Friday, June 11, 2021



Onoe Matsuya as Soga Gorō. (Photo: Shinoyama Kishin.) 

The cover for the March (#3) 2021 issue of ENGEKIKAI, the kabuki magazine of record, shows Onoe Matsuya as Soga Gorō in the celebratory Meiji-period dance KOTOBUKI TE HANAGATA HASHIRA DATE. The word hashiradate refers to the old custom of performing a ceremony to celebrate the first raising of a pillar during the construction of a new home. It was performed at Tokyo’s Kabuki-za in February. Soga Gorō is a historically-based hero who has attained mythical power in Japanese history—and especially in kabuki—because of a famous vendetta he and his brother Jūrō carried out in the twelfth century.

The issue’s leading contents (there are others), listed on the cover, are dominated by the headline at the upper left, meaning the First Show of the Year. This refers to a gorgeous section of color photos of all the major plays given in February at the Kabuki-za, the National Theatre (Kokuritsu Gekijō), the Shinbashi Enbujō, and Osaka’s Shōchiku-za. At the lower right is listed a section on the haiku poems of famous actors. At the center, bottom, are the names of four actors who offer their thoughts on February’s memorial production honoring the death thirty-three years ago of the great star Nakamura Kanzaburō XVII. To its left is the title of a section about an independently produced dance recital featuring Onoe Ukon and his Ken no Kai group. Finally, there’s a discussion between two stars, Matsumoto Kōshirō X and Ichikawa Ennosuke IV about “Zoom Kabuki.” Yes. Zoom is part of Japan’s theatre scene as well.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021


Sakata Tōjūrō. (Photo: Shinoyama Kishin.)

The cover for the February (#2) 2021 issue of ENGEKIKAI, the kabuki magazine of record, shows the late, great Kamigata (Osaka/Kyoto) actor, Sakata Tōjūrō IV, who died last year at 89. As the headline on the lower right demonstrates, the issue has a large, lavishly illustrated section celebrating and describing his brilliant career as a specialist in the wagoto style of gentle, young men, and charming, beautiful young women, as seen in the photo of him as Ohatsu, the Tenmanya courtesan in Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s classic double suicide play, Sonezaki Shinjū (The Love Suicides at Sonezaki).  

Other materials headlined on the cover (the issue contains even more) are reviews of the January productions at the Minami-za, Kabuki-za, Kokuritsu Gekijō, and elsewhere; a piece on the Hakata-za theatre; the latest in actor Matsumoto Kōshirō’s series, “Kōshirō’s Thousand and One Nights”; and a report on the debut of child actor Ogawa Taisei, son of actor Nakamura Baishi.

Finally, there’s a large section devoted to an overview of the world of kabuki in 2020, subtitled “Looking Back on an Unprecedented Year.”


Wednesday, May 19, 2021



Onoe Kikugorō VII in Migawari Zazen. Photo: Shinoyama Kishin.
This is the cover for the #1 (January) 2021 issue of ENGEKIKAI, the monthly magazine that serves as the organ of record for the Japanese theatre art of kabuki. Most of its numerous photos and factual data pertain to November 2020’s productions, when Covid-19 continued to restrict the number of performances and the size of attendance. The cover photo shows veteran star Onoe Kikugorō VII as the leading man in the comical dance play, Migawari Zazen (“The Zen Substitute”), first produced in 1910 at Tokyo’s Ichimura-za, and dealing with a man who tries to deceive his wife regarding his being out all night with his paramour. It is closely based on a kyōgen farce called Hanako, whose original style is reflected in the adaptation of a noh/kyōgen-style stage setting. This places the piece in the category called matsubame mono, or “pineboard plays,” because of the pine tree painted on the upstage wall of the neutral, non-localized setting. The production represented here was done at Tokyo’s Kabuki-za this past November.

