Literally, ‘wild style’. The dynamic, masculine and stylized form of acting invented by Danjuro I and indelibly linked to the city of Edo. Aragoto is related to folk religious beliefs, with the actor believed to become a manifestation of a powerful deity (arahitogami). The style is said to have begun when the fourteen-year-old Danjuro I first played the role of the wild young warrior Sakata Kinpira. Later holders of the Danjuro name refined the style, but retained its emphasis on passion, youth, purity and justice. As an acting style, aragoto is often contrasted to the softer and more realistic wagoto style that was popular in Osaka and Kyoto.
Amongst the many rare fabrics originally imported from China the araiso donsu (‘wave-tossed shore’) damask is a particularly exquisite example. In Japan, the term araiso came to refer to fabrics whose design contains maritime elements such as fish, waves and rocks. A particularly famous example appears in the play The Renowned Banzui Chobei (Kiwametsuki Banzui Chobei), where the design features a large carp leaping vigorously above a wave. The hero of the play wears a kimono in this design, dyed in white on a dark ground, while relaxing at home. The role was originally played by Danjuro IX, and this manly design is a illustration of his bold conception of the character. The Araisokai (see below) drew its name from this design.
A kabuki study group set up by Danjuro XI group for his pupils. The first proper meeting under the Araisokai name was in July 1963. The current Danjuro made his first performance in The Subscription List (Kanjincho) under his father’s direction at this study group. At another meeting of the study group, his aunt Suisen guided him in his first attempt at a female role, Yayoi from The Mirror Lion (Kagami Jishi). With its original purpose accomplished, the Araisokai was disbanded after its seventh meeting in 1973.
The symbol of the bat is closely associated with the Ichikawa family. In China, bats are viewed as auspicious symbols of wealth and fame. The bat, alongside the peony flower (also viewed auspiciously in China), is one of the family’s symbols.
‘Red shell shadows’. A type of make-up devised by Danjuro I in which the hands, feet and face were painted bright red. The hero of Just a Minute! (Shibaraku) originally wore this kind of make-up, but it was later replaced by the striped sujiguma make-up.
‘Red shadows’. A facial make-up style that involves red lines painted over a white ground. Blue or black lines represent darkness, evil or the supernatural, whereas red represents brightness, justice and courage. This style of make-up is indispensable for aragoto roles and is thus closely associated with the Ichikawa family. Many of the styles still seen on stage were developed by Danjuro I, Danjuro II or other actors active in the same period.
Scholars have theorized that this kind of make-up was based upon Chinese opera or noh masks. Ichikawa family tradition says that the blurred edges of the red lines were inspired by the peony flower.
‘Dance and the Forest of Fans’, an illustrated, theoretical work about kabuki and its relationship to dance, written around 1689 by Kawarasaki Gonnosuke I. Particularly interesting is his theory that kabuki did not begin with Izumo no Okuni.
Gonnosuke’s descendent Kawarasaki Chojuro IV passed away in 1981. In the years up to his death he published forty-three issues of a magazine based on his own theatrical research. The title of the magazine – Bukyoku Senrin.
‘Strength paper’. The folded stripes of white paper that project out like wings from the topknot in certain aragoto roles. Paper of the same name is also seen in sumo wrestling, when the wrestlers purify themselves in the easterly and westerly directions prior to a bout. It is seen in plays like Just a Minute! (Shibaraku), The Repeller of Demons (Oshimodoshi), and Asahina. The contrast of the white paper against the black hair represents the purity of the character’s strength.