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Danjuro Dictionary
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Danjuro Musume

‘The Danjuro maiden’: one section of a dance popularly known as Okane from Omi (Omi no Okane). The dance originally featured eight different characters, all danced in quick succession by Danjuro VII in 1813. One of these characters was Okane, a girl possessed of Herculean strength who famously held down a crazed horse on the shores of Lake Biwa. The lyrics to this section contain the line, “a Danjuro maiden / so sexy with her pearly teeth”. At this point the dancer would mime a parody of aragoto. Today the role is usually played by an onnagata female role specialist, but it would be interesting to see it performed again by an actor of male roles.

Danjuro postage stamps

It would have been impossible to envisage before the war, but in 1950 as a part of a series on important cultural figures, the Japanese Post Office issued an eight-yen postage stamp featuring an offstage photograph of Danjuro IX. It was issued on September 13th, the anniversary of his death – so there must have been a theatre fan working at the post office! The reasons given for Danjuro’s inclusion in the series were his interest in the new era, his creativity, and his efforts to raise the status of actors. Given the bitter opposition incited by his experiments with ‘living history’ plays, it is pleasant to imagine how vindicated he would feel by this official recognition of his efforts.

There is also a second Danjuro stamp. In 1956 a ten-yen stamp was issued which featured Sharaku’s famous print of the character Takemura Sadanoshin. The actor playing the role is Danjuro V, though he was using the name Ebizo at the time.


The three greatest actors of the late 19th century: Danjuro IX, Onoe Kikugoro V, and Ichikawa Sadanji I. The term derives from the first syllables of their names. When they passed away in quick succession in 1903-04, it was as though the lights were going off on kabuki for the last time. Happily, however, the great efforts of their successors were successful in keeping kabuki alive.


The Edo period writer of fiction Tatekawa (Utei) Enba was said to be such a fan of Danjuro V that every article in his house, from the roof beams down to the furniture was adorned with the actor’s mimasu crest. Enba’s house and Enba himself were thus nicknamed Danshuro (The Mansion of Danjuro). The actor and the writer were close friends, and authored several literary works together.

Much later, in the 19th century, there was a second Danshuro – the comic storyteller Danshuro Enshi. A pupil of Shunputei Ryushi, he followed the example of Danjuro V and Enba, and in 1885 he renamed himself Danshuro in honour of Danjuro IX. His stories often revolved around the theatre.


A hereditary name traditionally held by male members of the Ichikawa line. In importance and history it ranks second only to the Danjuro name itself. It was first held by Danjuro I as a child. Legend has it that it was bestowed upon him by a friend of his father’s, the famous ‘man of honour’ Token Juemon. The name has been used by actors both before and after they take the Danjuro name. Famously, Danjuro V decided to use a different Chinese character for the name – the character he chose means ‘small fry’ and was intended as a mark of the respect towards previous holders of the Ebizo name. The current holder of the name is Ebizo XI.

Edo neoi

‘Edo born and bred’. The word neoi originally means a plant with roots, but it also refers to people born and brought up in a particular place. There are various theories about the roots of the Ichikawa family, but ever since they began using the name Danjuro, they have advertised themselves through their connection to the city of Edo. Both Danjuro I and Danjuro II made the long journey to Osaka and Kyoto, but failed to win acclaim there. Danjuro IX too faced various difficulties whenever he left Edo. For better or worse it looks like Danjuro and Edo can never be parted.

Edo sanpuku tsui

‘The Three Stars of Edo Face Off’. The three greatest stars in late eighteenth century Edo were Danjuro V, the sumo wrestler Tanikaze, and the courtesan Hanaogi. The ukiyoe artist Shunko created a fascinating print in which Danjuro stands between Tanikaze and Hanaogi, dressed in his Just a Moment costume and raising a sumo referee’s fan.

Edo Sanza

‘The Three Theatres of Edo’. From the 17th century, the number of licensed theatres in the city of Edo was restricted to just four – the Nakamura-za, the Yamamura-za, the Ichimura-za, and the Morita-za. But in 1714, as the result of a scandal involving an actor and a shogunal lady-in-waiting, the Yamamura-za was ordered to be pulled down, leaving just three licensed theatres. If the major theatres were unable to operate for some reason, then the license would be delegated to one of three alternate theatres (hikaeyagura) – the Kiri-za, Miyako-za, and Kawarasaki-za. Early in his career Danjuro IX was the manager and head of the Kawarasaki-za.


Holders of the Danjuro name have often been blessed with impressively large eyes. Danjuro VII was particularly renowned for the size of his eyes, so much so that in his letters he would often write the syllabic character ‘me’ as an eyeball. His children, Danjuro VIII and Danjuro IX, seem to have inherited the trait and both had faces with prominent eyes, perfect for executing the famous Ichikawa glare. Happily Danjuro XI and XII have also been blessed with large eyes, continuing the family tradition.

Fudo mie

A mie is a stylized, sculptural pose held by an actor at a climactic moment in a play. In the play The Subscription List (Kanjincho), just after Benkei has finished reading out the eponymous list, he performs a Fudo mie. In his right hand he holds a scroll upright, identically to the way in which the deity Fudo is shown holding his sword in Buddhist statues. His left hand grips a rosary at his breast, again in the just the same way as Fudo is shown holding a rope. Danjuro I’s portrayals of Soga no Goro were said to be a manifestation of Fudo, and many other aragoto roles have a similar religious dimension to them.

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