Monday, November 13, 2017

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA (1889-1911): Chapter 20. 1906 (Meiji 39)

Chapter 20

1906 (Meiji 39)

When Prince Arthur of Connaught Saw a Kabuki Play about Will Adams

[Note: This is Chapter 20 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 has been 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 and answered translation queries during the preparation of this and all previous entries. Corrections and documented additions are welcome.]

Funeral services for journalist/politician/playwright/producer Fukuchi Ōchi were held on January 8, 1906. The sky that day was bright from morning on, and it was unusually warm for mid-winter. At 1:00 p.m. the coffin emerged from Fukuchi’s home in Atago-chō and headed straight for Shiba’s Zōjōji Temple along the tramline route. A Kabuki-za pennant was flying, as were others noting the name and positions of the deceased, as both real and artificial flowers glowed beautifully in the sunlight while lively crowds packed the way. [From Oyama Fumio, Meiji no Isai Fukuchi Ōchi.]

Fukuchi Ōchi, born Fukuchi Genichirō and usually referred to as Fukuchi Koji (koji=a scholar), died on January 4, aged 66.

First-generation Meiji politicians Itō Hirobumi, Inoue Iwao, and Itagaki Taisuke were joined by such second-generation figures as Katsura Tarō and Hara Takashi, along with Diet members, journalists, literary personages, publishers, military and naval officials, and such theatrical stars as Onoe Kikugorō VI, Ichikawa Danjūrō IX’s adopted son, Horikoshi Fukusaburō, Ichikawa Yaozō, and Ichikawa Ennosuke. Also there were masters of the Fujima school of dance and the kiyomoto and tokiwazu schools of music, not to mention scenic master Hasegawa, prop master Fujinami, various front of house personnel, and the proprietors of various Shinbashi geisha houses. It was truly a small world representing a gathering of all social classes.  Over 2,000 mourners made this one of the age’s grand ceremonies. [Same source.]

The first Kabuki-za program of 1906 began on January 14, the initial offering being six scenes from Meiboku Sendai Hagi, in which Onoe Baikō VI played Masaoka for the first time, and Nakamura Kichiemon and Onoe Kikugorō alternated daily as Arajishi Otokonosuke, the aragoto hero in the famous cellar scene. Then came Ichikawa Yaozō, Ichimura Uzaemon XV, and Sawamura Tosshō in Gion Sairei Shinkōki (“Kinkakuji”), which was followed by Enomoto Torahiko’s adaptation of a work by Murai Gensai, Sake Dōraku (Lost to Drink). The show closed with the new nagauta dance, Takarabune Haru no Hatsuyume, which replaced the seven gods of the traditional Japanese treasure boat with seven men (shichinin otoko) dressed as chivalrous commoners (otokodate) lined up in Suruga-chō rather than on the boat.  This appearance was part of a publicity campaign for the Mitsukoshi clothing firm. 
Street postet for the January 1906 production at the Kabuki-za. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-shi.
The running time was overlong; it was the middle of winter yet it ran past 10:00 p.m. and earned complaints from uncomfortable patrons. The run, which closed on February 7, just barely made it to 25 days. The Kabuki-za’s resident playwrights were now Enomoto Torahiko, Takeshiba Takaji, Hama Masagosuke, Kema Teiji (later Kema Nanboku), and Segawa Jokō.

January 1906 also saw the publication of tanka poet/novelist Itō Sachio’s popular love story Nogiku no Haka (The Wild Daisy) in the literary magazine Hototogisu; the story later was adapted for several movies. Shimamura Hōgetsu, who became one of the founders of Japan’s modern theatre, became editor-in-chief of the literary journal Waseda Bungaku this month. On the social front, the Salvation Army began offering free housing to the unemployed homeless and offering introductions for them to prospective employers. And in politics, the cabinet of Prime Minister Katsura Tarō was replaced by that of Saionji Kinmochi.  

In February, the Shōchiku Unlimited Partnership Company rented the Naka-za in Osaka’s Dōtonbori entertainment district and began producing kabuki there with a company headed by Nakamura Ganjirō I. Beginning on February 10, for three days, Tokyo’s Kabuki-za produced fundraising performances sponsored by the Kyōbashi Patriotic Women’s Association (Aikoku Fujin Kai) to help disabled veterans. Over at the Meiji-za this month Kawakami Otojirō’s company presented Yamagishi Kayō’s translation of Maeterlinck’s Mona Vanna.

A group of writer/scholar Tsubouchi Shōyō’s young followers that came to known in 1905 as the Ekifūkai (Society for the Betterment of Manners) now called itself the Bungei Kyōkai  (Literary Society); its nominal head was Ōkuma Shigenobu and its promoters included Shimamura Hōgetsu, Tōgi Tetteki, Tsuchi Shunsho, Kaneko Umaji. On February 17, the Bungei Kyōkei offered an opening ceremony, at Shiba Park’s Momiji Kan, for what was the beginning of shingeki (“new theatre”), Japan’s modern, Western-style theatre movement. Ōkuma was the person in charge. Present among the guests were three important actors, Ichikawa Sadanji II, Ichikawa Danko (later Ennosuke II), and Kawakami Otojirō. The program included Imoseyama (Mt. Imose), based by Nagai Kūgai on the bunraku/kabuki play Imoseyama Onna Teikin, using scenery painted in the Western style and Nara-period language. The bill also presented Tsubouchi’s revolutionary history drama Hototogisu Kojō no Rakugetsu and his dance play Shinkyoku Urashima (New Urashima).

