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Danjuro V

The multi-talented actor (1741-1806)

Danjuro V
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Danjuro Vís peak as an actor from the 1770s through to the end of the eighteenth century coincided with a new flourishing in Edo kabuki, and his performances were lauded for their dramatic power.

He made his first appearance on stage aged fourteen in the first month of 1754, under the name Matsumoto Kozo. In the eleventh month of that same year, his father became Danjuro IV and he himself took his fatherís now vacant name, becoming Matsumoto Koshiro III.

In the eleventh month 1770 aged thirty, he became Danjuro V. His father reverted to his former name, Matsumoto Koshiro.

In both face and build, Danjuro V resembled his father closely. His acting was very similar, and while still named Koshiro he built a name for himself by specializing in jitsuaku villain roles. Once he took the Danjuro name, he deliberately concentrated on mastering the realistic and dignified jitsugoto roles. A prime example of such a role is that of Yuranosuke, the leader of the forty-seven ronin in The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Kanadehon Chushingura). This role later became identified with the Danjuro line, but Danjuro V was the first to attempt it. He made efforts to broaden the range of his art, unusually for a Danjuro actor playing pure onnagata female roles, clown roles, and chivalrous commoners. He also experimented with the new technique known as hayagawari (quick change) by which one actor would play several roles in the same play.

At the age of fifty-one, in 1791, he had his son named as Danjuro VI, while he himself took the name Ebizo. While other members of the line had used the Ebizo name previously, he chose different characters to write it that suggested humility, that he was not good enough to measure up to his father and grandfather.

In his late years he was frequently ill, and in 1796 he staged his farewell performance at the Miyako-za. Under the name Naritaya Shichizaemon he then retired to the Hogoan villa he had constructed for himself in the Ushijima area of Honjo. He passed his retirement involved in refined pastimes with many of the leading literati figures of the time. He was especially close to Utei Enba, the author of a famous work on kabuki history, Kabuki Nendaiki.

He died on the 30th of the tenth month 1806, halfway through a poetry gathering that had begun the previous day. He was sixty-six years old.

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Text : Hattori Yukio, Ichikawa Danjuro Daidai. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2002.
Illustrations : Collection of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University.
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