Tuesday, February 27, 2018

THE FIRST KABUKI-ZA (1889-1911): Chapter 23. 1909 (Meiji 42)

Kabuki Woogie began in 2011 as a way to record a research trip to Japan I took on a Mellon Fellowship a year earlier. My day to day experiences on that trip, including videos and photos, can be found at the beginning of the blog. For the past couple of years, Kabuki Woogie has been used to post entries based on my research into the first Kabuki-za, Japan’s leading kabuki playhouse, founded in 1889, and still on the same site. It continues to be extremely successful, albeit after multiple reconstructions.

Samuel L. Leiter

Chapter 23

1909 (Meiji 42)

The Jiyū Gekijō  Is Born

[Note: This is Chapter 23 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.

Each chapter includes not only data on the Kabuki-za but information regarding each important theatrical development of the specific year, including non-kabuki genres such as shinpa, shingeki, and so forth. Also cited are the major cultural and political developments of each year, as well as notifications of the deaths of important figures, mainly theatrical but often from other fields as well.

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 always welcome.]


1. January and February

January was unusually active in the Kansai area theatre world, dominated by the rising Shōchiku producing company. For one thing, the Asahi-za, in Osaka’s Dōtonbori entertainment district, which Shōchiku had acquired the previous November, offered its first production under their aegis, with a troupe led by Jitsukawa Enjirō I (later Jitsukawa Enjaku II), Nakamura Naritarō I (later Nakamura Kaisha I), Arashi Rikaku IV, and Kataoka Gadō IV (later Kataoka Nizaemon XII). The Asahi-za thereupon became closely associated with Enjirō’s artistry. 
The Asahi-za. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi
Meanwhile, at the nearby Naka-za, there were name-changing celebrations for Ichikawa Udanji, who became Ichikawa Sainyū, and his son, Unosuke, who changed to Udanji II. And, at Kyoto’s Minami-za Nakamura Ganjirō’s second son, Hayashi Yoshio, became Nakamura Senjaku I. 
Osaka's Bunraku-za, in Yotsunobashi. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
In 1908 and 1909, the artistic rivalry of Kansai’s Jitsukawa Enjirō and Nakamura Naritarō excited as much interest as that between Tokyo’s Nakamura Kichiemon and Onoe Kikugorō.

On January 1, the rebuilt Kotobuki-za, a representative koshibai or minor kabuki theatre, reopened in Tokyo’s Honjo ward. On January 19, the great Kanze shite actor Umewaka Minoru died, aged 82.

In the literary world, January 1909 was important for witnessing the first issue of the new periodical Subaru (The Pleiades) and for the flourishing of the Pan no Kai writers’ club, mentioned in the previous chapter; it was grounded in the antinaturalistic theories of Kinoshita Mokutarō, Yoshii Isamu, Kitahara Hakushū, Takamura Kōtarō, and Ishikawa Takuboku. Their opposition was represented by Natsume Sōseki’s disciple, Morita Sōhei, who, having figured in a scandalous double suicide attempt the previous year, recounted it in his autobiographical novel, Baien (Smoke), which now began its serialization.

At the Kabuki-za, the year’s first production got underway at noon on January 14, the first piece being by Nagoya journalist Nakahara Shigetsu, Muneyuki Kyō (Lord Muneyuki), an Osaka Asahi Shinbun prizewinner. Then came the popular dance Shunkyō Kagami Jishi, which was followed by Sato no Harugi Azami no Ironui, one of several formal names for the fan favorite best known as Izayoi Seishin, whose romantically involved title characters were played here, respectively, by Onoe Baikō and Ichimura Uzaemon. Closing the program was the dance drama Kongen Kusazuri Biki.

Danjūrō IX’s daughters, Ichikawa Suisen and Ichikawa Kyokubai, were in the program, cast in Kagami Jishi in an unusual break from tradition. Normally, this piece is performed to display the virtuosity of a male actor who dances the court lady Yayoi in the first half, exits, and then reappears as the spirit of a raging lion. In this staging, however, Yayoi was played Suisen and the court page Haruji was taken by Kyokubai, with the lion danced in some performances by Ichikawa Komazō VII (later Matsumoto Kōshirō VII) and in others by Ichikawa Ennosuke I.

Regarding Muneyuki Kyō:

It was called a new work but little about it felt new, and the critics couldn’t put their fingers on what made it a thousand-yen play; it was universally panned. At any rate, famous artist Murata Tanryō’s well-researched sets and costumes were exquisite, and they made it worthwhile as a Kabuki-za script. [From Kimura Kinka, Kinsei Gekidan Shi: Kabuki-za Hen.]

There was so little movement overall in the play that someone teasingly called “sitting drama” (zageki). Ultimately, what stood out in the program was the romantic combination of Uzaemon’s Seishin, which he had learned in each detail from his late uncle Kikugorō, and Baikō’s sensually attractive Motome. Still, none of the program’s 25 days were sold out by the time it closed on February 7.

