Home > Books/Magazines, History, Theatre > Kabukiza Monthly Kabuki Review Number 12 Part One

Kabukiza Monthly Kabuki Review Number 12 Part One

First in a two-part series by kabuki collector Trevor Skingle!

歌舞伎座劇評集 No. 64 – 昭和5年 4月15日 – 昭和5年 5月1日 (Shōwa 5 nen, 15th April – 1st May 1930)

Sugi ni shi Monogatari (Rampu no moto ni te) A Past Story (Under the Lamp) Series Part 12, Okamoto Kidō. page 60

The entire series was published as “Meiji Gekidan Ranpu no moto ni te” (On the Theatre of the Meiji Period – Under the Lamp) published by Iwanami Shoten, in 1993

TsuruzōNakamura IIand DengorōNakamura III (Dengorō was cast as Sekiguchi supportive wife, Ishimatsu, and guard Bandōya Sagohe in the 1886 premiere of Kawatake Moukami’s tragic-comic four act masterpiece Mekura Nagaya Ume-ga-Kagatobi at the Chitoseza Theatre)

Meiji 21 (1888), it was a Sunday (probably July 22nd, as the eruption of Mount Bandai took place on the 15th) and I had reached seventeen years and seven months old in my high clogs. The group I was with consisted of my mother, aunt, older sister and four gentlemen friends. I was visiting the Ichimuraza. Until now this narrative has been entirely and devotedly concerned with the Shintomiza!  Then the subject was about the experience of the Chitoseza and then the Harukiza! However, there’s no point yet in saying anything about the Ichimuraza, as there is not much to tell of my, incidental, experience of the Ichimuraza.

Ichimuraza historical marker, Tōkyō

The Ichimuraza was in 1882 was located in the so called ‘nichōme’ (Shitaya Nichō-machi, Theatre Street), and was the first theatre of the three pre-eminent theatres of Edo, the  Edosanza (Nakamuraza, Ichimuraza, Moritaza); until 1892 (Meiji 25) they had been located elsewhere. Of course, in general this building’s construction had been com-p-lete-ly changed! Anyway it stayed on for a long time in the old Saruwaka machi in the Asakusa district and, rumour now has it, is rather good at spin, since for old Edo’s various, dear, and dignified visitors it’s impact evoked an emotional response, just like when one receives a new gift!

Saruwaka-cho in Asakusa, circa 1843-1856

This really is my memory of the Ichimuraza – of the previous generation’s Nakamura Shikan (Utaemon’s father) who was troupe leader (zagashira) and leading actor, Nakamura Fukusuke (the current Utaemon), Kataoka Gadō (the current Gado’s father) the previous generation’s Ichikawa Konjūrō, Seki Sanjūrō (the current Sanjūrō’s father) etc.; I’m afraid my recollection of their faces is blurred.  Though when all was said and done, luckily, almost alike were the refined, similar, features of Gadō and Konjūrō, whose popularity as two star actors was, unfortunately, a matter of dispute. What’s more, like Fukusuke, those two, doing that sort of work, were sensationally good value actors for young people and were lauded publicly as the best amongst the best; in the circumstances the actors’ guild (Yagō) Shinkomaya’s captivating reputation is, in the city of Tōkyō, widely talked about. In my memory the climax of his popularity Danjūrō’s performances was with his correctly multi layered depiction of Princess Yaegaki and the dutiful Katsuyori in Honchō Nijūshikō, Danjūrō’s correct performance of Iwafuji, and the timely business of Onoe in Kagamiyama!

However, if speaking generally, nowadays its nigh on impossible to procure advantageously positioned land in Saruwaka machi.

Saruwaka machi historical marker, Tōkyō

Since the earthquake disaster, the layout of the district (machi) had completely changed! Damn it! Gradually, around this time the Ichimuraza pulled out of the excellent Asakusa district’s Umamichi cho and similarly narrowly shaped Ameya Yokochō (Candy Street) location, a questionable act resulting in a lot of unsuitably grand positioning. Alas I was just a bystander at the Bunrakuza puppet plays, oh no, not at all intending to set a trend for its demise. Concerning the owner of  Ichimuraza, Morita Kanya, who’s theatrical reputation was well known and also nonetheless Nakamura Zenshirō, historically speaking one star actor amongst others employed on the stage in the entertainment industry with the most equivalent ability, like Fukusuke and Gadō and Konjurō; so it’s the poor location that was an obstruction to the performances. What’s more, quite frankly, didn’t these results appear disappointing at the time?

A Past Story Under the Lamp pg 62 63 The Edosanza from left to right: Nakamuraza, Ichimuraza and the Moritaza

But then the regulations concerning this location were also reminiscent of the prior circumstances when the street’s theatre owners were inevitably taxed on their capital assets, even if the profit approximated to only a small amount. It was difficult, and thought severe, to hear all about his theatre seemingly being driven to ruin because of Bandō Kakitsu I’s interest rate liability. On top of which there was perhaps the bias placed on the location. At that time AsakusaPublicPark was, without a doubt, also a flourishing principal garden and by no means was it becoming like that for any particular reason. It was said that right after that, that in the circumstances, the Ichimuraza’s foothold near Asakusa Public Park drew visitors who felt that they had an advantage, though as it was an inferior location, that wasn’t really true. And everyone agreed that there was some difficulty because of the Ichimuraza’s distance.

Then we went in a car to get to that distant Ichimuraza. The four of us walked together from Koji machi district’s Motozono Chō to Kanda’s Mansei Hashi Bridge. It was a hot day around about mid-July as we travelled along the distance of Kudan-saka slope and suddenly approaching Ogawa machi district we got off. Alas, miserably, there was sweat oozing out through the brow of my hat. From Mansei Hashi Bridge we rode in a horse drawn tram (tetsudō basha) towards Ueno where we stopped, and then, after swapping over at the interchange, we travelled in another horse drawn tram towards Asakusa. Rickshaw men were readying themselves, quickly gathering into a crowd though the negligible cost for a carriage (basha) ride from there to Asakusa was of no concern. From Ueno to Asakusa for one district was two sen. There was also a lot of competition between the jin-rickshaw men and the horse drawn tram so we took advantage of the little two sen discount that there was for vehicle passengers for the for the whole journey from Ueno to Asakusa though because of this the cost for a basha was thought poor. Mother was told that for two people to ride, driving along the road, in one vehicle it was five sen a piece which, pleasingly, drew out the rickshaw men. At the Kaminarimon Gate we got off and walked along Nakamise dōri, the street leading into the temple precincts and we worshipped at the statue of Kwannon, Goddess of Mercy at Sensoji Temple. After that, as was usual, we zigzagged along the alleyway (yokochō) towards Ichimuraza’s façade.

Author profile:

Trevor Skingle was born and lives in London where he works in the field of Humanitarian Disaster Relief. He is a Japanophile and his hobbies are Kabuki, painting and drawing and learning Japanese.

Related Posts:

Okamoto Kidō On The Kabuki Theatre Of The Meiji Period – Part Two

Okamoto Kidō On The Kabuki Theatre Of The Meiji Period – Part One

Tokyo Kabukiza Monthly Kabuki Review April – May 1930

Tokyo Kabukiza Monthly Kabuki Review 15th February – 1st March 1930

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