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Danjuro IX

The movement for theatrical reform (1838-1903)

Danjuro IX
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Seven days after his birth he was adopted by Kawarazaki Gonnosuke, the manager of the Kawarazaki-za theatre, and was given the name Kawarazaki Chojuro. His adopted father gifted him with a rigorous training in the arts.

In 1852 he took the name Kawarazaki Gonjuro. As the young heir to the Kawarazaki-za he was favoured with a variety of roles from an early age, as he built up experience as an actor.

In the eighth month 1854, his elder brother Danjuro VIII committed suicide. The following year the Kawarazaki-za theatre burnt down, and in 1857 he and his adoptive father were forced to work at the Ichimura-za. It was at this time, aged twenty, that he performed his first leading role.

In 1868, his adoptive father was tragically stabbed to death by a burglar. He resolved to carry out his fatherís last wish to rebuild the Kawarazaki-za, and in preparation the following year to took the name Kawarazaki Gonnosuke VII. By this time, aged thirty-two, he was the top-ranking actor at the Ichimura-za.

In 1873 his brother-in-law Fukujiro took the name Kawarazaki Gonnnosuke VIII, while he himself became Kawarazaki Sansho. In the seventh month of 1874 the construction of the new Kawarazaki-za was completed, and with his obligations to his adoptive father fulfilled, he returned to his original family, taking the name Danjuro IX. He was thirty-seven years old.

In 1876 he became the leading actor at the Morita-za. In 1878, after several relocations and fires, the Morita-za was reopened as the first modern theatre in Tokyo, under the new name of the Shintomi-za. Here, Danjuro threw himself into a series of radical experiments in kabuki staging and acting, performing in new realistic ìliving historyî (katsurekimono) plays and playing a leading role in the theatre reform movement. But audiences proved resistant to this new form of theatre and Danjuroís reputation plummeted.

In 1887, at age fifty, Danjuro was invited to perform The Subscription List (Kanjincho) and Takatoki before the Emperor. This was the culmination of his attempts to raise the lowly status of kabuki actors in Japan.

Another of Danjuro IXís accomplishments was the formation of a ëNew Kabuki Eighteení (Shin Kabuki Juhachiban), though in fact there were more than eighteen plays included in this new list of favourites.

From around 1894 Danjuro IX returned to the performance of kabuki in more traditional styles. Building on his living history experiments, Danjuro developed a restrained form of acting based on psychology that he called haragei. He applied this style of acting to traditional roles, and thus exercised a great influence upon the form of modern kabuki. The performance patterns and approaches to roles developed by Danjuro IX are still respected and often used by todayís kabuki actors.

He died on September 13th 1903, aged sixty-six.

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Text : Hattori Yukio, Ichikawa Danjuro Daidai. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2002.
Photographs : Collection of Ichikawa Danjuro.
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