Nakamura Heizō III became the Kabuki-za’s lead nagauta singer this month, and Kineya Eizō became lead shamisen player. The lineup of kyōgen sakusha or “resident playwrights” at the Kabuki-za was now Enomoto Haritsu, Segawa Jokō, Takeshiba Kinsaku, Takeshiba Shōō, Takemoto Takaji, Takeshiba Kamesaburō, and Takeshiba Kōji.

In February, the Pan no Kai’s Renaissance man Kinoshita Mokutarō published his Nanbanji Monzen (Before the Christian Church). And a landmark moment in modern Japanese theatre occurred this month when Osanai Kaoru and Ichikawa Sadanji founded the Jiyū Gekijō (Free Theatre), which would have its premiere production in November.

February 1909 marked the seventh anniversary of the death of Kikugorō V, so his sons, Onoe Baikō, Kikugorō VI, and Onoe Eizaburō planned a memorial production (tsuizen kōgyō) in his honor. The initial plan was for a 10-day program sponsored by and featuring the family’s Otowaya guild, but producer Tamura Nariyoshi stepped in so that the Kabuki-za’s March program would do the honors for the great star. The family and the theatre would each share in the proceeds and thus allow the Kabuki-za’s resident leading actors to participate.

The idea was for Kabuki-za president Ōkōchi to advance the production funds, pay a percentage to the brothers, cover the salaries of the other actors, and use the profits to fund a bronze statue of Kikugorō V, with the program noting the brothers’ intentions alongside their names.
Nakamura Shikan V as Ofune, Ichikawa Ennosuke I as Tonbei in Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
The production opened at 1:00 p.m. on February 27, with a bill drawn from the standard repertoire. It began with Kagamiyama Gonichi Iwafuji (Mirror Mountain and the Latter-Day Iwafuji), Tsuruya Nanboku IV’s revision—further revised by Kawatake Mokuami in 1860—of the 1782 revenge drama Kagamiyama Kokyō no Nishiki-e, here titled Ume Yanagi Sakura no Kagazome (Kaga-Dyed with Plum Blossoms, Willows, and Cherry Blossoms). Baikō played Iwafuji’s ghost in the weird “Kotsuyose” (“Bone Assembling”) scene for the first time. In the next play, Baikō and Kikugorō appeared as sisters Miyagino and Shinobu in 1780’s Gotaiheiki Shiraishi Banashi, another revenge play. It was followed by Nakamura Shikan and Ichikawa Ennosuke in their first performances, respectively, of Ofune and Tonbei in Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi, while the final piece starred Komazō and Danjūrō IX’s daughters, Suisen and Kyokubai, in the dance drama Tsumoru Koi no Yuki no Seki no To, usually called just Seki no To (The Barrier Gate).
Nakamura Shikan V as Onoe II and Onoe Baiko VI as the ghost of Iwafuji in Ume Yanagi Sakura no Kagazome. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
A model of the planned Kikugorō statue stood outside the Kabuki-za to boost audience interest. Half the profits from the 20-day run went to the three brothers, and it was decided to build the statue in Fukagawa Park. There was a feeling that Kataoka Nizaemon and Ichikawa Sadanji at the Meiji-za had been bested, enabling the Kabuki-za to boast for the moment of its relative success.

2. March and April 1909



On March 1, the Morinaga Company, founded in 1899, began selling chocolate. The same day, novelist Nagai Kafu’s book Furansu Monogatari (Tales of France) was suppressed while Kitahara Hakushū’s pathbreaking poetry collection Jashūmon (The Heretics) was published. On March 20, the famed Goryō Bunraku-za, Japan’s foremost puppet theatre troupe—with its star chanters Takemoto Setsunodaijō and Takemoto Koshijidayū, and puppeteer Kiritake Monjūrō—having been unable to overcome a downturn in business, was acquired by the rapidly rising Shōchiku Corporation. Also in March the magazine Nōgaku Gahō (Nō and Kyōgen Illustrated News) began publication.

The next Kabuki-za program was produced to honor the 300th death anniversary of renowned military hero Katō Kiyomasa (1562-1611), a supporter of Tokugawa Ieyasu. It opened on April 1. First up was Fukuchi Ōchi’s 1897 Otokodate Harusame Gasa, followed by Enomoto Torahiko’s new plays Seishō-kō (Kiyomasa’s Buddhist name) and Hana no Ueno no Homare no Ishibumi (A Stone Monument Beneath the Flowers of Ueno), with the closing piece being Masuda Tarōkaja’s comedy Nyōbō no Kokoroe (A Wife’s Rules).
Otokodate Harusame Gasa with Ichikawa Ennosuke I as Tetsushinsai, Nakamura Shikan V as the courtesan Katsuragi, and Ichimura Uzaemon XV as Gyōu. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.

