Otowaya Dictionary



Baiju was the private name (haimyo) of Kikugoro III. The haimyo of the Kikugoro family was originally Baiko, but since Kikugoro III employed Baiko as his stage name before assuming the name Kikugoro, he needed a separate haimyo. Out of respect for the great actor Kikugoro III, he is sometimes referred to as Baiju Kikugoro.

Kikugoro III specialised in ghost story plays in collaboration with Tsuruya Nanboku, and he retired in 1847 after performing the play Onoe Kikugoro Ichidai Banashi, which was a summation of the ghost story play. However, he continued to appear on the stage thereafter right until his death. In terms of both ability and popularity, he was an actor whom audiences did not wish to see disappear from the stage, to the extent that his name was even incorporated into the titles of Kabuki plays.

↑ TOP |


Baiko was originally the private name (haimyo) of Kikugoro I but came to refer to successive generations of actors after Kikugoro III had previously taken the name of Baiko III. Baiko IV was similarly the name formerly used by Kikugoro IV. Perhaps because Kikugoro IV was active for longer under the name of Baiko, he is known as Baiko Kikugoro.

Although Baiko V was also Kikugoro V, he did not himself use the name Baiko as an actor, reserving it for use on a private basis.

It was during the era of Baiko VI (1870-1934) that the name Baiko became established as that of a lineage of onnagata (female role) actors. Baiko VI was one of the adopted sons of Kikugoro V. He was originally the son of an actor named Onoe Chojiro and was named Einosuke. Kikugoro V appeared on the same stage as Einosuke, who was playing a child's role, during a provincial performance tour in Nagoya in 1876. Kikugoro V was still childless at the time and he immediately applied to adopt the boy, but his request was refused and he had to wait until 1882 before being able to adopt the child, who was now 13 years of age. This was ironic in that, only three years later, Kikugoro V was blessed with his own son.

Kikugoro V provided Einosuke with a thorough training, and Einosuke put in all the effort required to live up to his teacher's expectations. Einosuke retained his humility after becoming a highly popular onnagata actor and was known for his reserved character. Upon the death of Kikugoro V, the name Kikugoro was bequeathed to his actual son Ushinosuke, and Einosuke succeeded to the name of Baiko.

After taking the name Baiko he transferred from the Kabuki-za theatre to the Teikoku Theatre and achieved great popularity in joint performances with Ichimura Uzaemon XV. The two actors performed the roles of attractive young couples such as Michitose and Naozamurai and O-Tomi and Yozaburo, and their popularity and ability enabled them to compete fully with the Kabuki-za, where the most famous actor of the day was Nakamura Utaemon V. Baiko VI suffered a stroke on stage while playing the role of Enju in a performance of Act 1, Genta Kando no Ba (The Disinheriting of Genta) of Hiragana Seisuiki at the Kabuki-za and died shortly after.

Baiko VII (1915-95) was raised as the child of Kikugoro VI from shortly after his birth. He inherited the name of Baiko from Kikunosuke in 1947 at the age of thirty-one. After receiving strict training from Kikugoro VI, he had the opportunity to play opposite Uzaemon XV and acquired highly refined abilities as an onnagata actor. He became one of the key members of the Kikugoro troupe, together with Onoe Shoroku II, after the death of Kikugoro VI.

Playing opposite Danjuro XI and Shoroku in the Kikugoro troupe, he took on a variety of onnagata roles in both historical and sewamono dramas. Although he specialised in onnagata roles, perhaps his most celebrated role was that of Enya Hangan Takasada in Kanadehon Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers). This is a difficult role that remains relatively subdued but at the same time requires great concentration and the ability to convey a sense of strong determination. No actor has ever managed to play this role with such success as Baiko VII.

The name of Baiko has thus been handed on from generation to generation and has become carved in the memories of audiences as the name of a gentle and retiring onnagata actor.

↑ TOP |


This refers to a yellowish green colour with a touch of grey that is used as the distinctive colour of the Onoe Kikugoro house. It was a favourite colour of Onoe Kikugoro I and was named after the family's private name of Baiko. It represents the fresh greenery of spring. It generates a fresh, gentle and refined atmosphere and is linked to the artistic style of the Kikugoro house. Each of the leading houses of Kabuki actors has its own colour, and most of these colours are used in the kamishimo costumes worn at the celebratory performance that marks the start of each new season and on other such occasions. Members of the Kikugoro family appear on stage wearing costumes in the baiko-cha colour on such occasions.