On February 24, there was a glittering gathering at the Kabuki-za in honor of the visit to Japan of Prince Arthur of Connaught, there to present Emperor Meiji with England’s highest honor, the Order of the Garter. Important business leaders in attendance included Shibusawa Eiichi, Masuda Takashi, Togawa Ryōhei, and Kondō Kanehira. Algernon Bertram Freeman (A.B.) Mitford (Lord Redesdale), distinguished Japanologist and diplomat, accompanied the prince and wrote a book about the visit in which he said of this event:

As soon as dinner was over we all, including the Imperial Princes and Princesses, drove off to the Kabukiza or Opera Theatre, where the business men of Tokyo had organised a theatrical entertainment in honour of Prince Arthur and of the Nichi-Ei-Dōmei, the Anglo- Japanese alliance. This was a very brilliant affair. The decorations were quite magnificent, the flags of the two countries being, of course, conspicuous everywhere. An immense box, taking up the opposite the stage for the use of the Princes and Princesses; and the body of the hall, what we should call the pit, was crowded with notable men and their wives. [From A.B. Mitford, The Garter Mission to Japan.]

Mitford, who had served in Japan as a British diplomat during the early Meiji period returned as a principal member of Prince Arthur’s entourage because of his deep knowledge of Japanese customs, even consulting on court practices that had since gone out of use. His description of the prince’s legation was published that year in London. He had served as secretary to the British legation in Japan from 1866-1870 and served as the interpreter when Queen Victoria’s second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, became the first member of European royalty to visit the country, where he was received by the teenage emperor. This was Mitford’s second visit to Japan. 
February 24, 1906, Miyako Shinbun article about the visit of Sir Arthur of Connaught. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-shi.
In August 1905 the second Anglo-Japanese Alliance treaty had been signed drawing the two nations closer together so Prince Arthur’s visit was intended to further their mutual friendship.

In addition to the Kabuki-za’s resident company, actors seen by the prince included Nakamura Shikan and Ichikawa Komazō of the Tōkyō-za, the latter appearing at his both home theatre and the Kabuki-za that month as per the practice of kakemochi. Opening the program was Masuda Tarō Kaja’s new play Mukashi Gatari Nichiei Dōmei (The Anglo-Japanese Alliance), about a real-life English sailor-adventurer Will Adams, who lived in Japan during the early 17th century. Then came the Soga brothers’ revenge play Youchi Soga, which was followed by a new dance play, Chōkokushi no Yume (The Sculptor’s Dream). Mitford wrote of the first play:

The story of the play was based upon that of Will Adams, whom the Japanese call Anjin, "the Pilot," as a fitting subject for an entertainment designed to celebrate the alliance; and the second act gave an opportunity for the introduction at Anjin's marriage of a troop [sic] of the most famous geishas of the city, who performed a new dance and song composed in honour of the Wakamiya—the " young Prince." I annex translations of the story of the play, the programme of the dance, and the song made by our hosts.
. . .
Act I. Scene 1. Locality—By the sea-shore at Hemi in Soshu,Period—Autumn in the year 1609.Autumn flowers are blooming, and between the rocks waves are seen raging. On a rock in the centre of the stage Iwai Tetsunojo, a ronin (unattached samurai) of Osaka, stands holding the girdle of Otsu, a young girl who is gazing distractedly in the direction of the sea.

Giheijij father of Otsu, has gone to look for her brother who has been absent for many days on a fishing expedition, and the girl, fearing that her father also is in danger,was endeavouring to put out in a small boat to his rescue when the ronin Iwai interfered. This ronin is in love with Otsu, but being a man of bad character (one of a band by whom the people of the vicinity are much oppressed) he has been unable to obtain her father’s consent to their union. He now restrains Otsu from her desperate undertaking; points out to her that a boat managed by one weak woman could not possibly live in such a sea, and declares that the punishment of heaven has now overtaken her father for refusing her lover's suit. Otsu angrily repels him, and asks whether she could ever become the wife of a man who urges her to desert her father in his extremity. Iwai, rendered desperate by her resistance, threatens to use his sword, and is forcing her to accompany him when Anjin (Will Adams), attracted by the noise of the struggle, runs up and separates them. Iwai reviles him as a foreigner, and warns him that his life will be the cost of interference. But Anjin replies that all nations alike recognise the duty of the strong to succour the weak. Iwai attempts to cut him down, but Anjin gets the better in the struggle and Iwai flies. Anjin then, learning the cause of Otsu's trouble, leaps into the boat she had intended to use and succeeds in saving her father, who, on recovering from his swoon, tells her that all hope of her brother's life must be abandoned. Father and daughter then express profound thanks to Anjin, and, in the course of the ensuing conversation, they learn from him that if they are grieving for the loss of a son and brother, he has been nine long years lamenting his separation from his family in England, and is now rejoicing in the thought that a Dutch vessel has reached Hirado, and that he will be able to return to his country forthwith. He then insists on aiding Giheiji, who has not yet recovered from the effects of his immersion. But on the way they are attacked by a band of ronin with Iwai at their head; Anjin is seized and bound, and although Otsu and her father offer to take his place, the ronin carry him off.
Scene 2. Neighbourhood of the same place: Prince Tokugawa lyiyasu [sic] approaches riding in a “norimono” (palanquin), and with a large retinue of samurai. Giheiji runs up desperately and prostrates himself in front of the procession. He is quickly followed by Otsu, and father and daughter vie with one another in calling aloud for assistance. To present a petition direct to the Shogun being a capital crime, Giheiji and Otsu are seized and bound by the Tokugawa chiefs [sic] retinue. But on learning their errand, lyiyasu orders their release and sends a party of samurai under Giheiji's guidance to rescue Anjin. During the absence of the samurai lyiyasu questions Otsu, and learns from her the occasion that induced her and her father to brave death for Anjin’s sake. Presently the samurai return leading Anjin, Iwai, and the latter's fellow-ronin. Iwai, questioned by lyiyasu, accuses Anjin of dealing in necromancy and producing supernatural effects; but lyiyasu replies that he himself has been Anjin's pupil in the science of Western civilization, and that when the ronin, without any due authorisation, subjected Anjin to indignity, they were guilty of a direct insult to the Shogun. They are bound in ropes and led off in custody. Anjin then asks lyiyasu as to the latter's object in visiting Hemi, and lyayasu replies that it is to solicit the continued presence of Anjin in Japan. He explains that after granting permission for Anjin to take passage home by the Dutch vessel, he reflected that to perpetuate the peace in which Japan was now rejoicing, her intercourse with foreign countries must be extended, and that the assistance of Anjin would be essential for that purpose. Anjin nevertheless declares himself unable to abandon the hope of seeing his family once more, and then lyiyasu confesses that, apprehending this difficulty, he has already sent away the Dutch ship.