The following touches on the situation regarding the choice to revive Fukuchi’s play:

When the previous Kabuki-za program was produced, company president Ōkōchi gathered the stars and said he’d like them to leave the choice of plays and casting for April to him without any complaints from the actors. He said that if they agreed he’d shoulder the loss, no matter how many thousands of yen it took, and that regardless of the damage the actors wouldn’t suffer from it. Not one actor objected and the production went ahead according to this plan.

Four or five days later Harusame Gasa was announced. Apart from Uzaemon being cast as Gyōu, the other roles were assigned only to actors who had played them with Danjūrō IX. Strictly speaking, though, there might have been a complaint about Uzaemon’s casting. However, since an agreement was in place to prevent any complaints, even if there was grumbling in the wings, no one said a thing openly and the show went off without a hitch. [From Kimura Kinka, Kinsei Gekidan-Shi: Kabuki-za Hen.]

The new play, Seishō-kō, written to celebrate Kiyomasa’s life, starred Ichikawa Komazō as the title character, whose historical circumstances he was said to have studied extensively. The result, however, was that the play and his acting were criticized for having made hasty conclusions. However, the publicity clicked and, in recognition of sold-out success throughout the 25-day-run, the theatre hung a white banner in front of the curtain every day, reading, “Today, too, we gratefully thank you for a full house.” There were even enough profits for the Kabuki-za to contribute 3,000 to a Kiyomasa memorial fund.

April was notable for the visit to Osaka’s Naka-za of Konstantin Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theatre partner, Vladimir Nemirovich Danchenko. The Meiji-za instituted a box office for buying tickets and hired women to staff it. The Mitsukoshi Department Store formed a youth orchestra. The famous Nakamura-ya bakery in Shinjuku went into business. And, on April 11, the so-called “Japanese Sugar Incident” (Nittō Jiken) occurred. This was a major corruption scandal involving employees of the Dainippon Seitō (Great Japan Sugar Manufacturing) Company who were arrested along with veteran members of the Diet on bribery charges.


On April 24, the important shinpa actor Fujisawa Asajirō’s actor-training center (Haiyū Yōseijō) in Tokyo’s Ushigome section offered its first public performance: Kakumei no Kane (Revolutionary Bell). 

3. May through September 1909

On May 1, the Bungei Kyōkai founded its theatre research institute, with temporary quarters in a private house at Ushigomi, Yochōmachi; classes were held there from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. On May 10, Futabatei Shimei, famed author of Ukigumo (Floating Clouds), died at 46 of tuberculosis in the Bay of Bengal while on his way home from Russia as a correspondent for the Asahi Shinbun. And on June 2, the Kokugi-Kan (National Sport Arena) sumō arena was opened in Tokyo’s Ryōgoku district.

From May 1 to May 3, the Kabuki-za was used for a fundraiser on behalf of the Dai Nihon Bujutsu Kōshū Kai (Greater Japan Martial Arts Training Society). From May 20 to 23, the Engei Kai gave its second program, under the sponsorship of Engei Gahō magazine. The performers included geisha from Shinbashi, Akasaka, Nihonbashi, Shitaya, Kayamachi, etc.; there were recitals by various famous musicians of different traditional schools; and the dances were by kabuki actors, including Morita Kanya, Ichikawa Ennosuke, Ichikawa Danko, and Kataoka Jūzō.

A year earlier, 1910, aging star Ichikawa Danzō had scored a big success during his invited visit to the Kabuki-za, so President Ōkōchi, recalling the profits he earned, decided to invite Danzō back to head the June program. Opening day was June 3, at noon, the program beginning with three acts from the great history drama Ehon Taikōki, “The Banquet,” “Badarai” (“The Horse Trough”), and Act 10’s “Amagasaki Kankyo” (“The Amagasaki Cottage”). Since only the last was usually performed, this was an unusual lineup. Danzō’s Mitsuhide was supported by Shikan’s Misao, Yaozō’s Harunaga, Uzaemon’s Hisayoshi, Ennosuke’s Satsuki, Sōjūrō’s Hatsugiku, and Kikugorō’s Jūjirō.
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It was followed by Fukuchi Ōchi’s Onna Kusunoki (The Female Kusunoki), starring Nakamura kShikan. Then came Segawa Jokō III’s romantic domestic drama of 1853, Yowa Nasake Ukina no Yokogushi, best known as Kirare Yosa after its hero, “Scarface Yosa(burō),” It starred Ichimura Uzaemon XV as Yosa and Onoe Baikō VI as Otomi, roles with which they’d long be identified. Closing the bill was the three-part dance sequence, Setsugetsuka (Snow, Moon, and Flowers), accompanied by tokiwazu and nagauta music: the dances offered were the Shin Kabuki Jūhachiban’s Nakakuni, Sagi Musume (The Heron Maiden), and San Ningyō (Three Dolls), which included the actresses Ichikawa Suisen and her sister, Ichikawa Kyokubai. 
Setsugekka at the Kabuki-za, June 1909. Left, Ichikawa Komazō as Nakakuni, left center, Ichikawa Kyokubai, right center, Ichikawa Suisen, right, Nakamura Shikan V. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Fauvist painter Kimura Sōhachi (1853-1958) wrote in his memoir:

In the fall of Meiji 42, the year we moved from Kaminarimon to Asakusabashi, the Jiyū Gekijō (Free Theatre) was founded. It was 1909. In June of that year there was a long-awaited revival at the Kabuki-za of Uzaemon’s Kirare Yosa, beginning from the “Kisarazu” scene in which Yosa falls in love at first sight with Otomi. My family and I went to see it, sitting in an orchestra box (masu). I wore a serge kimono for this visit and can still feel the material continually itching my belly button. It was my first time wearing such grownup “silk-serge” clothing. [From Kimura Sōhachi, Tōkyō Konjaku Chō.]

