Books for Becoming Better Acquainted with Otowaya

Index > Atsumi Seitaro, Rokudaime Kikugoro Hyoden
(Critical Biography of Kikugoro VI)

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Atsumi Seitaro, Rokudaime Kikugoro Hyoden
(Critical Biography of Kikugoro VI)

Toyamabo, 1950

A Vivid Record of the Career of Kikugoro VI

Several biographies have been written of Kikugoro VI, who was regarded as one of the greatest figures in theatrical history. His life and career are portrayed in detail in two books, Rokudaime Kikugoro Den (Biography of Kikugoro VI) by Hamamura Yonezo, which was published during the actor's lifetime, and the present volume, which offers a chronological depiction of his stage career.

The author, Atsumi Seitaro, writes as follows at the start of the introduction to his book: 'There are people who look up to Kikugoro VI as if he were a god. There are those who put a favourable assessment on everything he did. However, since my intention here is to write a critical biography, I am unable to adopt such an unconsidered approach.'

Atsumi writes an unflinching, warts-and-all biography that includes details of the naughty pranks that the actor got up to as a child, the circumstances that led him to join Shochiku once he had fallen into debt after coming into the limelight at the Ichimura-za, the differences of opinion that arose in the course of his involvement with the Japan Actors' School, and the illnesses that beset him in his later years. However, although the author tries to be as objective as possible, the overall impression gained from his book is of the author's sense of joy at being able to live concurrently with such a great actor.

Atsumi is fulsome in his praise for the actor not during his legendary period with the Ichimura-za but for his work with the Togeki troupe, at a time when he was regaining his vigour after a slight downturn in his career. Kikugoro VI was an actor of wide artistic range. He danced Kagami-jishi (The Dancing Lion) almost every year, played the role of Yoshitsune in Kanjincho (The Subscription List), in Sukeroku played the roles not only of Sukeroku and Agemaki but also of the liquor vendor and Monbei, and in Genyadana he played the role of Komoriyasu.

Atsumi creates a vivid picture of Kikugoro VI, who 'frequently played the same roles and constantly polished his performances in these roles, this having the effect of making audiences consciously aware of how he was deepening his art and perfecting his skills at a stage in his career when he was still full of enthusiasm and ambition.'

Needless to say, the writer does not restrict himself to Kikugoro's stage career. He states that 'my observations of Kikugoro as a person are restricted to the period when I knew him personally', but the episodes that Kikugoro related in connection with the roles of O-Matsuri Sashichi and Megumi no Tatsugoro and of the sumo novice in Ippon Gatana Dohyo-iri (The Wrestling Wring and the Sword) in the instructors' room at the Actors' School must surely have delighted not just Atsumi but indeed everyone in the vicinity. The objective descriptions are mixed with a sense of the rich and subtle personality of Kikugoro VI.

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