He declares that his first consideration must be for the good of the country which he has been trusted by the Emperor to administer, and that he is content to incur resentment if he can be conscious of having done his duty. Anjin becomes reconciled. He declares that it is the will of heaven, and he bows to lyiyasu's frank statement that if he has subjected his foreign visitor to a hard lot, it was done because of the high esteem in which he holds Anjin's services. The Shogun then expresses a desire to make some amends to Anjin, and suggests that as Anjin is separated from his sister, and as Otsu has just lost her brother, they should endeavour to console one another.

It is finally arranged. Iyiyasu laughingly observes that a woman's hair is proverbially strong enough to bind even a big elephant, and that a Japanese girl will soften the pains of exile for Anjin. He orders that an income of 50 koku of rice shall be given to Giheiji, who, in the excess of his delight, almost forgets to express his gratitude.

Act II. The interior of the Shogun's Castle in Yedo. lyiyasu, Anjin, Otsu, Giheiji, several nobles (Daimyo), and a number of attendants and dancing-girls are present. The occasion is the celebration of Anjin's wedding with Otsu, A congratulatory series of couplets are uttered by the Daimyo, each delivering a line separately until the last, when all speak in unison. lyiyasu expresses his satisfaction that Anjin is to remain. He says that though Japan is a small country, her people mean to make her the Japan of the world, and that the ceremony of this evening shows how close East and West are after all.

Anjin and Otsu perform the prescribed rite of exchanging wine-cups, and on its conclusion lyiyasu confesses that he has still one apology to make to Anjin: the Dutch ship has not been sent away from Japan; she is still at Hirado. Does Anjin still wish to return by her? Giheiji and Otsu await Anjin's answer with much anxiety, but he declares that he will remain in Japan. The ceremony ends with a geisha dance.

The dance was called “Wakamiya” (Young Prince), and the accompanying lyrics went (in Mitford’s translation):
 “A young Prince came to the land of rising sun.Chorus—Wakamiya WelcomeYoi, Yoi, Yoiya, Sa.He is the envoy of British Lion very very highly honoured.Chorus—Wakamiya WelcomeYoi, Yoi, Yoiya, Sa.Now, the two countries unite in love for ever, and ever, and ever.Chorus—Wakamiya WelcomeYoi, Yoi, Yoiya, Sa.”

According to Mitford:

The first scene, by the seashore at Hemin, was exceedingly well managed. The waves of the sea quite seemed to break upon the shore, while the trees were waving to and fro in the wind, an effect which I never saw on the European stage. The illusion was very well kept up. The second act was of great interest, because it might be taken to give a correct representation of a wedding in the house of a personage of exalted rank.

Mitford describes the party to which the guests were ushered midway through.

At the end of the second act we were all taken to a great room upstairs, where supper was served, at which all the geishas appeared and played at waiting upon the guests. Their pretty little ways, their dainty movements and graceful manners were very charming; but unfortunately they still had on all the coat of paint on face and lips, which to our eyes is excessive even on the stage, but off it, at close quarters, is anything but determined that we should be pleased, and we were as determined as they. So all was well.

I take it that this entertainment, from beginning to end, must have been a novel experience to the members of the Imperial family, who for once broke through the bonds of Court etiquette. At any rate I think everybody enjoyed it, and nobody more thoroughly than the Wakamiya, “the envoy of the British Lion.” The business men of Tokyo may congratulate themselves on the success of a show got up with lavish expenditure of thought and money, of which all their guests will carry away the pleasantest and most grateful recollection. It was a pretty thought to choose for our entertainment the “premiere” of a piece founded on the one episode in the old history of Japan in which an Englishman could be made the hero. Let us hope that author and actors may be rewarded by a great run. [From A.B. Mitford, The Garter Mission to Japan.]

The men wore either uniforms or swallow-tailed coats while the women wore Western evening wear with deep decollates or white-collared, multicolored kimono (montsuki) with dyed family crests. The decorations inside the theatre were undertaken by Mitsukoshi, with red- and white striped fabric, bundles of fresh cedar leaves, floors of unfinished wood, gold folding screens, live pine, cherry, and plum flowers, and so on. Good feelings flowed from Prince Arthur’s arrival at 9:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m., when the gathering dispersed (although one source says this was 1:00 a.m.)

Chairs were used for seating throughout the theatre and a gas stove was provided near Prince Arthur’s seat but the Kyōbashi Station interfered and didn’t permit brazier heating in the orchestra seating so the dressed-up ladies and gentlemen had to shiver in the cold.

On February 26, Bandō Matasaburō, the Nissen Danshū (“Twopenny Danjūrō”), collapsed while acting at the Miyato-za. He was unable to return to the stage and died at 53. On February 27, Ichikawa Aragorō, a disciple of Ichikawa Danzō III, died at 74. That day also began a five-day series of charity performances at the Kabuki-za, running to March 3. It was under the sponsorship of Senge Takatomi, lieutenant governor of Metropolitan Tokyo, and an association of celebrity wives, to raise money for Tōhoku prefecture following a bad harvest season. The program included Youchi Soga, with Yaozō as Gorō and Uzaemon as Jūrō, Reppu Shikinami (The Virtuous Shikinami), starring Onoe Baikō, the kyōgen-based, tokiwazu dance play Utsubo Zaru (The Monkey Quiver), with Kikugorō as the female daimyō, and Oshi Musume (The Deaf-Mute Girl). One source, the Kabuki Nendaiki, says that the program ended with Chōkokushi no Yume.