↑ TOP |

Benten Kozo

Benten Kozo Kikunosuke is the hero of Aoto Zoshi Hana no Nishikie, a play by Kawatake Mokuami first performed at the Ichimura-za theatre in 1862. This role was not only the contemporary Kikugoro's most successful role; it is a role that has remained closely linked to Otowaya from the first performance down to the present day.

The role of Benten Kozo was played at the first performance by Ichimura Uzaemon, who was later to become Kikugoro V. Uzaemon, then aged nineteen, was ideally suited to this role in terms of both his looks and his acting ability, and the performance proved to be a great success. He continued to play the role with great success after taking the name of Kikugoro V, and this was indeed the last role he played when he appeared on the stage for the final time in 1902.

The role was taken over after his death by his son Kikugoro VI and by Ichimura Uzaemon XV. These two actors each had his own distinctive approach to the role, Kikugoro VI playing the role with exquisite delivery of the lines and Edo stylishness and Uzaemon XV relying on his good looks and song-like delivery of the text.

In terms of artistic lineage, Kikugoro VII has succeeded in integrating these two styles of interpretation of the role of Benten Kozo by incorporating the good aspects of both. He first performed this role at the age of twenty-two, when he himself assumed the name of Kikunosuke, and has since gained an exceptional reputation for his interpretation of the role over the 27 occasions on which he has performed it. Kikunosuke V has also performed this role in recent years.

The famous lines delivered in the Hamamatsuya scene of the play include a reference to the Terashima family, in other words the private name of the Kikugoro family, and are presented in exactly the same way as they were by his own father. At the first performance, Kikugoro V attempted to emphasise the fact that he had been bequeathed these lines by his own grandfather, the great actor Kikugoro III. This is a role that was handed on from Kikugoro V to Kikugoro VI, Baiko VII, Kikugoro VII and the current Kikunosuke over five generations, and is rare even in the context of the Kabuki theatre, in which skills are handed on from father to son.

↑ TOP |



Kaneru is the term used to extol the breadth of artistic talent of an actor who is able to perform both leading male roles (tachiyaku) and female roles (onnagata). Onoe Kikugoro III (1784-1849) was an outstanding example of an actor with such versatility. He excelled especially in the ghost stories of Tsuruya Nanboku and gained a reputation without precedent for his ability to play love scenes (wagoto), realistic scenes (jitsugoto), enemy roles, onnagata roles and roles depicting aged people. The early decades of the 19th century, when Kikugoro III was active, witnessed a fashion for dances in which the actors flipped between seven or nine different characters, and the ability to combine (kaneru) various different roles in the manner of Kikugoro III was one of the criteria employed in the assessment of an actor.

The most famous example of a play in which Kikugoro was expected to play several roles in the course of a single performance is Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (The Ghost of Yotsuya) by Tsuruya Nanboku, in which the actor has to change instantaneously between the roles of O-Iwa, Kobotoke Kohei and Sato Yomoshichi, but the breadth of Kikugoro's talents is by no means epitomised by this alone. A contemporary publication offering a critique of Kabuki actors states that the label 'kaneru' became attached to him because there was simply nothing that he could not do.

The kaneru performance style was handed on to Kikugoro V and Kikugoro VI, both of whom practised it to varying degrees. The current Kikugoro is also a fine example of the kaneru style, with his ability to perform weighty tachiyaku and onnagata roles in the same play, such as those of O-Karu and Kanpei in Kanadehon Chushingura and those of Michitose and Naozamurai in Yuki Kurete Iriya no Azemichi.

↑ TOP |


The family crest of the Onoe Kikugoro house is known as kasane-ogi ni dakigashiwa and represents two open fans placed one on top of the other with two symmetrically facing kashiwa oak leaves set in a circle depicted at the centre of the upper fan. There is a story that this crest was adopted by the family after Kikugoro I was offered a kashiwa-mochi (rice cake wrapped in an oak leaf) on a fan by an admirer, from whom he accepted it on his own fan. The crest of the Onoe house employs this design in combination with the name itself inserted inside the overlapping fans. Since the image of overlapping fans is intimately associated with the Onoe house, the word kasane-ogi, meaning 'overlapping fans', is often used in the title of dramas performed by Kikugoro or is incorporated into the texts of songs sung on the stage.

