Books for Becoming Better Acquainted with Otowaya

Index > Onoe Kikugoro VI, Gei (Art)

Book image

Onoe Kikugoro VI, Gei (Art)

Kaizosha, 1947

Discussing His Art

Gei, by Kikugoro VI, consists of three main sections Rokudaime no Shumei (Succession to the Name of Kikugoro VI), Ichimuraza Koshinkyoku (March of the Ichimura-za Troupe), and Enshutsu Kuden Showa (Tales of the Oral Transmission of Theatrical Production).

Rokudaime no Shumei begins with stories related to his succession at the tender age of nineteen to the name of Kikugoro following the death of Kikugoro V and after an on-stage announcement (kojo) by Ichikawa Danjuro IX. The play in which he made his debut under his new stage name was Kotobuki Soga no Taimen (The Soga Brothers Confront Their Enemy), in which Danjuro for the first time played the role of Kudo Suketsune, murderer of the Soga brothers' father, and also served as stage director of the performance. Considering how Kikugoro describes in such detail the lessons he learned on that occasion, it is clear that he was strongly aware of his position as successor of Kikugoro V as well as having the greatest respect for the art of Danjuro, to whose art he would later succeed. He provides detailed descriptions of the wigs, costume and hand props used in each of the roles and then goes on to describe the acting and performance procedures.

In Ichimuraza Koshinkyoku, he presents his recollections of the Nicho-machi era, when he and Nakamura Kichiemon I established the reputation of the Ichimura-za troupe as the foremost Kabuki troupe of the day. He describes how, although he learned lessons from Danjuro exceeding those he learned from his own father, he experienced enormous challenges in his attempts to stimulate and revitalise the Kabuki world following the deaths of both Kikugoro V and Danjuro, when, in his own words, the Kabuki theatre was like 'a monkey fallen from a tree'. The theatrical manager of the Ichimura-za troupe was Tamura Nariyoshi, who later became known as the 'shogun'. Tamura had left the Kabuki-za after finding his progress blocked by his seniors, and he provided Kikugoro VI, then still a young actor, with the opportunity to play major roles. Kikugoro began with Chushingura and Modorikago, and he devotes most of this chapter to classical roles, in particular his performances in the role of Kanbei in the fifth act of Chushingura and the role of Oboshi Yuranosuke in the same play.

In the Enshutsu Kuden Showa section of the book, he refers to some of the main items omitted from Ichimuraza Koshinkyoku, in particular the roles of Nikki Danjo in Meiboku Sendai Hagi (The Disputed Succession), the shirabyoshi temple dancer Hanako in Musume Dojoji (The Maiden at Dojo Temple), and Shinza in Mokuami's Kamiyui Shinza. When discussing the difficulties involved in the performance of Dojoji, he refers specifically to the use of the kakko drum by Hanako, revealing her transformation from temple entertainer into serpent demon. Striking the drum without giving it too much thought will end up sounding like a blacksmith's, and he talks about the importance of 'dancing through to the end of the piece while maintaining a perfect sense of timing.' The reader gains an impression of Kikugoro VI's constant pursuit of perfection in all he did, right down to the detailed handling of the hand props.

The chronology indicating the new works with which he was involved in conveys also the enthusiasm with which he approached the creation of new classics.

The other major work written by Kikugoro VI was Odori (Dance), which was published by Jidaisha in 1948. Odori is included in Volume 4 of Nihon no Geidan, published by Kyugei Shuppan, and can be easily accessed in libraries, although trawling around second-hand bookshops is now likely to be the only way of getting hold of a copy of Gei.

↑ TOP |