Just before the production Danzō, who was planning to play a “once-in-a-lifetime” performance of the colorful supporting role of Kōmori (“Bat”) Yasu in Kirare Yosa, abandoned it and was asked to play only Mitsuhide; however, the 74-year-old actor, while projecting a splendid presence, was hoarse, couldn’t be heard beyond the audience in the pit, was wobbly on his feet, and gave a disappointing performance. Onna Kusunoki was a relic of Danjūrō IX’s noble-minded efforts and not a soul could refrain from yawning during its performance. Uzaemon’s Scarface Yosa scored highly; with Onoe Matsusuke joining him in his own “once-in-a-lifetime” portrayal of Yasu, the production was considered peerless. Even though Danzō’s work was not highly regarded, his popularity was such that his fans came out to see him anyway, and the program ran its full 25-days with profitable results.

In June, Osaka’s Dōtonbori district Asahi-za held a performance commemorating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the historically important shinpa company, Seibidan, which made important advances in realistic acting through the work of Takada Minoru and Sudō Sadanori. Seibidan had actually been founded at Osaka’s Kado-za in 1896, and its name was abandoned two years later even though the company lived on under the name Shin Engeki (New Theatre). On June 6, Osaka onnagata Kataoka Saemon died at 40. On June 25, Japan’s first movie magazine, Katsudō Shashin Kai (Motion Picture World), began publication.

On June 26, the first president of the Kabuki-za, Inoue Takejirō, died at 61.

Inoue himself produced 65 shows at this same theatre. His last production was in October 1906, when he invited Osaka star Nakamura Ganjirō to head the program. But he was stricken with bladder cancer, became unable to handle his duties running the theatre, handed all his responsibilities over to Ōkōchi Terutake, and retired.

After retiring, he sold all the costumes he owned to the Mitsukoshi firm and, with his family, opened a tai miso (seabream flavored miso soup) shop on the Ginza.

He was an unsociable sourpuss, not easily nodding his head when greeting people. The only people he admired were his brother-in-law, Gōtō Shōjirō, and Danjūrō IX; as for others, they were sons of bitches, blockheads, or jerks. The actors he liked were Yaozō, Kichiemon, and Uzaemon, while he despised Kikugorō V, Shikan (the later Utaemon V), after which he hated the plays of Fukuchi Ōchi.

If one had to note what was special about him it would be his extreme frugality with regard to profitable plays. He spent money like water on losing shows. When buying something he would definitely drive a hard bargain but when it came to something for his own pleasure he wouldn’t take a penny off its price. [From Kimura Kinka, Kōgyōshi no Sekai.]

And Tamura Nariyoshi wrote:

v  The Kabuki-za’s Ōkōchi-san, saying that although Inoue-san no longer was associated with that theatre, he had founded its corporation, and continued to be concerned about its fortunes for a long time. He therefore deserved be sent off in as grand a style as possible. So from that point, Miyake [Hyōza]-san, Kimura Matsujirō, and I arranged things with the Kabuki-za’s teahouses, dekata ushers, backstage crew, musicians, the headmasters (iemoto) of the various performance schools (ryūgi), the wig, prop, and costume personnel, as well as the staffs of the Tōkyō-za and Ichimura-za. Of the actors, Shikan and Uzaemon sat in one horse-drawn wagon, Baikō and Kikugorō in another, Komazō and Kichiemon in a third, Yaozō and Miyake-san in a fourth, Ennosuke and Sōjūrō in another, with additional carriages carrying luminaries like Count Gōtō, Inoue Kakugorō, etc. There were hundreds of real and artificial floral arrangements, and I recall a dozen or more birds being set free.

Ø  Really? That’s surprising. A non-theatre person’s funeral is a matter of indifference to theatre people. This was the work of Ōkōchi-san, wouldn’t you say? [From Tamura Nariyoshi, Musen Denwa.]

June also saw Shinjuku’s Nakamura-ya bakery enjoy great success with its Russian bread. On June 23, Shitateya Ginji, boss of Tokyo’s pickpockets, was arrested.