↑ TOP |

Kawatake Mokuami

Kawatake Mokuami (1816-93) was the foremost playwright of the late Edo Period (bakumatsu) and the Meiji era, and his works occupy an important and indispensable part of the modern Kabuki repertory. His name is closely associated with Otowaya. Onoe Kikugoro V, who was active at around the same time as Mokuami, performed many dramas principally in the sewamono category that he work on in collaboration with Mokuami, and several have been handed down to the present as typical examples of the art of Otowaya.

Born into a merchant family, Kawatake Mokuami began to frequent the pleasure quarters of Edo during his teens, and his dissolute ways appear to have resulted in him being disowned by his parents. While working as an assistant in a book-lending establishment, he began to show signs of literary ability in the composition of burlesques, haiku, and kyoka verses. He later became apprenticed to the Kabuki scriptwriter Tsuruya Nanboku V and set about establishing himself as a Kabuki playwright under the name of Katsu Genzo. In 1843 he succeeded to the name Kawatake Shinshichi II, and was active for many years thereafter as a leading in-house scriptwriter (tate-sakusha). He created many outstanding works and contributed enormously to the Kabuki theatre during its years of instability from the late Edo Period through to the Meiji era. He took the name Mokuami in 1884, towards the end of his career, and a retirement performance was subsequently held in his honour. However, a dearth of outstanding playwrights in the Kabuki world at the time meant that he was not permitted to retire, and he continued to pen new works for the theatre right up until his death.

Since he was active for around fifty years, his output included works in many different genres including historical dramas, sewamono, and dances. However, it is above all his works in the sewamono genre that bear the closest relationship with Otowaya. Mokuami himself excelled especially in the sewamono genre. He conceived several roles with Kikugoro V specifically in mind such as Benten Kozo in Aoto Zoshi Hana no Nishikie, Naozamurai in Kumo ni Magou Ueno no Hatsuhana, and the fishmonger Sogoro in Shinsara Yashiki no Tsuki no Amagasa.

↑ TOP |


Kikugoro-goshi is one of the family patterns associated with the Onoe Kikugoro family. It consists of a lattice pattern with four vertical strands and five horizontal strands inside which are set two characters read ki and ro. These are combined with the four plus five (i.e. nine, ku in Japanese) strands of the lattice and the five (go in Japanese) horizontal strands to create the name Kikugoro. This pattern was incorporated into stage costumes and is used in the costume worn by Kanpei in the fourth act of Chushingura and the inner lining of the kimono worn by O-Tomi in Yowa Nasaki Ukina no Yokogushi (also known as Genyadana), as well as being used on the yukata costumes worn during practice sessions and in the dressing room.

↑ TOP |


Kikujiro was the name of employed by pupils of the Onoe family and extended over four generations. Kikujiro I (?-1834) and Kikujiro II (1814-75) were both onnagata actors who trained under Kikugoro III. Kikujiro II was particularly well known and his talent was such as to rival that of Kikugoro IV. He became especially popular as an onnagata actor in sewamono dramas playing opposite Ichikawa Kodanji during the late Edo Period (bakumatsu).

Kikujiro III (1882-1919) was a pupil of Kikugoro V. He specialised in graceful young onnagata roles and played opposite Kikugoro VI, who was based at the Ichimura-za theatre. Kikugoro VI was also an avid admirer of Kikujiro who, however, died at the early age of 38 in 1919. Many stories have been handed down about Kikujiro III. For example, when he played the courtesan Michitose in Mokuami's Yuki Kurete Iriya no Azemichi, he cooled his hands in freezing water before appearing on the stage because he thought that a sense of coldness would better convey his feelings when Kikugoro VI, in the role of Naojiro, took his hand.

Kikujiro IV (1904-81) was from the Kansai region and was the elder brother of Nakamura Tomijuro IV. Although unrelated by birth to Otowaya, his talents were recognised by Kikugoro VI, opposite whom he established his reputation. He moved back to the Kansai region in his later years and perfected his abilities as an onnagata actor of real depth.

↑ TOP |



The name Matsusuke was first assumed by a gifted pupil of Onoe Kikugoro I, who , specialised in ghost story plays. Matsusuke II was the earlier name of Kikugoro III, and his eldest son was also known as Matsusuke III. This is therefore a name that bears a close relationship with the Onoe Kikugoro family.

