the Kabuki-za or the Meiji-za, performances at the time began at 10 a.m., regardless of how great his passion was, he couldn’t go any other day than Sunday. Moreover, making it even more difficult was the fact that on Sunday mornings he had to be at Prof. Uchimura’s home in Tsunohazu. In order to create the most compatible coexistence of his interest in Bible lectures and kabuki, Naoya used his family’s jinrikisha. . . . He rode in this conveyance from his home in Mikawadai to Tsunohazu, had it wait for him near the gate, and, as soon as the professor’s lecture ended, rushed to Kobiki-chō. When Kanzō noticed and asked, “Whose rickshaw is that?,” Naoya, as can be imagined, appears to have been dumbfounded. “Mine,” he said, which led to his arriving a bit late at the theatre, where he spent the rest of the day.

He didn’t pay the rickshaw fee himself, nor knew how much it would cost to hire an inn-affiliated rickshaw for half a day. His stepmother, who kept it a secret from his father, Shiga Naoharu, is said to have paid the fee on the sly. His seat at the Kabuki-za was arranged for him beforehand in the middle of the hiradoma section by an usher named Ginjirō, and he sat there through the fourth piece on the program. (From Agawa Hiroyuki, Shiga Naoya, in Zusho, December 1987.)

The master himself wrote:

This was Godaime’s (Kikugorō’s) final stage appearance, for which he played Benten Kozō. As far as I remember it, I went with Hayashi from the second time on, and when I saw it for the third time, I was able to remember not only his dialogue but the way Benten Kozō’s handled his pipe. The first piece on the program was Hakkenden, with Danjūrō as Inuyama Dōsetsu, the next was Takatoki, with Danjūrō’s disciples (deshi) as the tengu goblins, who obviously cared about their master instead of engaging in acting. However, when Takatoki first leaned against a pillar and said something, he was really excellent.

 In another piece, the seventh act of Taiheiki Chūshin Kōshaku, Danjūrō played Jūtarō and Godaime was his father Kinai but his body resisted and, when he had to descend from the upstage platform to the stage proper, he used a low screen to help him slide down the steps. (From Shiga Naoya, “Kabuki Hōdan,” in Shiga Naoya Zenshū, Vol. 7.)

As expected, Danjūrō couldn’t defeat his age. Perhaps it was a failure of memory, but as Inuyama Dōsetsu he is said to have babbled his dialogue incoherently. Because of his disability, Kikugorō had to make various changes in the staging, including the way his hanamichi entrance and exit were handled. Instead of acting the scene in the Hamamatsuya dry goods shop, it was performed in the shop’s warehouse.

As the actors began their exit, the stage slowly started to revolve beneath them until the side of the Hamamatsuya was seen at stage left, with a board fence running across the stage. “The stage was supposed to be taking place at evening-time with a girl seen returning from the baths, a husband and wife strolling by, etc. The same basic business as in a traditional performance was enacted but it took place on the main stage as the actors slowly made their way off at the right.” (From Samuel L. Leiter, The Art of Kabuki: Five Famous Plays.)

They engaged in the scene’s customary game of “The Priest Carries the Bag” (Bōzumochi), in which Benten and his buddy, Nango Rikimaru, played by Ichimura Kakitsu, choose who gets to carry their bundle, but instead of Benten getting stuck with the load, Nango ended up with it.

Kikugorō’s Benten Kozō in the program’s domestic drama was very interesting. Kakitsu, who later became Uzaemon XV, played Nango Rikimaru, but at the time a scandal in which Kakitsu had been involved was in the newspapers, and Kikugorō used the pretext of their being in a play to scold him in his [partly improvised] dialogue, which made Kakitsu turn red and behave apologetically. With his uncle, Godaime, thus admonishing him onstage, the newspapers couldn’t very well keep criticizing Kakitsu, which felt good. The scandal had to do with an incident at an inn at Ōmiya Park so Kikugorō’s reprimand began when he said, “Otowaya [the yagō or “house name” of the Kikugorō line]—,” continuing with “Ōmiya—,” laughter erupted here and there among the audience. (From Shiga Naoya, “Yume ka,” in Dan-Kiku Sai Rokugatsu Ōkabuki: Kabuki-za Sujigaki.)

Benten was the last role ever acted by Kikugorō. On December 5, two days before the scheduled closing, the star had a relapse and he was forced to stop performing, thereby ending the run, which had only mediocre attendance, at 23 days.

On November 28, kyōgen actor Yamamoto Azuma (Yamamoto Tōjirō I), of the Ōkura school, passed away at 67.

From December 10, Tamura Nariyoshi presented a performance by Shinbashi geisha called “Kabu Engei Kai” (Song and Dance Entertainment Group,” which occupied the Kabuki-za for seven days. This month, on the 16th, the Encyclopedia Britannica (Daiei Hyakka Zensho) went on sale (in monthly installments) at the Nihonbashi Maruzen Book Store. On the 24th, writer Takayama Chogyū, only 32, died. On the same day, there was an outbreak of plague in Tokyo.

In 1902 the hisashigami hairstyle was popular among upper-class women and female students. In sports, ping pong became popular in Japan. The Shiseidō Pharmacy in the Ginza added Japan’s first soda fountains in 1902, selling soda water and ice cream; this was the origin of today’s Shiseidō Parlor, one of the Ginza’s famous attractions.

For world events of 1902, including births and deaths, click here. For a limited number of important new plays, click here. And for international theatres of 1902, click here. In addition, this was the year that Gorki’s The Lower Depths opened at the Moscow Art Theatre, and when Shaw’s Mr’s Warren’s Profession premiered in London. France’s George Méliès made his classic film A Trip to the Moon in 1902, American Owen Wister published his Western novel, The Virginian, Joseph Conrad publishes Youth and The Heart of Darkness, Rudyard Kipling publishes Just So Stories, Henry James publishes The Wings of the Dove, France’s André Gide publishes The Immoralist, and photographer Edward Steichen’s Rodin with His Sculptures and The Thinker represent the photo-secessionist movement. 

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