Many years later, Kawatake Shigetoshi, one of Japan’s best-known theatre historians, wrote in his memoirs:

I haven’t had a chance yet to speak about this to anyone, but Nagai-san [Nagai Kafū, who became one of Japan’s foremost writers] hoped to be adopted as a son into the Kawatake Mokuami family. It was 1909 or 1910. Ichikawa Sadanji II purposely visited the Mokuami home (the Sadanji and Mokuami families had a longstanding relationship) to inform them of Nagai-san’s aspirations. He seems to have said that he was not making any particular recommendation. However, my adoptive mother was an extremely forceful person and immediately rejected the proposition. [From Kawatake Shigetoshi, Zuihitsu Gyūho Shichijū Nen.]

This might be something of a Kafū “secret” but Kafū, who in 1900 had served at the Kabuki-za as an apprentice playwright (see the 1900 chapter), began in June to publish monthly translations and explanations of French Symbolist poetry in Subaru, which quickly unfurled its banner favoring the school of aesthetic decadence. On the other hand, novelist Natsume Sōseki, began serializing his novel Sore Kara (And Then . . .) in the Asahi Shinbun through October, creating a model for novels about intellectual heroes from the “idle intelligentsia” (kōtō yūmin).

The following passage comes from Sōseki’s Sore Kara, in which Daisuke is the hero:

Then Umeko turned to him and said, “Dai-san, you’re of course free today?”

“Well, yes, I’m free,” answered Daisuke.

“Then please go to the Kabukiza with me.”

As he listened to his sister-in-law’s words, a certain sense of comedy rose swiftly in Daisuke’s head. But today he lacked the daring to tease her as usual. To avoid any complications, he put on a casual expression and said good-humoredly, “Fine, let’s go.”

Then Umeko asked back, “But you said you’ve already seen it once.”

“Once, twice, it makes no difference. Let’s go.” Daisuke smiled at Umeko. . . .

Between acts, Nuiko would turn to Daisuke and ask him strange questions. Questions which, in fact, were usually unanswerable. Why was the man drinking sake from a wash tub? Or, how could a priest become a general? Umeko laughed every time she heard Nuiko. Daisuke suddenly remembered a review he had seen in the paper two or three days ago by a certain literary figure. According to the article, Japanese plays so abounded in fantastic plots that they were difficult for the audience to follow. When he read this, Daisuke had thought that if he were an actor, he would not care to have people like that come to see him. He said to Kadono that to scold the actor for what the playwright had done was as foolish as wanting to hear Kojirō’s jōruri recitation in order to know Chikamatsu’s works. Kadono, as usual, had said oh, is that right? [From Natsume Sōseki, Sore Kara, trans. by Norma Moore Field.]

Daisuke longs for Michiyo, the beautiful wife of his friend, Hiraoka, but Daisuke’s brother and sister-in-law have set a trap for him at the theatre by arranging for him to meet a young woman of their acquaintance. Nuiko’s questions relate to the June Kabuki-za program starring Danzō in Ehon Taikōki, in particular to Mitsuhide in the “Badarai” scene and to Hisayoshi in the Act 10 scene. Sōseki’s writing here describes the kind of social intercourse that transpired at the Kabuki-za during performances. And the “certain literary figure” mentioned is Sōseki himself, whose critical essays, “Meiji-za no Shokan o Kyoshi-kun ni Towarete” (“Questioned by Kyoshi [Takahama] about My Impressions at the Meiji-za”) and “Kyoshi-kun e” (“To Kyoshi”), in the Kokumin Shinbun (May 15, 1909; June 15, 1909).

In July, Ōkōchi, concerned about a business falloff at the Tōkyō-za, in Kanda’s Mizaki-chō, ever since Shikan returned to the Kabuki-za, initiated a plan he’d been considering of creating a theatre “trust” by signing a three-year contract to control the Tōkyō-za, where shinpa performances had been gaining attention. He began an interior renovation of the Kabuki-za and, on July 1, opened a program featuring all the theatre’s second-ranking actors, but with Danzō as the attraction. It included Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami’s “Kuruma Biki” and “Terakoya” acts; the dance play Renjishi; Chikamatsu’s Yari no Gonza; and Ōmori Hikoshichi. It was performed only once, being defeated by the oppressive heat and the renovation scaffolding.

The only other Kabuki-za offering in July was a three-day movie competition, from July 15-17, with two programs daily.

July saw internationally-famed actress Kawakami Sadayakko’s acting school, the Joyū Yōseisho, taken over by the incipient Teikoku Gekijō (Imperial Theatre) as its resident actress-training institution. July also was when the great writer Mori Ōgai published, in Subaru, the first part of Vita Sexualis, his highly controversial, autobiographical novel inspired by his sexual thoughts since the age of six. It created a scandal and sales of the offending issue were prohibited. On July 5, the Yoyogi Parade Grounds were newly established. On July 6, the annexation of Korea was decided at a cabinet meeting. On July 31, a major conflagration burst out in the northern part of Osaka.

On August 14, a huge earthquake erupted in Shiga Prefecture.