On March 7, the Tōkyō-za gave the first full production of Tsubouchi Shōyō’s Hototogisu Kojō no Rakugetsu, starring Shikan as Yodogimi and Ieyasu and Ennosuke as Katsumoto. Also that day, a nō club called Yanō (Evening Nō) offered its first performance.

A day later, the March Kabuki-za program opened. Kataoka Ichizō, ecstatic at the safe conclusion of his son Jūzō’s military service as a sergeant proposed that the management produce a show honoring his son and 20 other actors who had served during the Russo-Japanese War. When he couldn’t arouse much interest in the idea he financed the show out of his own pocket, using the same scenery seen in the production for Prince Arthur. The bill began in mid-afternoon, at 3:00 p.m., with Oku no Kiroku (Record of Oku), a play that Miyazaki Sanmai had written for the Kyōfūkai (Japan Women’s Christian Organization), and that was revised by Kawatake Shinshichi III. Second was Gunjin Katagi (A Soldier’s Spirit), adapted by Takeshiba Umematsu from a work by a certain war veteran, and costarring Ichizō and his son, Jūzō. A dance play, Yakko Dōjōji (Footman’s Dōjōji), using tokiwazu, nagauta, and Western music ended the show; Jūzō starred. The victorious atmosphere fostered by victory in the Russo-Japanese War was still palpable and this production advertised as honoring actors who had returned from the military campaign filled the houses throughout the run. The actor-veterans themselves participated in a march organized at the Aoyama Parade Grounds for a ceremony in which the First Army honored its dead.

With this production, Enomoto Torahiko became the Kabuki-za’s head playwright (tate sakusha), the first time a writer from outside the traditional kabuki playwright (kyōgen sakusha) held this position.

March also saw the publication of Shimazaki Tōson’s Hakai (The Broken Commandment), a revolutionary novel about the burakumin pariah class; novelist Natsume Sōseki wrote to his disciple, writer Morita Sōhei, “If the Meiji period were published as a novel it would be The Broken Commandment.” On March 11, the actor Iwai Matsunosuke, 49, passed away while on tour. The same day, transfer savings accounts were introduced, while on March 14, the now highly institutionalized cleaning establishment called Hakuyosha began operating at Nihonbashi. On March 26, the Dai Nippon Bakushū (Great Japan Beer) company (predecessor of Asahi Beer) was established, and on the 31st the Railway Nationalization Act was promulgated.  

The Kabuki-za was used on April 1 for a martial arts convocation. Regular programming returned on April 11, which opened at 1:00 p.m. with Mokuami’s domestic drama Mekura Nagaya Ume ga Kagatobi, and then presented Yoshino Yama Yuki no Furugoto, a 1786 tokiwazu dance play, a.k.a. Myoto Gitsune (Husband and Wife Foxes). The closing piece was the kiyomoto dance play Modori Kago Iro ni Aikata. 

During this production, Bandō Yasosuke advanced to the name Bandō Mitsugorō VI, the formal announcement (kōjō) coming before the second play, and including Ichikawa Yaozō, Onoe Baikō, Ichimura Uzaemon, Kikugorō, and Kichiemon in the lineup. All were dressed in formal kamishimo to offer their verbal support. The new Mitsugorō’s performance as a man who reveals his true nature as a fox fitted him perfectly and showed how deserving of the new name he was. In Modori Kago Komazō was excellent as the kago bearer Jirōsaku, Uzaemon was a handsome Yoshirō, and Sawamura Tosshō as Tayori, the kamuro or courtesan’s handmaiden, also shone. The run ended on May 5, after 25 days.

April 4th saw the passing of actor Onoe Onozō, at 42. The same day, playwright Matsui Shōō left for a journey to the West. On April 15, Ichikawa Enzō II, a disciple of Danjūrō IX, died at 40. On April 16, the fastest express train began operations between Tokyo’s Shinbashi and the city of Kobe, traveling 44 kilometers per hour and making the trip in 13 hours and 40 minutes. On May 2, medical and dental practitioner laws were promulgated. 
Shinbashi Station, 1906. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-shi.
On May 6, the great musician Tokiwazu Rinchū passed away, aged 65. He was honored at the Kabuki-za by a concert of the music he’d created in October 1896 for Danjūrō IX in Yasuna, for Kodakara Sanbasō in November 1896 when the Kabuki-za’s joint stockholder company was organized, and for the 1897 production of Seki no To starring Danjūrō and Kikugorō.

On May 9, the Wakaba-Kai group of literary men cum amateur actors presented their second program, beginning at 1:00 p.m. It opened with Sugi Gannami’s Uchiumi Ochi, followed by the “Kumagai Jinya” scene from Ichinotani Futaba Gunki, and finishing with Uta Torahiko’s Kinpira Tengu Mondō (The Kinpira-Goblin Debate), done in old-school Tosa jōruri style. A critic wrote: “The house was full well before the scheduled curtain time. Their skill continues to mature and even ‘Jinya,’ so very difficult for professional actors, was performed smoothly throughout, which should show just how much these gentlemen put into this.”

On May 9, stage designer/painter Kubota Beisen died at 55. On May 23, the great Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen died. Also this month, Suzuki Miekichi published “Chidori” in Hototogisu.

June’s Kabuki-za program, which followed the recent practice of beginning at 1:00 p.m., featured Nakamura Shikan, returning nearly four years after a conflict with manager Inoue Takejirō. Opening day was May 27, beginning with Enomoto Torahiko’s new play Nantō Enjō (The Nara Conflagration), starring Shikan and Yaozō. Then Uzaemon starred for the first time as Sukeroku in the ever-popular Sukeroku Yukari Edo no Zakura, followed by Komazō making his first appearance as Benkei in Kanjinchō, a role he would play so often (as Matsumoto Kōshirō VII) it became associated with him. Then Kikugorō acted the lead in Totoya no Chawan (The Fish Shop Teacup), a shorter title for Kawatake Mokuami’s Sandai Banashi Totoya no Chawan (1882), a once-popular Meiji-period play. 
Nantō Enjō, with Shikan as the female character on the steps.From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-shi.
Since problems raised the previous year regarding Komazō’s performing Kanjinchō and Uzaemon’s doing Sukeroku were now resolved in one fell swoop, Shikan was concerned that his return after four years had little effect  on his casting, and Yaozō was angry about his seemingly secondary place on the program, even though his parts included Togashi in Kanjinchō and Ikyū in Sukeroku. So Shikan and Yaozō were placated by their roles in Enomoto’s new play only for Onoe Baikō to complain about his roles, further intensifying the managerial headaches.