The name was assumed during the Edo Period by the eldest son and heir of the Kikugoro family, but it became known as the name of a supporting actor after the activity of the great Onoe Matsusuke IV (1843-1928). Matsusuke V (1887-1937) also played a supporting role in the troupe of Kikugoro VI.

Matsusuke IV was born in Osaka but moved to Edo together with his teacher Ichikawa Komazo, in 1864, shortly before the Meiji Restoration, becoming apprenticed to Kikugoro V, who was then known as Ichimura Kakitsu. Matsusuke gained his reputation during the previous era when he was known as Baigoro in the role of the masseur Joga in Mokuami's play Yuki Kurete Iriya no Azemichi, a role that he played successfully throughout his career. His performance in this role brought him to the attention of the public, and in the course of the same year, 1881, he assumed the name of Onoe Matsusuke, one of the main stage names of the Onoe family. He enhanced his reputation thereafter as a supporting actor to Kikugoro V, specialising in sewamono roles.

He became active at the Teikoku Theatre after the death of Kikugoro V and became an indispensable exponent of roles such as Komoriyasu opposite Ichimura Uzaemon XV's Kirare Yosaburo in Yowa Nasake Ukina no Yokogushi and the masseur Takuetsu opposite Onoe Baiko VI's O-Iwa in Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (The Ghost of Yotsuya).

The recently departed Matsusuke VI (1946-2005) was famed since childhood for his performance of leading children's roles. He studied under Onoe Shoroku II and succeeded to the name of Matsusuke VI from Onoe Shokaku in 1990. He excelled in a wide variety of roles ranging from leading male roles to enemy roles and old people's roles and played a supporting role in the Kikugoro troupe underpinning Kikugoro VII. As an actor who succeeded to the artistic style of Matsusuke IV and V, he had a great future ahead of him, and his premature death just as he was entering on his period of full maturity was much lamented.

↑ TOP |


Nicho-machi Era

Nicho-machi is the name of the area where the Ichimura-za theatre was located when Kikugoro VI was performing there during his early years. The Ichimura-za was a theatre with a long history stretching back well into the Edo Period, but the Ichimura-za in Nicho-machi had nothing to do commercially with the Ichimura-za theatre that was one of the three main theatres of Edo. The Ichimura-za transferred to Nicho-machi from Asakusa Saruwaka-machi in 1882 and became increasingly popular after management rights had passed into the hands of the impresario Tamura Nariyoshi in 1908.

Tamura invited Onoe Kikugoro VI, Nakamura Kichiemon I and Bando Mitsugoro VII, who were still in their twenties at the time, to appear at the theatre, which became increasingly popular with its performance centring on young actors. Kikugoro and Kichiemon were referred to together as 'Kikukichi', and their joint performances in their own different styles proved to be highly popular. Joint performances by the two rival actors came to an end when Kichiemon left the Ichimura-za in 1920.

This period of twelve years was particularly significant in the modern history of the Kabuki theatre in that it represented both the succession to the performance style of 'Dangiku', referring to the two great Meiji actors Ichikawa Danjuro IX and Onoe Kikugoro V, and the start of the creation of a new performance style that would be handed on to the Showa era. This period is referred to as the 'Ichimura-za Era' or the 'Nicho-machi Era'.

The origins of the name Nicho-machi date back to the Edo Period. It was originally an area dominated by the villas of samurai families, among which were the villas of the Todo family, lords of Sado Island, and the So family, lords of Tsushima Island, extending over an area of around 220 metres (nicho, or two cho, in the old Japanese system of measurements). The area covered by this quarter would thus appear to account for its name. This quarter is currently part of Taito 1-chome. The name survived in the Nicho-machi Primary School, which was however merged with another school in 1990, becoming the Heisei Primary School.

↑ TOP |


Onoe Kikugoro Gekidan Ongakubu
(Music Department of the Onoe Kikugoro Troupe)

The Music Department of the Onoe Kikugoro Troupe refers to the musicians who play off-stage to accompany the stage action (a style of music referred to as kuromisu) and those who play on-stage in the Nagauta style to accompany dance primarily in performances given by actors belonging to the Otowaya and Kikugoro troupes.

This Music Department belongs within the lineage of the musicians (hayashi-kata) who performed at the Ichimura-za theatre when Onoe Kikugoro VI was active there. The Ichimura-za era (Nicho-machi era) refers to a period of around twelve years starting from around the end of the Meiji era when outstanding young actors such as Kikugoro VI, Namakura Kichiemon I and Bando Mitsugoro VII were active from their base at the Ichimura-za. It was the shamisen-player Kineya Mitaro V who was the director of music (hayashi-gashira) for this theatrical troupe. Mitaro was already the principal shamisen (tate-jamisen) player at the Kabuki-za theatre at this time, but he moved together with Kikugoro VI to the Ichimura-za, where he underpinned the stage performances.