The Kabuki-za was closed throughout August and September for even more renovations, including its exterior. But an important theatrical event occurred in September when Ichikawa Sadanji II revived the long dormant Kabuki Jūhachiban play Kenuki (The Tweezerks) at the Meiji-za, with strong critical approval. Sadanji's accomplishments would hereafter include reviving forgotten old classics and creating new staging for them. He did this while also championing modern drama, thus achieving the best of the old and the new. In resuscitating Kenuki he had the help of playwright Oka Onitarō on the script, with Torii Kiyotada designing the costumes and sets, based on his research, and that of others, including scholars and critics like Ihara Seiseien. A similar approach would be used the following year for Sadanji's revival of Narukami. Today, we think of these two plays as long established members of the Kabuki Jūhachiban but, in actuality, what we see now are works created in the late Meiji period.


September also witnessed Osaka’s Asahi-za offering a production honoring the 25th anniversary of the death of Jitsukawa Enjaku I. On September 4, Takeshiba Manji, resident playwright at the Masago-za, died. Also this month, the Bungei Kyōkai completed its theatre studies institute, constructed on the grounds of Tsubouchi Shōyō’s home; there were 22 students enrolled.
This is a poster--titled Tōkyō Haiyū Tōhyō Banzuke (Tokyo Actors' Poll Poster)--listing the results of a poll ranking all Tokyo actors in 1909. It covers actors at six theatres, the Kabuki-za, the Meiji-za, the Tōkyō-za, the Ichimura-za, the Hongō-za, and the Shintomi-za. The actors are ranked according to the sumo terms of ōzeki, sekiwake, komusubi, and maegashira. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.

4. October through December 1909

In October, Danzō, Baikō, Uzaemon, Komazō, and Matsusuke remained at the Tōkyō-za while the Kabuki-za decided to cover their absence by inviting Ganjirō from Osaka to star. Tamura Nariyoshi went to Osaka to negotiate for his services with Shirai Matsujirō, one of the twin brothers heading Shōchiku. The last time Ganjirō came to Tokyo to perform he accepted his prearranged earnings in an envelope (tsutsumigane) but now that he was under contract to Shirai he was to be paid a percentage of the profits (bukōgyō). With this substantial agreement, Ganjirō and Shirai went to Tokyo at the end of September. It represented Shōchiku’s first incursion into Tokyo. On the outside, Tamura gave the impression that he was satisfied with the deal but in his heart he wasn’t pleased, wondering how such a young and inexperienced man could make such impertinent demands.

When Shirai and Ganjirō boarded the train for Tokyo on September 26, Danzō, Baikō, Uzaemon, and the others had moved to the Tōkyō-za. Ganjirō wasn’t happy to hear that the remaining stars at the Kabuki-za had formed a company. Shirai protested to Tamura that this was a breach of contract and was on the verge of cancelling Ganjirō’s appearance but Tamura managed to calm the situation down and bring the situation to an amicable conclusion and Shōchiku was thereby enabled to make its inaugural bow in Tokyo.

Opening day was October 3, at 11:00 a.m. The program: 1) Enomoto Torahiko’s new play Kiyogashima Musume no Ikenie (The Girl’s Sacrifice at Kiyogashima); 2) Ōmi Genji Senjin Yakata, a.k.a. Moritsuna Jinya, starring Ganjirō; 3) Sanzen Ryō Omoni no Shukutsugi, which was used by Kataoka Jūzō to announce his assumption of the name Kataoka Ichizō IV; 4) Ganjirō and Shikan in Koi Bikyaku Yamato Ōrai; and 5) Shinobi Yoru Koi no Kusemono, starring Kikugorō and Kichiemon.
Nakamura Ganjirō I and Nakamura Shikan I as Chūbei and Umegawa in Koi Bikyaku. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
Ganjirō’s Moritsuna was appreciated for its considerable realism, even its bloodiness, and was the standard of the day. Likewise, his Chūbei in Koi Bikyaku demonstrated his Kamigata expertise in wagoto roles, this one being the best of them all; its blend of kata handed down from Sawamura Sōjūrō and Jitsukawa Enjaku made it close to perfect. Tokyo’s critics oohed and aahed with appreciation as if seeing the real thing for the first time. The program achieved a rare level of success for the time, completely crushing the Tōkyō-za. But it also seems to have established a sense of ongoing distrust on the part of the Kabuki-za toward Ganjirō and Shirai.

Critic Atsumi Seitarō later wrote:

When it came to this, Tokyoite Tamura Nariyoshi was one of those who knocked Shirai with comments like, “How about that Kansai hick,” setting a tone of disparagement in everything he said. The production was a hit so Shōchiku had to be paid a percentage of the profits. Shirai was staying in Tsukiji at the Suimeikan. Tamura went there and, while he needed only to settle the bill with a check, purposely paid it off with a 50 sen silver coin. This was really petty Edokko behavior. It was because he’d been beaten by Shōchiku. Even Shirai was furious about it.