A year earlier Ennosuke had gotten permission to perform Kanjinchō, which, as one of the plays in the Kabuki Jūhachiban collection, belonged to the Ichikawa Danjūrō family, by paying 500 yen for the rights. Tamura Nariyoshi, serving as the Kabuki-za’s representative, later wrote of how he got the rights to both Kanjinchō and Sukeroku, also a Kabuki Jūhachiban play:

Thus there was the matter of copyright, which last year’s story holds cost a single 500 yen payment. But I, as a way to show the value of the Jūhachiban, purposely offered four times 500 yen (2,000 yen) for each play, and Danjūrō’s widow said she’d throw in the costumes and everything else for another 1,000 yen so I avoided an aggressive bargaining dispute and happily agreed. This set the subsequent price for doing a Jūhachiban play. On the other hand, increasing the price strengthened the validity of the Jūhachiban. [From Tamura Nariyoshi, Kabuki-za Ima Mukashi Monogatari, Vol. 11: Kōmyō Jidai.]

For the first six days of the June production, the Japanese Railways Joint Stock Corporation celebrated its independence by buying seats for over 10,000 invited stockholders, with Tokyo’s foremost geisha attending to them in red aprons. This spurred business and the production was a sellout that closed on June 28 after a rare long run of 33 days. From midmonth on the teahouse men and the theatre’s ushers began the new custom of dressing in Western clothes, serving bentō lunches, and pouring tea from earthenware pots, a highly unusual sight in those days. Ushers were in black, teashop workers in gray. In the end, the production was so successful it not only covered the theatre’s deficits but allowed for a small dividend to be paid to shareholders. Starting from this program, the Kabuki-za’s longstanding sluggishness began to improve and, gradually, welcome an age of bright possibilities.

Other May theatre news included the name changing of Jitsukawa Enko to Jitsukawa Entarō (later Kawarazaki Kunitarō IV) at the Tōkyō-za. On May 2, Ichikawa Sadanji I’s disciple, Ichikawa Shōjaku died, aged 52. And on May 8, Ichikawa Sumizō V, one of Danjūrō’s leading followers, and the adopted father of the actor who would become Ichikawa Jukai III, died, aged 62.

The prosperity ushered in by the Russo-Japanese War didn’t last long. On June 7, an imperial edict established the South Manchurian Railway Joint Stock Corporation; the Japanese government capitalized it with 200 million yen, and its stock prices continued to jump. The situation changed in January of 1907 when the stocks began to decline as companies speculating on the war and small and midsize banks doing business with them started to go bankrupt.

Ichikawa Shōzō, a disciple of Danjūrō IX’s, was 49 when he died on June 6. June also witnessed the first appearance in Tokyo of the great shinpa female-role specialist Kitamura Rokurō since the founding of the Seibidan shinpa company 12 years earlier. He had been summoned by Takada Minoru, who needed someone to play a female role in Yanagawa Shunyō’s Yadorigi (Mistletoe) at the Hongō-za. His costars were Takada and Fujisawa Asajirō. Another June 1906 milestone was the publication of Sekine Mokuan’s Engeki Taisen (Theatre Encyclopedia).

From July 1 to July 4 the great dancer-choreographer Fujima Kanemon took over the theatre for a “once-in-a-lifetime” recital by his Onshū Kai (Rehearsal Company). It employed 11 kabuki traveler-curtains (hikimaku) and was a big success. This month also saw the establishment by Umeya Shōkichi of M. Pathe, Japan’s third major film company, which offered its first program at the Shintomi-za.

On July 14, at 5:00 p.m., the next Kabuki-za program commenced, with Inoue Takejirō and his brother-in-law, playwright Murai Gensai, serving as the independent producers of a “drama for the encouragement of morality” (kyōfū engeki). Murai, whose temperance drama, Sake Dōraku, had been done at the Kabuki-za in January, now oversaw the production of his Onna Dōraku (Woman Crazy), which called for ending the practice of concubinage. But the idea drew public protests, with journalistic attacks, including newspapers like the Chūō Shinbun printing headlines such as “Jōfū Engeki Otoko Dōraku” (Drama for Driving Away Immorality: Man Crazy), the first two words a play on kyōfū engeki and the rest, according to Prof. Kei Hibino, implying that indulging in men, i.e., actors, the idols of women and children, was a foolish means for improving morality. There was so much negative response that the production, which was scheduled for 20 days, closed after 17, making it a giant flop.

On August 18, a strike at the Kure naval arsenal turned violent; toward the end of the month, there was another strike at the arsenal in Koishikawa, Tokyo. On September 1, the popular cigarette brand “Golden Bat” was introduced. And, at Osaka’s Asahi-za, Iwasaki Shunka’s dramatization of Izumi Kyōka’s Tsūya Monogatari (The Vigil’s Tale) was presented. 
From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-shi.
The Kabuki-za was used on August 20 for the awarding of prizes to actors who were voted on in a national poll conducted by the Miyako Shinbun: first prize went to Onoe Eizaburō VI (later Bandō Hikosaburō VI), the runners-up being Yamaguchi Sadako (adopted daughter of shinpa actor Yamaguchi Sadao), and Ichikawa Enshō II (soon to become Sadanji II). Arriving in positions four, five, and six were Nakamura Kichiemon, Ichikawa Sakimatsu (later Ichikawa Shōchō II), and Ichikawa Ginnosuke. The program concluded with the awardees offering non-costumed dances (suodori) wearing regular kimono. From August 26 to September 1 the theatre showed movies from Paris.
From the program of the September Kabuki-za production. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-shi.
From September 8-17, shinpa star Ii Yōhō of the Masago-za produced an independent show at the Kabuki-za but, since the company itself was weak, Kawai Takeo of the Kawakami Company at the Hongō-za joined on for the ten-day gig. The first piece, which began at 5:00 p.m., was an adaptation of Alphonse Daudet’s French drama Sappho, the next was Mori Ōgai’s Tamakushige Futari Urashima, and the next was the comedy Shian no Hoka by Masuda Tarō Kaja. Attendance was good but a downturn was foreseen and the show closed after its tenth performance.

