Kikugoro-family Genealogy

Genealogy > Onoe Baiko VI

A Beautiful Onnagata Active Through the Meiji, Taisho and Showa Eras

Onoe Baiko VI image お軽「忠臣蔵」
Onoe Baiko VI image お富「源氏店」
Onoe Baiko VI image 揚巻「助六」

Onoe Baiko VI (1870-1934)

Onoe Baiko VI was born in Nagoya in 1870. Having studied dance with Nishikawa Koisaburo he took the name of Nishikawa Einosuke but was adopted by Onoe Kikugoro V after he had come to the actor's attention while Kikugoro was on a provincial tour.

In 1885 he appeared on stage for the first time in the role of O-Shimo in Suitengu Megumi no Fukagawa, the inaugural item performed to mark the opening of the Chitose-za theatre. In 1891 he assumed the name of Onoe Eizaburo. In 1903, following the death of his adoptive father Kikugoro, the eldest son Ushinosuke became Kikugoro VI and he assumed Kikugoro's stage name of Baiko. To celebrate his assumption of this name, he played the role of Juro opposite Kikugoro VI in a performance of Kotobuki Soga no Taimen (The Soga Brothers Confront Their Enemy) given in March at the Kabuki-za theatre.

Having undergone strict training from Kikugoro V, by the end of the Meiji era he had established a reputation as one of the foremost onnagata (female role) actors alongside Nakamura Utaemon V. In 1911 he was appointed artistic director (zagashira) of the newly opened Teikoku Theatre, a position that he occupied for twenty years. He had a beautiful natural appearance and achieved a high reputation especially for his performances opposite Ichimura Uzaemon XV, who was renowned as one of the most handsome and dashing actors of his generation. He specialised in roles in plays in the sewamono genre such as O-Tomi in Yowa Nasake Ukina no Yokogushi (commonly known as Kirare Yosa) and Michitose in Yuki Kurete Iriya no Azemichi (commonly known as Naozamurai), but he was also renowned for his performances in historical plays in roles such as those of O-Karu in Chushingura and Tamate Gozen in Sesshu Gappo ga Tsuji (Gappo and his Daughter Tsuji).

In his book Ume no Shitakaze, in which he reminisces on his art and career, he left an extremely detailed description not only of his work as an onnagata actor but also of the tachiyaku roles in which Kikugoro V excelled, costumes and stage props. As an artistic director (zagashira), he was clearly fully conversant with all the important roles and exerted control over every aspect of the stage presentation.

He alludes also to the art of Otowaya actors from the third generation onwards and in particular to how Baiko's own slender physique suited him to the roles of characters such as O-Iwa in Yotsuya Kaidan, Kasane in Iro Moyo Chotto Karimame, and O-Tsuyu in Botan-Doro which require evocation of the atmosphere of ghost stories with an old-fashioned touch.

The Nihonga painter Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1972) described how Baiko VI, clad in a yukata costume beneath a crested black silk gauze haori half-cloak visited him bearing a lotus blossom that he had cut from outside his lodgings at Mukojima. He wrote that the sight of a beautiful young onnagata actor bearing a pure lotus flower brought vividly to mind the illustrations that appear in the gazetteers of the Kabuki theatre that were published around the Genroku era in the late 17th century. This story suggests Baiko's beauty during his Eizaburo period when he specialised in young onnagata roles. He continued to concentrate on onnagata roles throughout his subsequent career.

He announced that he would be retiring after giving a final performance at a memorial ceremony to be held in honour of Kikugoro V in 1935, but he collapsed on stage at the Kabuki-za and died unexpectedly before his chosen date, in November 1934.

His eldest son Eizaburo VII, who was considered to have an illustrious future before him, was much praised for his rendition of the role of O-Karu opposite Kikugoro VI playing the role of Kanpei in Chushingura in February 1940, but he fell ill, left the stage and died.

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