The biggest headline, at the right, is for the issue’s main section, about the coming reopening, during the pandemic, of Kyoto’s Minami-za with the annual December celebratory production called “Kaomise” (“face-showing”), in which a lineup of top Tokyo stars tour to Kyoto for the occasion. During the Edo period (1603-1868), the kaomise was typically a production given in the eleventh month by each theatre to introduce that season’s acting team to the public. The Minami-za had been closed since March 2020, so it’s reopening was a big deal, although, because of Covid protocols, there were to be three daily programs (each different), instead of the usual two, and for a mere two-week run. Kabuki theatres normally offer one or more new programs each month for around 25 days.

Other contents mentioned on the cover (which is only a partial list of what’s inside) include an archival article of particular interest because it recalls another time when the Minami-za’s kaomise was restricted due to external circumstances. This piece, which can be translated as “The Kaomise during Air Raids,” notes that the programs at the Minami-za in November 1943, during World War II, were shortened to 19 days out of caution regarding possible air raids. The article describes the two 1944 programs (daytime and evening), including photos of three plays.

Also in the issue are well-illustrated interviews with actors Kataoka Nizaemon, Kataoka Hidetarō, Nakamura Ganjirō, Nakamura Senjaku, Nakamura Kōtarō, Matsumoto Kōshirō, and Nakamura Ichitarō. There is a memorial to the recently deceased kabuki superstar Sakata Tōjūrō, who would be honored at the upcoming kaomise; reviews of the previous month’s productions; a survey of October and November events in the theatre world; and the latest in the series by popular actor Matsumoto Kōshirō, “Kōshirō’s Thousand and One Nights.” The banner for “Kabuki Actors Calendar” at the left is for the gift calendar sent to subscribers with this New Year’s issue.

Saturday, April 3, 2021


Matsumoto Hakuō II. (Photo: Shinoyama Kishin.)

The cover for the December issue of ENGEKIKAI, the kabuki magazine of record, shows Matsumoto Hakuō II as the sumo wrestler Chōgorō in the “Sumō Scene” of Futatsu Chōchō Kuruwa Niki (Chōgorō and Chōkichi: Diary of Two Butterflies in the Pleasure Quarters) as produced at the Kabuki-za last October. This is the same character seen on the cover of the November 2020 issue, which I recently posted, but from another scene. As per the cover headlines, the issue again leads with a section on how several actors feel about performing at this time, the actors covered here being Nakamura Kaishun, Nakamura Karoku, and Nakamura Shidō. There is a new installment of Matsumoto Kōshirō X’s long-running series, “Kōshirō’s Thousand and One Nights,” “Trends in September-October Theatre,” reviews of October’s kabuki, a reprinting of archival materials from 1946 about touring Japan with kabuki, right after the war, and a lengthy obituary about the late Onoe Kikujūrō IV, who died last September at 88.

Friday, April 2, 2021

ENGEKIKAI, #11 (November 2020)


Nakamura Kichiemon II, Photo: Shinoyama Kishin.

Sorry for the delay, partly due to slower mail service from Japan during the pandemic, and partly because I’ve been so busy with other things, but here, at last, is the cover of ENGEKIKAI, the kabuki magazine of record, from last November, 2020 (#11). After a bit, I’ll post other recent issues as well. Theatre activity, of course, has slowed considerably during Covid-19. 

On the cover is Nakamura Kichiemon II as the sumo wrestler Chōgorō in the “Hikimado” (“Skylight”) scene of Futatsu Chōchō Kuruwa no Nikki (Chōgorō and Chōkichi: A Diary of Two Butterflies in the Pleasure Quarters), performed last September at the Kabuki-za. 