I think that, until then, Shōchiku was indifferent about getting involved in Tokyo but when Shirai saw this he decided to let nothing stand in his way to become a Tokyo producer. He took the 50 sen silver coin insult calmly and went directly to confer with Nakamura Denkurō [IX], the father of the present Nakamura Shikaku [II]. At the time, Denkurō ran the Shintomi-za. The two negotiated privately and Shirai paid directly in cash to buy the theatre. They didn’t want the Kabuki-za to know about it so they registered the sale in the distant Itabashi part of town. The Kabuki-za went ignorantly about its business while Shōchiku then bought up Tsuchiya’s Hongō-za and Ii’s Meiji-za. Meanwhile, I and other Tokyoites grew angry at the Kabuki-za’s stupidity. [From Atsumi Seitarō, Shibai Gojūnen.]   

Thus did Tamura and Shirai have a direct confrontation. And Shirai, thinking to give Tamura tit for tat by buying up the debt-burdened Shintomi-za, had his brother, Ōtani Takejirō, come to Tokyo where the two decided to make that city’s theatre world their base of operations.
 
The Shintomi-za in 1909. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
According to Ōtani’s reminiscences, there seem to have been episodes like this:

Uzaemon XV was crazy about the naniwabushi singing of Kumoemon, so he found time every day to take a break and go over to listen to him at the Shintomi-za. Without fail, he’d step into his lucky sandals at the Saru-ya teahouse at the front of the [Tōkyō-za] and cross the tram-tracked street. When he entered the door I’d be seated to its left in the box-office. One day, knowing me somewhat from Kyoto, Uzaemon, with twice anyone’s charm and an innocent smile on his face, said to me: “Ōtani-san. It’s about time you began working at the Kabuki-za. I’ll know if you stay quiet.” [From Tanaka Jun’ichirō, Ōtani Takejirō.]

Midway through the October production, Ōkōchi Terutake, president of the Kabuki-za, died of cancer.

The descendent of a socially prominent family, Ōkōchi nonetheless joined the Kabuki-za, gained expertise in producing, and became its president, died of cancer. A bright student at Keiō University, he studied abroad after graduating. On returning to Japan he joined a mail boat company and became a top executive. He should have become a leading businessman but he had an inborn love for theatrical art, while also being crazy about movies and horseracing. He envisioned a large movie company in Asakusa and appears to have been planning a theatre syndicate.

Terutake was the uncle of Viscount Ōkōchi. Despite his lack of mobility in one leg, he was a regular visitor to and connoisseur of the geisha world. Large numbers of geisha always awaited his visits to the Kabuki-za, intruding on his office. He also was well-versed in the arts, had once been a hope of statesman Itō Hirobumi, played a precious jade flute, and was admired by the public. After succeeding Inoue Takejirō as the Kabuki-za’s president, he was associated with 17 productions and never once put the theatre in debt but, regrettably, left behind no significant theatrical achievements when he died on October 9, 1909, at the age of 56. [From Kimura Kinka, Kōgyōshi Sekai.]
*** 
v  So, tell me about the conditions and route that day.
Ø  First off, there was a cortege of carriages carrying artificial natural bouquets and birds; leading politicians Prime Minister Katsura Tarō and Ito Hirobumi; gifts from Yamagata’s imperial advisors (genrō); various cabinet ministers, beginning with Minister of Transportation Gotō; geisha house entertainers; teahouse servants; shamisen case carriers; chivalrous commoners (kyōkaku); and countless carriages bearing family, friends, executives from every company, the Kabuki-za managerial staff, advisors, myself and Miyake [Shūtarō] as reporters, after which came Shikan and Ganjirō, Baikō and Yaozō, Komazō and Uzaemon, Danzō and Kūzō, Kikugorō and Eizaburō, Ennosuke and Sōjūrō, with Danko, Karoku and Kichiemon; with additional carriages holding innumerable sumō wrestlers, Tokyo’s leading geisha rolling crystal rosary beads between their fingers, laudably following in attendance. Well, Mr. President seems to have been on quite good terms with them.
v  You shouldn’t be making fun of him.
Ø  It goes without saying that all the city’s theatres were represented, the Kabuki-za, of course, but also the Ichimura-za, the Tōkyō-za, and so on. The route ran from Atago-chō to Shinbashi terminal where it crossed Hōraibashi and went straight to Miharabashi, from which it proceeded to the front of the Kabuki-za. Then from Zaimoku-chō it went from Nishinaka Dōri straight to Manseibashi. From there it moved to Onarimichi, and from beside Ueno’s Shinobazu Pond it went to the Yanaka funeral hall where a ceremony was held. The coffin seemed to have already been brought there from when the cortege passed before Itō Matsuzaka in Shitaya. Large crowds of sightseers lined the route.
v  Thank you very much for all that. Of course, people turned out thinking they could see the actors but there’d never be such a funeral for someone from a mail boat company or a Diet member. Such was the influence of the president of the Kabuki-za. [From Tamura Nariyoshi, Musen Denwa.]

