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Danjuro Dictionary
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Narita Temple

One theory says that Danjuro Iís forebears were samurai from the area around Mt. Fuji. However, by the time of his father they had moved to Hataya, near the town of Narita, the current site of Tokyoís international airport. Much of Danjuro Iís success as an actor was linked to the religious nature of his plays and in particular his portrayals of the ferocious demon-quelling deity Fudo who was worshipped at Shinshoji Temple in Narita. Danjuro I was a fervent believer in the power of this deity, and his prayers to Fudo for a son were said to have been answered in the form of Danjuro II. So, from the familyís earliest days, there have been very close links with Shinshoji and Narita. The yago (an actorís guild or ëhouseí name, shouted out by audience members during performances to show their appreciation) of the Ichikawa family is Narita-ya. Whenever a new actor accedes to the Danjuro name, a special ceremony is still carried out at Shinshoji Temple.

Nihon guma

ëTwo line shadowí. A style of kumadori make-up consisting of two slightly oblique red lines rising from the base of the eyebrows and eyes towards the temples. They are used for somewhat prudent warriors, such as Matsuomaru in Pulling the Carriage Apart (Kurumabiki). Shikansuji is a very similar style where the line begins from the centre of the eyebrow.

Nikutei Tohachi

There can be very few people who have had as many pseudonyms as Danjuro VII. As an actor he used the names Shinnosuke, Ebizo, Naritaya Shichizaemon, Hataya Juzo. As a poet, he used Sansho, Hakuen, Yauan, Jukai Rojin Kobuku Choja. Another name he wrote poetry under was Nikutei Tohachi. The characters used to write Nikutei mean literally ëtwoí, ënineí and ëpavilioní. Itís a coded reference to the familyís favourite plays, the Kabuki Eighteen, that Danjuro VII compiled. Danjuro XI revived the name to use as a penname for a comedy he wrote called The Tale of the Fireman and the Fried Tofu (Tonbi ni Aburage Monogatari), performed in May 1964 at the Kabuki-za.


The thick ropes, sometimes striped red and white, sometimes purple and white, that are used to tie back the sleeves of aragoto characters. The ropes are stiffened with wire so that the bows stand boldly upright like wings. They are used by characters like Tadanobu in the Toriimae scene of Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees (Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura), and Muneto in act three of Oshu Adachigahara. Like chikaragami, they stand as a visual representation of the characterís physical power.

Nisen danshu

ëThe tuppenny Danjuroí. Refers to the actor Bando Matasaburo, active in the late 1890s at the low-rent Ryusei-za in Tokyo. Tickets for the theatre at the time cost just two pennies. Matasaburo was said to look and sound just like Danjuro IX, and he used this to his benefit, copying some of the real Danjuroís popular roles such as The Drum of Sakai (Sakai no Taiko). In 1899 he realised his dream of playing at the Kabuki-za, but he was not a hit and passed away several years later. There was even a female ëDanshuí ñ the famous actress, Ichikawa Kumehachi.

ëOnna Danshuí itself was a nickname for Danjuro IX, created by the newspaper writer Kanagaki Robun in parody of rebel politician Saigo Takamoriís ëNanshuí nickname.

Osaragi Jiro

A popular historical novelist and playwright. He was a huge fan of Danjuro XI and wrote several plays specifically for him, including Nobunagaís Early Years (Wakakihi no Nobunaga) and The Evening Glow of Edo (Edo no Yubae).


At the beginning of the play The Arrow Sharpener (Ya no Ne), the head of the Ozatsuma school of musicians appears on stage to exchange New Yearís greetings and gifts with the actor. Today the part is played by a kabuki actor, but in the past, a real musician would have left his position on the musiciansí on-stage dais to make the greeting.

Ozatsuma is an intense style of narrative music, said to have been founded around 1720 by Ozatsuma Shuzendayu (1695-1759). It flourished throughout the eighteenth century in Edo, particularly as an accompaniment to aragoto plays. Eventually the style became less popular and finally it was absorbed into the nagauta school.


Kojo are ceremonial onstage presentations, where the actors line up in formal dress to salute the audience or introduce an actor when he has taken a new name. Each of the major acting families has set colours that they use for their formal dress on these occasions. For example, the Onoe family uses a colour known as baikocha that blends a dark green with a light brown. The Ichikawa family use a persimmon (kaki) colour. Its roots go back to Danjuro II who first wore this colour in his costume for the hero of Just a Minute! (Shibaraku). Since that time the colour has been linked to aragoto roles, and by extension to the Ichikawa family.

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