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The Revenge at Narita (Narita Adauchi)

A rare play that has not been performed since Ebizo X (now Danjuro XII) performed it at the fourth Araisokai. The full title of the play is The Tower Drum and the Revenge at Narita (Yagura-daiko Narita Adauchi). The title contains a reference to the drum beaten before and after sumo tournaments, and the play itself is about wrestlers. A wrestler called Takimiyama, who previously murdered his teacher, uses an underhand throw to kill his opponent Kumonoto Juemon in the ring. Juemonís son takes the name Katsuragawa Rikizo, and goes to Narita where he fasts and undertakes religious austerities in order that his prayer to avenge his fatherís death may be granted. Finally, with the help of the deity, he is granted his wish. The play provides one more example of the deep connections between the Ichikawa family and Narita.


The ëRokuyata trellisí pattern. Basically, an interlinking variant on the Ichikawa mimasu crest. It looks surprisingly modern, but in fact it was first used 150 years ago by Danjuro VIII in a play called Ichinotani Mushae no Iezuto. Danjuro VIII was at the peak of his popularity and the pattern was an enormous hit amongst his fans. The name derives from the character he was playing in the play, Rokuyata.


In 1693, ten years before his death, Danjuro I travelled to Kyoto. In those pre-bullet train days the road from Edo to Kyoto was arduous, but in spite of his long journey, Danjuroís aragoto acting found little favour with Kyoto critics. They attacked his lack of poise in love scenes ñ perhaps a criticism that sophisticated Kyoto-ites would still level at those from Tokyo today.

However, Danjuro did bring back one treasure from his time in Kyoto. He studied haikai poetry under the poet Shiinomoto Saimaro, As was the custom, he was awarded with a poetic name, Saigyu. The ësaií part was taken from his teacherís name, while the ëgyuí (which means ox) relates to the role of an ox-herder he was playing at the time. This is the first example we have of a kabuki actor being awarded a poetic name. No doubt the knowledge Danjuro gained from Saimaro fed back into his own work as a playwright.


Three swords. Normally samurai characters would carry two swords at their waist. But when Ichikawa actors play aragoto roles they always carry three swords to emphasize their power. The longest of these swords is just short of six feet. Examples include Umeomaru and Matsuomaru in Breaking the Carriage Apart (Kurumabiki), and Watonai in Coxinga (Kokusenya). When other actors take on these roles they must either forego the three swords, or else seek the permission of the current head of the Ichikawa family.


The ceremonies to mark the beginning of the theatrical year. It was originally performed on the first three days of the New Year, though now it is held just on the first day. The ceremony would open with a celebratory dance called Okina Watashi, performed by the theatre manager and his son. This would be followed by the ceremonial reading aloud of the play title and cast from a special scroll.

The Ichikawa version of the shizome ceremony has an extra element known as the nirami ñ the actor lifts the stand for the scroll above his head in his left hand, clenches his right hand at his breast and glares fiercely at the audience. Audiences of course delighted in the impressive stares of successive Danjuro actors, but the glare also has a ritual significance for the expulsion of evil.

In both cases, the ceremony finishes with a dance by the child actors, and a handclapping ritual in which the whole company joins in.


Modern actors in Japan today frequently get together to train and rehearse techniques. The Shugyoko (which literally means ëtraining clubí) was an early, kabuki variant on the same idea. Set up by Danjuro IV, actors including his son Danjuro V and Matsumoto Koshiro IV would gather at his house in Kiba to work on techniques and approaches to roles. Danjuro IV was praised for his generosity in passing on his experience and knowledge to the next generation. One of the patterns developed at the Shugyoko, that by Nakamura Nakazo I for the bandit Sadakuro in The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Kanadehon Chushingura), still remains in the repertory. When he was at university the current Danjuro wrote his graduation thesis on Danjuro V and the influence of the Shugyoko.

Society for Theatre Reform (Engeki Kairyo Kai)

A society set up by the son-in-law of Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi in 1886, with the aim of bringing theatre into line with the wave of modernization then sweeping through Japanese society. Its membership included actors, writers and other intellectuals. The group provided advice to Danjuro IX in his experiments with ëliving historyí (katsureki) plays, and even published a treatise on theatre reform. Many of the societyís suggestions involved the reform of Japanese theatre along Western lines, including the abolition of the hanamichi and musical narration, and the introduction of actresses. There was a furious public debate, but eventually, having failed to gain much public support, the Society disbanded in 1888. Its ideals, however, were particularly well received in Osaka where they eventually provided the spark for a new form of modern, melodramatic theatre known as Shinpa.

Soga no Goro

One of the two Soga brothers, who were involved in a famous vendetta against their fatherís enemy. Goro was the younger and more impulsive of the brothers, and this part was always taken by Danjuro. The brothersí story inspired hundreds of plays and other literary works, and the brothers themselves became worshipped as superhuman demigods (arahitogami). Early holders of the Danjuro name frequently played these kinds of powerful demigod figures.

Suisen & Kyokubai

The eldest daughter of Danjuro IX was a talented dancer who took the stage-name Suisen, while his second daughter became Kyokubai. Neither had male successors. Suisen was the wife of Ichikawa Sansho (who posthumously became Danjuro X), while Kyokubai was married to Ichikawa Shinnosuke V. The name Suisen was originally used as a poetic penname by Osai, the talented wife of Danjuro II, so strictly speaking Danjuro IXís daughter is Suisen II. Kyokubaiís daughter became a leading actress in Shinpa melodrama under the name Ichikawa Kobai. Later she succeeded to the headship of the Ichikawa school of dance, becoming Suisen III.

Suisen and Kyokubai have left their own footnote in theatre history. As children they both studied dance at the Fujima school, and one day their father came to watch them give a performance of The Pillow Lion (Makura Jishi). He was inspired to have the playwright Fukuchi Ochi rewrite it for the kabuki stage, under the new title The Mirror Lion (Kagami Jishi). The new play called for two butterflies to dance with the lion, so Danjuro had his two daughters appear ñ the first time in Japanese theatrical history that men and women had appeared together at a major theatre. Since that first performance in 1893 it has become one of the most popular kabuki dance pieces.


Literally, ëline shadowsí. Sujikuma is the striking style of red facial make-up devised by Danjuro I and perfected by Danjuro II. Curving red lines are drawn from the inner ends of the eyebrows to the forehead, from the temples to the cheeks from the nostrils to the cheeks. A contemporary medical practitioner has pointed out that these lines coincide with the veins that expand most at times of extreme emotion.

The make-up is a visual representation of power. Another theory suggests that the original inspiration came from statues of gods and deities. Aragoto heroes like Soga no Goro in The Arrow Sharpener (Ya no Ne) or Umeomaru in Pulling the Carriage Apart (Kurumabiki) use this style of make-up.

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