From September 19 to 25, the Kabuki-za showed two bills daily of Japanese and English films. The same month, the Meiji-za honored the three-year anniversary of Ichikawa Sadanji I’s death, with Ichikawa Enshō taking the name Sadanji II. For the occasion, he played the role of Marubashi Chūya in Keian Taiheiki. The production was a big success and was a warm payoff for the struggles he’d undergone in running the Meiji-za after his late father’s death. He then began planning an extensive trip to Europe.

The Kabuki-za Corporation’s balance sheet for the first half of 1906 showed a profit of 17,441 yen and 14 sen. Inoue Takejirō, who had been producing theatre at the Kabuki-za for 10 years, hearing that it would cost 850,000 yen to build a large theatre in Marunouchi, with business expenses amounting to 150,000 yen, said that the rising cost of managing a theatre had become so problematic he had abandoned the idea. A major Kabuki-za shareholder, he decided to sell his shares and retire from the theatre world.

During a gathering at Kagetsu, a Shinbashi restaurant, he was introduced by Miyake Hyōza to several people with deep connections to the family of the late Count Gōtō Shōjirō, among them Inoue Kakugorō, Fujiyama Raita, Okamoto Teikyū, and Ōkōchi Terutake, all distinguished men from Mita (also meaning they were graduates of Keio University) with an abiding interest in theatrical production. While holding on to the 50 shares that allowed him to remain on the board of directors, he sold the remainder of his shares, valued then at 17 yen each, at the inflated rate of 36 each. Inoue also owned the costumes and some of the privileges [whose specifics are unclear] regarding spectators in the low-priced ōmukō balcony section, where hardcore aficionados sat, but the ōmukō privileges or rights were sold to Ōkōchi Terutake while the costumes, along with house costumer Ōi Ichimatsu, were transferred to the Mitsukoshi Department Store for 20,000 yen. They became the basis for the Mitsukoshi Costume Collection. Inoue Takejirō felt greatly relieved, saying his descendants would have no connection to the theatre. He is said never to have had anything to do with the Kabuki-za again.

Meanwhile, Inoue, wanting to emulate the retirement of Kabuki-za founder Chiba Katsugorō 10 years older by going out in style, sought to invite Osaka star Nakamura Ganjirō to participate. He and Ichikawa Yaozō, with whom he was on good terms, along with Tamura Nariyoshi to serve as the negotiator, traveled to Osaka to work things out with producer Shirai Matsujirō, to whom Ganjirō was contracted. Ganjirō himself assented to going, and he thus set foot on the Kabuki-za stage for the first time in 17 years.

Nakamura Ganjirō I (1860-1935), son of Nakamura Ganjaku III, debuted at three but was soon separated from his father, who divorced his mother. He was adopted into his mother’s fan-selling family and was brought up to sell dry goods. However, at 12, he was introduced by dance teacher Yamamura Tomogorō II to the famous Kamigata actor Jitsukawa Enjaku I, and resumed his stage training. He debuted as Jitsukawa Ganjirō in 1873, while performing in Kyoto, He followed the unusual secondary path, from 1875 to 1889, of working as a puppet handler at Osaka’s Bunraku-za, using the name Yoshida Tamatarō. In 1877, he and his father, who was acting in Kyoto, were reunited for the first time in 17 years. A year later they acted together in Osaka when he took the name Nakamura Ganjirō I. He and Kataoka Gatō (later Kataoka Nizaemon XI) shared great popularity as rising young stars.  He thereafter became famous as an actor who typified the unique traditions of Kamigata.

In 1890, he took his talents to Tokyo’s Shintomi-za, where was praised as Sasaki Moritsuna, one of his best roles, in Moritsuna Jinya. Soon after, he formed his own company and returned to Kamigata, appearing in the plays of Chikamatsu Monzaemon and other playwrights of the region. He became closely associated with Shirai Matsujirō, who cofounded the Shochiku Company, and served as standard bearer for Shirai’s efforts to produce top-quality kabuki, which helped Ganjirō become king of Kamigata kabuki.

He played often in Nagoya and Kobe, as well as in Kyoto and Osaka, before returning to Tokyo for the first time in nearly 17 years in 1906. He became a leading player at the Kabuki-za, periodically returning to Kamigata, and being recognized as one of kabuki’s greatest figures. Critics said he combined the best qualities of his teachers, Jitsukawa Enjaku, Sawamura Sōjūrō, Danjūrō IX, and Kikugorō V.

Ganjirō I was outstanding as both males and females, being handsome, sexually appealing, and artistically skillful. His was considered “the face of Osaka.” His abilities lay mainly in domestic plays (sewamono), with a specialty in the gentle style called wagoto, being particularly notable in the plays of Chikamatsu, as when he played Kamiya Jihei in the “Kawashō” scene of Shinjū Ten no Amijima (The Love Suicides at Ten no Amijima). He collected his greatest roles in the Ganjirō Jūnikyoku collection, among them Chūbei in Meido no Hikyaku and Izaemon in Kuruwa Bunshō. He also was renowned for period dramas like Chushingura, in which he played both Kanpei and Yuranosuke, and as Kumagai in Kumagai Jinya. His performance in Hiki Mado was so popular it revived interest in the piece, which became a regular part of the repertory. New kabuki plays in which he excelled included Akanezome, Tōjūrō no Koi, Koi no Shio, and so on. [Adapted from my New Kabuki Encyclopedia.]