After the death of Mitaro, musicians who occupied the leading roles in their respective fields such as the shamisen-player (shamisen-kata) Kashiwa Isaburo I, the singer (uta-kata) Fujitaya Otozo V and the percussionist (narimono-kata) Kashiwa Sennosuke II became active as musical directors (hayashi-gashira) of the Music Department of the Kikugoro troupe, and their lineage is continued to this day.

The distinguishing feature of the Music Department of the Kikugoro troupe is the fact that they specialise in sewamono dramas set in Edo, and in particular the works of Kawatake Mokuami. An important feature of the use of music in sewamono dramas is the prominence given to music played off-stage behind a rattan blind in a room known as the kuromisu, for which reason it is known as kuromisu music. It is a skill unique to musicians specialising in Kabuki music to be able to give added depth to the stage performance by playing in such a way as to gauge the very breathing of the actors.

These skills continue to be maintained today under the musical direction of Kineya Mitaro VII and his ensemble of musicians who support Kabuki performances with their thoroughly integrated ensemble and perfect sense of timing. A disc entitled Kabuki Kuromisu Ongaku Seisen 110 (Selecting of Kuromisu Music from the Kabuki Theatre 110) issued by King Records offers a superb example of performance by the members of the Music Department.

↑ TOP |


Onoe-ryu is the name of a school (ryu) of dance founded by Kikugoro VI. Onoe Kotojiro (1889-1964), who studied with Kikugoro VI from an early age as a cohabiting apprentice (heyago), studied dance under Fujima Kanjuro, the head of the Fujima school, from 1923 and was subsequently granted the stage names employed by dancers Fujima Kanjiro in 1930 and Kamezaburo II in 1941. In 1948 he was authorised to use the name Onoe Kikunojo I by Kikugoro VI, marking the establishment of the Onoe-ryu. Kikugoro VI became head (soke) and the first iemoto of the school, with Kikunojo later taking over the reins of the school as its second iemoto.

Kikugoro VI established many schools of dance apart from the Onoe-ryu such as the Nishikawa-ryu and appointed his own pupils to the headship (iemoto) of these schools. The Onoe school was created as a fusion of the teachings of Kikugoro VI, who had been taught by Danjuro IX and Kikugoro V, and the Fujima school of dance studied by Kikunojo I. It has a reputation as a school of dance that places particular importance on refinement and freshness.

The current iemoto is Onoe Kikunojo II (b. 1943), who is the nephew of Kikunojo I and is well known especially for his work as a choreographer of dances featured in Kabuki and modern shinpa dramas and of dances such as Azuma-odori and Kamogawa-odori that he originally learnt from Kikunojo I. The position of head (soke) of the Onoe school is occupied by successive generations of the Onoe Kikugoro family, the second and third heads of the school being Baiko VII and the current Kikugoro respectively.

↑ TOP |

Otowaya: Origins of the Stage Title

The stage title Otowaya dates back to the father of Kikugoro I (1717-83). The father of the first holder of this title had the name of Otowaya Hanpei. He lived in Miyagawa-machi in Kyoto and was employed as an usher (dekata) at the Miyako Mandayu-za theatre. It was the role of the dekata to guide spectators inside the theatre and to provide them with food and drink as required.

Having been born into the world of the theatre, Kikugoro I made his stage debut at an early age and gained popularity initially in young men's (wakashu) roles before moving on to young women's roles. He later began to appear in Edo, where he achieved great popularity in female roles (onnagata), but from around his mid-thirties he made the transition to leading male roles (tachiyaku). He subsequently gained a high reputation in both tachiyaku and onnagata roles, appearing for example in the roles of Yuranosuke and Tonase in Chushingura. In terms of stage production too, he is known to have exerted a major influence on the subsequent custom of adapting dramas originally written for the puppet theatre for performance on the Kabuki stage (Gidayu kyogen).

There had been several actors bearing the family name Onoe prior to Kikugoro I, but it was as a result of the appearance of Kikugoro I, who combined popularity with outstanding ability, and of the enormous influence he had on later generations that the stage title Otowaya became firmly established.

