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Danjuro VI

The broken iris sword (1778-99)

Danjuro VI
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A son of Danjuro V, but he was raised first by one of his pupils, Ichikawa Masuzo. Then he was adopted for a short time by Danjuro Vs cousin, the theatre teahouse proprietor Izumiya Kanjuro, but finally he was re-adopted by his father in 1781 at the age of four.

In the first month of 1782 he made his stage debut under the name Ichikawa Tokuzo at the Nakamura-za as the blindman Tokunoichi in Seven Varieties of Soga Make-up (Nanakusa Yosooi Soga). In the eleventh month of the same year at the Nakamura-za he took the name Ebizo IV.

In the eleventh month of 1791 at the Ichimura-za he succeeded to the name Danjuro VI, at the age of fourteen. In 1796 Danjuro V officially retired, placing the heavy burden of responsibility for the continuation of the line upon the inexperienced nineteen year old Danjuro VI.

The young Danjuro VI was said to be very attractive, attracting throngs of female fans who would wait for him at the stage door. In actor prints from the time he is always depicted with a prominent nose and distinctively shaped eyebrows, and we can imagine that he inherited his good looks from his father.

In the third month of 1799 he performed the Ichikawa classic Sukeroku to great acclaim, but the following month he caught a cold and was forced to cut the run short. He passed away on the 13th of the fifth month, 1799, aged just twenty-two. On his deathbed, he composed the poem, how did it come / to lie broken / my iris sword.

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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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