Kikugoro-family Genealogy

Genealogy > Onoe Kikugoro VI

An Unparalleled Actor Known as the God of the Theatre

Onoe Kikugoro VI image 獅子の精「鏡獅子」
Onoe Kikugoro VI image 勘平「忠臣蔵」
Onoe Kikugoro VI image 新三「髪結新三」

Onoe Kikugoro VI (1885-1949)

Onoe Kikugoro VI was born at the second home of Kikugoro V at Hama-cho in Tokyo's Nihombashi ward on August 26, 1885.

He appeared on stage for the first time on May 22, 1886 when he was only ten months old in the joruri play Hatsunobori Kashiwaba-gasane at the Chitose-za theatre. He succeeded to the name Onoe Ushinosuke III at the Shintomi-za theatre in May 1891. As was mentioned in the article on Kikugoro V, he played Sankichi in Koi Nyobo Somewake Tazuna in May 1892, the year after he assumed this new name, with Danjuro appearing in the role of Shigenoi.

In June 1897 he appeared at the age of thirteen in the role of the jester (taikomochi) in Act VII, Gion Ichiriki no Ba (Ichiriki Teahouse Scene), of Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers). Danjuro, who appeared in the same presentation in the role of Yuranosuke, kept a close watch on the young actor's performance from behind the scenes and remarked to Onoe Shosuke IV, who was playing the role of Ono Kudayu, that he would love to give the young actor a thorough training in dance. As a result of this, Kikugoro and his younger brother Eizo (later to become Bando Hikozaburo VI) regularly visited Danjuro's home in Tsukiji to receive a thorough grounding in dance, often spending their summers at Danjuro's villa in Chigasaki.

The month after the death of Kikugoro V in 1903, Danjuro acted in accordance with the instructions contained in Kikugoro V's will and, having persuaded his colleagues, he arranged an accession ceremony at the Kabuki-za theatre the month after Kikugoro V's death at which Eizaburo assumed the name of Baiko, Ushinosuke assumed the name of Kikugoro VI, and Eizo assumed the name of Eizaburo.

Located in Nicho-machi, the Ichimura-za theatre was run by Tamura Nariyoshi, who came up with the idea of putting together a theatrical presentation around Kikugoro VI and Nakamura Kichiemon I. This was the start of the so-called Nincho-machi era, which extended from November 1908 through the Taisho era to 1927 at the start of the Showa era. Kikugoro VI specialised in the sewamono dramas that he had learned from Kikugoro V while Kichiemon performed a series of historical dramas on the model presented by Danjuro.

Kikugoro VI's elder brother Baiko V, who was a proprietor of the Teikoku Theatre, died in 1934, followed soon after by the death of his younger brother Bando Hikozaburo in 1938. Kikugoro VI gradually came to occupy a position at the centre of the Kabuki world following the deaths of several leading actors including Kataoka Nizaemon XII, Namakura Ganjiro I, Ichikawa Chusha VII, and Sawamura Gennosuke IV.

The theatre critic Atsumi Seitaro wrote in his book Rokudaime Kikugoro Hyoden (Critical Biography of Kikugoro VI) that 'by around 1936 Kikugoro had established an unchallengeable position in the theatrical world. He had in reality become the king of the theatre.' It seems likely that the theatrical style of the deified Kikugoro VI attained its definitive form at this time and was recognized to have done so by audiences and critics.

In October 1945 Kikugoro VI appeared at the Teikoku Theatre in Kagami-jishi and Ginza Fukko (Renovation of Ginza, based on a libretto by Kubota Mantaro), and in December 1946 he appeared for the first time in the opening performance of the season at the Minami-za theatre in Kyoto. The performance included several items in which Kikugoro VI excelled such as Domomata, Bunshichi Mottoi, Suo-otoshi and Kagami-jishi. Although the performance was packed out, years of excessive activity took their toll and the actor began to suffer from high blood pressure caused by kidney disease. His final stage performances took place at the Togeki Theatre in 1949, when he played the roles of Matsuomaru in Terakoya (The Village School, Act VI of Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, The Secret of Sugawara's Calligraphy) and Umekichi and Kumataka Dogen in Mekura Nagaya Umega Kagatobi (The Wicked Masseur and the Fire Department).

He suddenly collapsed during a tempura party that he attended with friends on the evening of July 3 and became confined to his bed. On July 6 he summoned Baiko VII, who had postponed shooting a film in Kyoto to be at the great actor's bedside, and spoke to him as follows: 'Hey, Seizo! [Baiko's real name] You're supposed to be appearing in a film, aren't you? Aren't you going yet?' In response, Baiko said that he had postponed his appearance, to which Kikugoro took him to task, saying: 'That's ridiculous. You know full well that the stage is a battlefield for an actor. It's the same with the movies. Once you've taken on a job, you must take full responsibility for seeing it through.' (Quoted in Ume to Kiku)

Onoe Kikugoro VI died at 37 minutes past midnight on July 10 at the age of 64.

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