↑ TOP |


Shijimi-uri Sankichi

Shijimi-uri Sankichi is a child's role in the play Nezumi Komon Haru no Shingata, also known as Nezumi Kozo, which was first performed by Ichikawa Kodanji IV in 1857. The role of Sankichi was played on that occasion by the 14-year old Ichimura Uzaemon XIII, the actor later to become Kikugoro V.

Nezumi Kozo, who has changed into a fortune-teller, hears from the young Sankichi, who is wandering the streets in the falling snow selling clams, how the money that Nezumi Kozo has stolen with the idea of coming to the aid of other people has brought about difficulties for Sankichi's elder sister and her husband as well as for his own father, Nezumi Kozo decides to give himself up to the authorities to make amends for his crime, and the exchange between Nezumi Kozo and Sankichi in the midst of the snow is one of the high points of the drama.

When Kikugoro V played the role of Nezumi Kozo, the role of Sankichi was taken by the 16-year old Kikugoro VI, who was then known as Ushinosuke, and when Kikugoro VI played the role of Nezumi Kozo, he was partnered in the role of Sankichi by the actor then also known as Ushinosuke who was later to become Baiko VII. The two roles were thus played by one generation after another within the same family.

Baiko played the role of Sankichi at the age of ten and thus took on this major role at a much earlier age than Kikugoro V and Kikugoro VI. During the practice sessions Baiko found it difficult to walk in the right manner in the snow and Kikugoro VI made him go outside into the garden, which was covered with snow, to practise walking in real snow. This is a story that gives some idea of the severity that went into the training of a Kabuki actor.

↑ TOP |

Shinko Engeki Jusshu

Shinko Engeki Jusshu (Ten Dramas Ancient and Modern) refers to the ten plays in which the Otowaya clan specialises as laid down originally by Kikugoro V.

The first time that this term was used to advertise a performance was on the occasion of the revival in 1888 of Mokuami's play Tsuchigumo (The Ground Spider). Nine of these plays had been presented by 1901 with the presentation of Osakabe-hime, Kikugoro V died soon after and it was not until 1912 that the final play, Migawari Zazen, was added to the list to make up the ten plays.

The ten plays are the following: Tsuchigumo, Ibaraki, Modori-bashi, Hagoromo, Kikujido, Hitotsuya, Osakabe-hime, Rakan, Kodera no Neko, and Migawari Zazen. These are plays that reflect the Meiji era and are characterized especially by the inclusion of matsubame-mono (Kabuki plays in which the stage is decorated with a pine tree in the manner of the Noh stage) and plays based on material taken from the Noh theatre as well as items based on ancient legends.

↑ TOP |

Sukeroku Kuruwa no Momoyogusa

Sukeroku Yukari no Edo-zakura is one of the eighteen most famous Kabuki plays (Juhachiban), and when played by the Onoe family is known by the title Sukeroku Kuruwa no Momoyogusa.

Sukeroku, as the play is commonly known in abbreviated form, is said to have been first performed by Ichikawa Danjuro II in the context of the play Hanayakata Aigo no Sakura. Danjuro performed the play three times in the course of his career and created the foundations for Sukeroku as it is presented today. However, new innovations were introduced on the occasion of every performance, and it was more than fifty years later that it became established as a single-act play in its own right. It was in 1832, towards the end of the Edo Period, that it became incorporated as one of the Juhachiban plays associated specifically with the Ichikawa family by Danjuro VII.

An essential attribute of the Ichikawa family and of the play Sukeroku is the joruri recitation known as Kato-bushi that is performed in the course of the play. Kato-bushi was a musical genre frequently practised by the heads of merchant families during the Edo Period (a genre known as danna-gei), and it is invariably performed today too whenever Sukeroku Yukari no Edo-zakura is performed.

Although Sukeroku is generally associated with the Ichikawa family, it has also been performed in the Onoe family by successive generations of Kikugoro. Kikugoro I took the role of Sukeroku at the Ichimura-za theatre in 1746 in a version with a plot considerably different from the Sukeroku as we know it today. A version similar to the modern version was performed by Kikugoro III in 1819 and by Kikugoro V in 1870 and was handed on to Kikugoro VI and further to the current Kikugoro.