To handle the problem of replacing him as Kabuki-za president, the board held a special meeting on October 24 at which three members, all alumni from Keiō University, were elected: Inoue Kakugorō, Fujiyama Raita, and Okamoto Teikyū, the arrangement being for the position to remain open with the three men sharing the president’s responsibilities on an alternating basis. Iita Sanji was dismissed from his job as consultant, Kawai Shinji and Sakamoto Shōzō became consultants, Miyake Hyōza became general manager, and Tamura was in charge of production.

This October saw the passing at age 52 of Morikawa Yahei, who had assumed responsibility for Meiji-za productions on the death of Ichikawa Sadanji I. October also was when naturalistic novelist Tayama Katai published his novel Inaka Kyōshi (Country Teacher). On October 11, the businesses owned by Mitsui, Japan’s then richest family, were reorganized as a Mitsui-controlled holding company, and Mitsui Ginko and Mitsui Bussan became joint stock corporations. On October 26, leading statesman Itō Hirobumi, 69, was assassinated in China at the Harbin Station. 
The funeral procession through Sekigahara for Itō Hirobumi. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
In November, high school girls’ reading came under official scrutiny and such magazines as Bungei Kurabu (Literary Club), Shin Shosetsu (New Novels), Joshi Bundan (Girls’ Literary World), Fujin Gahō (Women’s Illustrated Gazette), and Tōkyō Pakku (Tokyo Puck) were proscribed.

On November 11, a milestone in modern Japanese theatre was established when Osanai Kaoru and kabuki actor Ichikawa Sadanji II, disregarding the latter's previously failed attempts to introduce modern Western-style drama to Japan, created the Jiyū Gekijō (Free Theatre). He and Osanai, a young playwright/director who previously had belonged to Ii Yōhō's company, and who had gone abroad to study Western drama, saw eye to eye on their ideals. 

They offered their first trial performances on November 28 and 28 with Mori Ōgai’s translation of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Bjorkman at the Yūraku-za. The production included mostly kabuki actors, with Sadani as Bjorkman, Sawamura Sōnosuke as Gunhilde, and other roles taken by Ichikawa Sumizō (later Ichikawa Jukai III), and Ichikawa Danko (later Ichikawa Ennosuke II/En'ō I), all of whom, however, were still amateurs when it came to this kind of acting. The company produced eight more programs, mainly translations of foreign plays, through 1919.
The Jiyū Gekijō production of Ibsen's John Gabriel Bjorkman, November 1909. Ichikawa Sadanji II (right) as Bjorkman. From Kabuki-za Hyakunen-Shi.
With his patron Ōkōchi dead, It was rumored that Ichikawa Komazō would leave the Kabuki-za and run to the Meiji-za but Tamura Nariyoshi stepped in. Since the November production already had been planned, he tactfully suggested to the actor that, rather than foul the nest he was about to leave, why not stay and do one more production, playing the great role of Yuranosuke in Kanadehon Chūshingura?

Thus on November 16, at 11:00 a.m., the new program opened with that play, presenting everything from the prologue to Act 7. Also on the program was Kamakura Sandaiki and, as the closer, the tokiwazu dance play here called Meisaku Hidari no Kogatana (The Famous Play of the Left-Handed Short Sword). Komazō’s first performance of Yuranosuke was only physically impressive, Danzō’s villainous Moronao didn’t live up to expectations while, naturally, Uzaemon and Baikō scored strongly as Kanpei and Okaru in Act VI. In Kamakura Sandaiki Shikan was immaculate.

The production aimed to make a contribution to a shrine honoring Ōishi Kuranosuke, the historical figure on whom Ōboshi Yuranosuke was based but, with low turnout, the show closed after only 20 days.

On November 14, theatre critic Yamada Shuntō died at 49. On November 25, the Tōkyō Asahi Shinbun began a literary and arts column featuring writers such as Abe Yoshishige, Abe Jirō, Morita Sōhei, Suzuki Miekichi, and Komiya Toyotaka, who were part of the Seinen Daigaku Ha (Young University Faction).

On December 5, Komazō transferred to the Meiji-za, leading to the Kabuki-za’s board of directors stripping him of his membership in its star status (kanbu) group, a decision made known to everyone associated with the actors. Also this month, Nagai Kafū’s publishing his story Sumidagawa (The River Sumida) in Shin Shosetsu and Reishō (Derision) in Tōkyō Asahi, where they were serialized through February 1910. And on December 27, Yoda Gakkai, Chinese literature specialist and theatrical reformist, died at 77.

In 1909, 470 people in Tokyo owned automobiles. Popular things this year included a kind of women’s kimono underskirt worn for protection from the cold, and songs about bicycles and high collars. Kerosene heaters and improved ovens began to be advertised. Plays about the 47 samurai were popular this year in both Tokyo and Osaka, while people flocked as well to shinpa plays about adultery. Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar’s play Liliom premiered this year and André Gide published Strait is the Gate (La Porte Étroite).


For world cultural and political events of 1909 see here. For international theatrical events click here






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