Further, Ichikawa Ennosuke, now the company head (zagashira) at the Tōkyō-za, which was on a declining path, hadn’t been able to appear at the Kabuki-za for the special production honoring Prince Arthur and longed for a chance to return to its stage. He thus joined with Ganjirō for the production, which opened on October 10.

This was the first trip to Tokyo for Shirai Matsujirō, who accompanied Ganjirō, and was an important step forward in getting Shōchiku involved in the Tokyo theatre scene. Just two months earlier, Shōchiku had gained control of Kyoto’s principal theatre, the Minami-za.

The October program opened at 11:00 a.m. on the 10th and closed on November 4. The show opened with Mokuami’s Kawanakajima Azuma Nishiki-e. The second starred Ganjirō in the “Hiki Mado” (“Skylight”) scene of Futatsu Chōchō Kuruwa Nikki, belonging to his collection of family hits, the Ohako (Eighteen Best Plays), followed by Baikō replicating Kikugorō V’s performance in Inaka Genji. Then came the “Kawasho” scene from Shinjū Ten no Amijima, with Ganjirō starring as Kamiya Jihei, and the show concluded with Ganjirō, Kikugorō VI, and Mitsugorō VII giving highly praised performances in the dance Kioi Jishi Matsuri Nigiwai. Kichiemon was unwell so he had to step down from Kioi Jishi, his role taken over by Bandō Mitsugorō.

“Kawasho” was an attraction that spectators wanted to get out and see. In disposition and attitude Ganjirō’s Jihei was a portrayal that no first-class Tokyo actor could possibly embody or duplicate. Of course, Ganjirō held a monopoly on how he seemed to be someone living in the present day, a prodigal townsman with Osaka coursing through his veins. He was 47 at the time but had this been ten years earlier it would have been all the more the case. [Kimura Kinka, Kinsei Gekidan-Shi: Kabuki-za Volume.]

A sellout, it added a day onto its run, giving 26 performances.

After Inoue Takejirō sold his shares, his responsibilities were taken up by Ōkōchi Terutake and Fujiyama Raita, officials of the huge Nippon Yusen shipping line, as well as important businessmen like Inoue Kakugorō, Okamoto Teikyū, Itō Kinsuke, Tetsuka Takemasa, and other graduates of Keiō University (then called Keiō Gijuku), with Miyake Hyōzō acting as middleman. 

Miyake thereafter took on the burden of running the Kabuki-za. He came before the board to boast of his decision to revolutionize the theatre’s interior: “You shareholders now are the so-called seven Mita men but you’re a bunch of quibblers so I’d like to ask that from the tenth we fix up the venue; if we ignore it the place will soon grow filthy and will never become the best in Japan.” Thus began the meeting, with Ōkōchi elected chairman, and Fujiyama, Okamoto, Itō, and Tetsuka elected as board members (torishimariyaku). Miyake became the official advisor, and Tamura Nariyoshi was production consultant. Others were chosen to serve in various other managerial posts, including treasurer.  

It was also necessary to select actors to become what were called “Principal Actor Members” (Kanbu Gigei Iin) and to prevent actors from performing the same month at both the Kabuki-za and elsewhere (the kakemochi tradition), including the incipient Imperial Theatre, which was just then getting off the ground. The Principal Actor Member system was conceived as a countermeasure to the Kabuki-za’s coming rival, where the actors would want to play while also performing at the Kabuki-za. The Principal Actor Members were Shikan (soon to become Nakamura Utaemon V),Yaozō (the future Ichikawa Chūsha VII), Baikō, Uzaemon, Komazō (later Matsumoto Kōshirō VII), Ennosuke (later Ichikawa Danshirō II), Tosshō (later Sawamura Sōjūrō VII), and Ganjirō, a total of eight, while the secondary (jun kanbu) members were Kikugorō, Kichiemon, and Onoe Matsusuke. Shikan was elected committee (iinchō), a title that became a nickname—“Iinchō!”—called out by fans in the ōmukō section until the end of his career. The term thus became the modern equivalent of the word zagashira to refer to an actor-manager. 

In October, Iwai Kujirō took the name Iwai Kumesaburō V at the Tōkyō-za. During the same show, Okayasu Kikujirō took his late father’s name of Okayasu Kisaburō. On October 14, master prop maker Fujinami Yohei I died, aged 78; he had been responsible for developing the craft of making stage properties in accord with the needs of modern kabuki’s development. October also saw Kawakami Otojirō’s staging of Sardou’s Patrie! (Sokoku in Japanese), translated by Taguchi Kikutei.

On October 18, at the Ginko (Bank) Club in Sakamoto-chō, the first general meeting of the Teikoku Gekijō (Imperial Theatre) Joint Stock Corporation, was held, its supporters including statesman Itō Hirobumi; this new theatre would prove to be a formidable rival to the Kabuki-za several years down the line. The committee chair was Shibusawa Eiichi, and its members included Fukuzawa Sutejirō, Sōda Heigorō, Fukuzawa Tōsuke, Hiki Ōsuke, Tanaka Jōtoku, Tetsuka Takemasa, and Nishino Einosuke.

October also saw the publication by Fusanbō of the Nihon Katei Hyakka Jiten (Japan Family Encyclopedia), and the Asahi Shinbun’s serialization until the end of December of Futabatei Shimei’s Sono Omokage (An Adopted Husband).

At noon on November 6, the Miyako Shinbun sponsored another artistic achievement awards ceremony at the Kabuki-za, honoring various musicians for specific works.  