The chief article headlined on the cover is about how actors are feeling about performing at this particular time, covered in illustrated discussions with three stars, Matsumoto Hakuō, Nakamura Baigyoku, and Nakamura Shikan. Other selected highlights mentioned on the cover are reviews of last September’s limited productions; a section on kabuki productions given independently of the mainstream by important actors over the years; trends in last August and September’s theatre world; the latest in the series called “Kōshirō’s Thousand and One Nights,” by star actor Matsumoto Kōshirō X; and an essay with photos of Nakamura Kichiemon II’s special performance last August at Tokyo’s Kanze Nōgakudō noh theatre of a solo dance-drama called Suma no Ura (Suma Bay), derived from the classic history play Ichinotani Futaba Gunki, and performed in noh style. Its one performance was filmed with no audience present. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

ENGEKIKAI (No. 10, October 2020)

Ichikawa Ennosuke IV in Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura. Photo: Shinoyama Kishin.

Apologies for the delay in posting covers from Engekikai (Theatre World), Japan’s kabuki magazine of record. Postal restrictions stemming from the coronavirus are to blame. The issues themselves are less robust, of course, because of the limits placed on production over the past year. Two more issues recently arrived, closing out 2020. This cover is for October 2020 issue, #10. It shows the “Yoshinoyama” scene from Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura, starring Ichikawa Ennosuke IV as Satō Tadanobu, in reality Genkurō the fox.


While the issue has many other things in it, the headlines on the cover point to several of its leading articles. The biggest headline, at the right, is for “The Opening of Young Stars [Hanagata] Kabuki in August,” a series of commentaries by fifteen of the actors involved. At the left is mentioned an interview with the great star Nakamura Kichiemon II. Headlines at the bottom point to an essay on “Zoom Kabuki,” the streaming of kabuki productions during the pandemic; a transcript of the September “earphone guide” to that month’s productions at the Kabuki-za, a service inspired by the limitations on audience attendance in the wake of Covid-19; August and September theatre trends; the next installment in actor Matsumoto Kōshirō’s long-running series “Kōshirō’s Thousand and One Nights”; and the reprinting of an old essay about Nakamura Kichiemon I, one of the greatest stars of the first half of the twentieth century.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

ENGEKIKAI (Nos. 8 and 9: August and September 2020): COVER AND CONTENTS

Kabuki Woogie is devoted to a variety of kabuki-related subjects. It began with a series of essays, including photos and videos, of a research trip to Japan in 2010, subsequently added my 25-chapter history of the first Kabuki-za, and then began a series of covers of and selected photos from Japanese books about kabuki from my collection. 

Kabuki Woogie also posts monthly covers of the kabuki magazine ENGEKIKAI, as here, with details on their contents, and, when available, essays by guest contributors, including papers delivered at conferences and the like.

One can poke around in its archives to find past posts.

Photo: Shinoyama Kishin.

As per the shipping delays from Japan caused by the pandemic (outlined in my last  Kabuki Woogie posting), my copy of Engekikai, a combined issue of numbers 8 and 9 (more Covid-19 collateral damage), arrived three months after being mailed. Its cover picture is a rather unusual one, showing a kabuki performance being produced for a videotaped presentation. In it, Matsumoto Kōshirō X performs the role of Yuranosuke in Kanadehon Chūshingura, while sharing the stage with a video camera, at the right, and a masked stage assistant (kurogo) at the left. The performance was streamed as “Zoom Kabuki.”

The major section of the issue, headlined at the upper left (“Kokoro ni Nokoru Meibutai”), is devoted to 30 writers recalling their greatest memories of kabuki. Each gets an illustrated two-page spread, the remembrances including such things as the Benkei in Kanjinchō performed by Ichikawa Danjūrō XII at his 1985 name-taking (shūmei) performance, or the quick-change of Kataoka Nizaemon in Sakaya. Another big section covers the reopening of kabuki (under limited circumstances) during the plague, with comments by star actors Kōshirō, Ennosuke, Ainosuke, Kankurō, and Shichinosuke. Another piece covers theatre trends of the midyear months, May through July

There also are interviews with Ichikawa Ennosuke and Onoe Kikunosuke, a conversation between actor Nakamura Ichitarō and Onoe Ukon, and the latest in the ongoing series, “Kōshirō’s Thousand and One Nights.”