The title Sukeroku Kuruwa no Momoyogusa was first used at a performance of the play given by Kikugoro VI in 1915. It is thought that this title was originally taken from the title of a piece of music in the Handayu-bushi genre, the type of joruri that was performed during performances given by Kikugoro III. Kikugoro VI performed the tale and wore costumes in line with the version of Sukeroku presented by the Ichikawa family, but it is thought that he established the role of Sukeroku in the distinctive style associated with Otowaya that did not involve having to change into a costume made from traditional Japanese paper (washi) in the latter part of the play. Another feature of the rendition of this play by the Onoe family is its use of joruri music in the Kiyomoto genre in place of Kato-bushi recitation. Kikugoro V apparently made use of music in the Tokiwazu style when performing this play, but Kikugoro VI decided to change over to music in the Kiyomoto-bushi style, which was especially popular between the end of the Meiji era and the Taisho era with the assistance of outstanding practitioners of this style such as Kiyomoto Enjudayu V and Kiyomoto Umekichi II.

↑ TOP |



Onoe Taganojo III (1887-1978) was a leading onnagata actor active in the Kikugoro troupe and is famed for continuing to appear on the stage until the age of ninety.

The name Taganojo is closely linked with the Onoe family: moving back three generations from the teacher of Kikugoro I, we arrive at Taganojo I, who was active during the Genroku era (1688-1703). Taganojo II was an onnagata actor active during the late Edo Period and the Meiji era, specialising in historical dramas.

Taganojo III acquired his stage name in 1927 after relinquishing the name Ichikawa Onimaru V, the name under which he had appeared opposite Kikugoro VI since 1921. Onimaru had originally been an actor who performed in a small theatre known as the Miyato-za theatre in Asakusa but began to appear on the grand Kabuki stage after his talents were recognised by Kikugoro VI. He assumed the name Taganojo III six years after this transfer and became an irreplaceable onnagata actor for Kikugoro VI and for the Kikugoro troupe.

At the end of the Second World War, he began to perform old women's roles in both historical and sewamono dramas such as O-Kaya in the sixth act of Kanadehon Chushingura and the widow O-Tsune in Tsuyu Kosode Mukashi Hachijo (The Old Story about the Wet Wadded Silk Coat, also known as Kamiyui Shinza or The Barber Shinza).

He was also an outstanding exponent of the role of O-Kane in Mokuami's late play Mekura Nagaya Ume ga Kagatobi (The Wicked Masseur and the Fire Department), a role that he had earlier played with great success in the small theatre in Asakusa. He presented a superb portrayal of this scheming, villainous and evil woman who, despite her vices, is in love with the masseur Dogen.

With his outstanding acting abilities, Taganojo was a mainstay of the Kikugoro troupe for many years. His talents received full recognition in his late years, and he was designated as a National Living Treasure as an elderly onnagata actor in 1968.

↑ TOP |

Terashima: Origins of the Name

The surname of the Kikugoro family is Terashima and was chosen by Kikugoro V on the occasion of the institution of the Family Register Law in 1871. Until the Meiji era only samurai were authorised to take surnames, but under the new law everyone took a surname irrespective of their former social class, and Kabuki actors were no exception in this regard. The Terashima surname has its origins in the story of Kikugoro III, the grandfather of Kikugoro V, who appeared at the Nakamura-za theatre for a final time to mark his retirement in 1838 and subsequently retired to the village of Terashima in the Mukojima district of Edo.

Terashima is currently situated at Higashi Mukojima in Tokyo's Sumida ward, and it used to be a tranquil spot located between and diagonally opposite the bustling commercial quarter of Asakusa and the River Sumida. Mukojima and Hashiba on the other side of the river were elegant districts in which daimyo lords and rich merchants built their villas and retirement residences and with many high-class restaurants. The place name Terashima is no longer used today and the only hint of its erstwhile existence is the presence in the district of the Terashima Junior High School.

↑ TOP |

Tsuruya Nanboku

Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755-1829) was a Kabuki playwright active during the first three decades of the 19th century and famed especially for his ghost stories. He began his apprenticeship in 1776 but remained in obscurity for a long time thereafter. He came to the fore as a playwright for the first time at the age of 48 in 1803. His play Tenjiku Tokubei Koku Banashi, in which the main role was played by Onoe Matsusuke I, proved to be a resounding success in 1804, and brought him to the attention of the public. After succeeding to the name Tsuruya Nanboku at the age of 57 in 1812, he became the foremost playwright in the Kabuki theatre.