Tsubouchi Shōyō’s Bungei Kyōkai gave its first regular performance, introduced at the Kabuki-za on November 10 by scholar Ihara Seiseien, beginning at 5:00 p.m. with the Katagiri Mansion and Nagara Riverbank scenes of Shōyō’s Kiri Hitoha, followed by Shōyō’s translation of The Merchant of Venice’s courtroom scene. It was followed by Tokoyami (Everlasting Darkness), one of Japan’s earliest operas, with libretto by Shōyō and music by actor Tōgi Tetteki. It used a Western orchestra and a chorus of over 70, with a full company of 120 performers. Forty male and female performers appeared in costumes from the Age of the Gods, with the 26-year-old Fujikage Shizue playing the role of a girl. Fujikage was a pioneer of the shinbuyō (new dance) movement, which allowed anyone who wished the chance to study kabuki-based dance, leading to the proliferation of female-dominated dance schools, of which there are nearly 170.

In The Merchant of Venice Portia was played by Dohi Shunshō (1869-1915) opposite Tōgi Tetteki’s Shylock and Mizoguchi Biyo’s Antonio, each of them a shingeki actor and each praised for his performance. The production was another milestone in the development of early shingeki.  It was the fourth Japanese production of The Merchant of Venice, the first having been in April 1885 at Osaka’s Ebisu-za (later, Naniwa-za) under the title Sakura Doki Zeni no Yononaka, a kabuki adaptation that set the story in Japan among Japanese characters. However, this program lost a lot of money, a burden Shōyō assumed himself.

Later in the month, for four days starting on November 22, the Bungei Kyōkai’s dramatic section (engeibu) was at the Hongō-za, where it offered Shōyō’s translation of Hamlet, his Daigokuden (Great Hall of State), revised by Sugiya Daisui, and his dance drama Shinkyoku Urashima. Its four days’ run showed a growing interest in the group’s work, which led Shōyō to assume direction as its artistic director.

Elsewhere this November, Tamura Nariyoshi, Kawarazaki Gonnosuke, and Takeshiba Kisui were responsible for a production at the Shintomi-za during which a memorial service was held for Morita Kanya XII, with his third son, Bandō Mitahachi being promoted to billboard status and taking the name Morita Kanya XIII during a performance of Renjishi. And, at the Hongō-za, Kitamura Rokurō starred in Kyōenroku by Satō Kōroku, who became a regular shinpa playwright following this hit. Kitamura’s performance as Bandō Takeshi became one of his most popular roles.

A charity performance of kabuki for the Tokyo Poorhouse was given for seven days, from November 24 to 30. It began with three acts of Ehon Taikōki, followed by the dance plays Fukitori Zuma and Chūjō-Hime, and concluding with Enomoto Torahiko’s comedy, Arabiya Yobanashi (The Arabian Nights). Shikan’s Mitsuhide in Ehon Taikōki was a big flop, it being said that while there were those who recommended that he play it, he was just as wrong as them in accepting it. It was also noted that while Ennosuke and Tosshō performed in pure gidayū style, Komazō, Yaozō, Komasuke, and others acted in realistic katsureki style, creating a rather poor ensemble.

On December 1, the Shōchiku Corporation purchased Kyoto’s Minami-za from Mr. Yasuda of Gifu, becoming the theatre’s producers. They renovated the place and then, calling it a Commemoration Honoring the Renovation Completion, they produced a kaomise production starring Ganjirō and Ichikawa Udanji. The same day, and through December 5, the Wakaba-Kai group of literary men cum amateur actors was absorbed by the Mainichi Shinbun, at the suggestion of Sugi Gannami. As a literary men’s theatre group belonging to a division of the company, it followed the rules to acquire a license and opened at the Meiji-za as the Mainichi Shinbun Engeki Kai (Mainichi Newspaper Theatre Association) for its first production.

Also on December 1, beginning at noon, another Miyako Shinbun awards ceremony was held at the Kabuki-za, with performances from a variety of plays from different genres although it’s not clear what the prizes were for. And from December 10 through 16, starting at 1:00 p.m., the Kokumin Shinbun sponsored charity performances for the Okayama Orphanage. The regular Kabuki-za company appeared in Ichiharano Danmari, a pantomime with tokiwazu music; the “Kuruma Biki,” “Ga no Iwai,” and “Terakoya” (with Yaozō playing Genzō opposite Uzaemon’s Matsuō) scenes of Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami; Saikai Suzuri (The Ink Stone of Saikai) a.k.a. Nasuno Yoichi; and the kiyomoto-nagauta-takemoto dance play Rokkasen.

On December 2, Ichikawa Sadanji II departed from Yokohama on the Kamakura Maru for an extended study tour of Western theatre, making him the first kabuki actor to do so. Sadanji had an enterprising spirit; fascinated by the Western travels of his close friend, the theatrical soldier of fortune Kawakami Otojirō, who urged him to go, and by what he’d learned from playwright Matsui Shōō, just then studying in Paris, he decided to go. As a bright young actor, he realized how valuable such a trip could be for the development of the modern Japanese stage. Writing in a theatre periodical, he said:

To be frank, I had earned a considerable profit from my father’s memorial production that year and, for a time, considered using it to build a statue in his honor. But then I realized that he’d be very happy in the hereafter if, rather, I used the money to travel abroad, learning about theatre. Finally, I resolved to do so. [From “Meika Shinsō Roku” in Engei Gahō, 1909, No. 11.]

On December 11, Kataoka Ichizō, a leading player of villain roles (katakiyaku) died. He was 56. On December 30, the first meeting was held of the Teikoku Gekijō (Imperial Theatre) board, led by Chairman Shibusawa Eiichi. On December 6, the Tokyo Underground Electric Railway Company was established. On December 11, a strike broke out at Osaka’s arsenal, and on December 13 the Tōkyō-za showed films rendered in natural color.

The year 1906 saw a general social and economic upturn following the Russo-Japanese War’s armistice. Partly, this was reflected in the upsurge of nouveau riches; these conditions also were reflected in the theatre. Esperanto found popularity and trumpet music was widely played. The military color of khaki was created, and the number of newborn female babies registered dropped off radically because it was a “Fire Horse Year” (hinoeuma), which comes every 60 years, with women born during such years believed to make terrible wives.

For information on world events of 1906, including births and deaths, click here. Important plays of the year are here and major theatres completed in 1906 are here.

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