The success of Tsuruya Nanboku was underpinned by two representatives of the Otowa lineage, Onoe Matsusuke I and Onoe Kikugoro III. Matsusuke I, who played the role of Tenjiku Tokubei, specialised in ghost story plots. He proved to be the star attraction in flashy Nanboku works such as Iroe-iri Otogi-zoshi, a play that incorporated a ghost story involving Kohata Koheiji into the story of Tenjiku Tokubei, in 1808 and Okuni Gozen Kesho no Sugatami, which wove in a ghost story involving Okuni Gozen and the Kasane legend into the tale of Tenjiku Tokubei, in 1809. After assuming the name of Shoroku in his later years, he performed several works such as Onoe Shoroku Sentaku-banashi (1813) and Mata Shoroku Osakabe-banashi that present a summation of Nanboku's previous plays in the ghost story genre. These performances cemented the relationship between Nanboku, Matsusuke and ghost story plays.

The Otowaya ghost story plays created by Nanboku and Matsusuke I were taken over by Matsusuke's son, Kikugoro III, an actor reputed for his ability to combine (kaneru) a variety of roles, male and female, young and old. He became particularly popular for the rapid role changes that he executed in plays by Nanboku. Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (The Ghost of Yotsuya), first performed in 1825, became Nanboku's most famous play and involved the same actor alternating between the roles of O-Iwa, Kobotoke Kohei and Sato Yomoshichi. Kikugoro III also played the two roles of the dashing young man Nagoya Sanza and the courtesan Komurasaki in Ukiyozuka Hiyoku no Inazuma (1823) and as many as twelve different roles in Tokaido Gojusan-tsugi (1827).

It was Kawatake Mokuami who described an outstanding playwright as being 'courteous to the head of the troupe, courteous to the actors, and courteous to the audience.' By writing works that emphasised to the full the attractions of the two actors Matsusuke I and Kikugoro III, Nanboku was able to please his audience and satisfy the demands of impresarios, and he thus left his name as one of the great playwrights of the Kabuki theatre. Considering how he was able to express the maturity and decadence of early 19th-century Edo culture in the context of the Kabuki theatre, it is not doing Nanboku full justice to focus exclusively on the celebrated Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan as the sole summit of his achievement.

↑ TOP |


Uzaemon and the House of Onoe

Ichimura Uzaemon is the name of theatre manager (zamoto) of the Ichimura-za theatre, one of the three main Kabuki theatres in Edo. The name of Ichimura Uzaemon became inextricably linked with that of the house of Onoe Kikugoro from the time of the marriage of Ichimura Uzaemon XII (1812-51) to Towa, daughter of Onoe Kikugoro III (1784-1849).

The second son born to Uzaemon XII and Towa was Onoe Kuroemon I, later to become Kikugoro V (1844-1903). Succeeding to his father, who died at an early age, he took the name Uzaemon XIII when he was still only eight years old and became zamoto of the Ichimura-za. While continuing as theatre manager thereafter, he took the name of Ichimura Kakitsu IV, thus acquiring both proficiency and popularity.

In 1868 (the first year of the Meiji era and the year that marked the end of the Tokugawa Period), he assumed the name of Onoe Kikugoro V at the age of twenty-three. At the same time, he handed the position of zamoto of the Ichimura-za on to his younger brother Takematsu, who was first named Uzaemon XIV and later became known as Kakitsu. Because of the way in which he delivered his lines on stage, he was given the nickname 'Hato-poppo', a child's word for a pigeon.

The house of Uzaemon was able to continue through to the 15th and 16th generations by means of adoption, but a close relationship emerged once again between Otowaya and the house of Uzaemon as a consequence of Bando Hikozaburo, who was the nephew of Kikugoro VI, picking up the baton in the 17th generation.

↑ TOP |


Yoki Koto Kiku

This is a striped pattern consisting of a drawing of a halberd (yoki), a cursive form of the kanji used to write the name of the musical instrument known as the koto, and a picture of a chrysanthemum (kiku), arranged vertically. Yoki koto kiku is also an auspicious play on words, since, when spoken, it can also mean 'to hear something good.' This pattern appears to have been in use since the Heian Period, and it was used as the pattern of the Kikugoro family, presumably because of the phonetic link between kiku and Kikugoro, during the era extending from Kikugoro I to Kikugoro III. As in the case of the Kikugoro lattice pattern, this pattern was used by actors of the Kikugoro family on their stage costumes and the yukata worn in the dressing room.

↑ TOP |