ëKabuki Eighteení. A collection of plays assembled by Danjuro VII in 1840 that represent the favourite and most popular roles associated with the Danjuro line. The collection contains many aragoto plays originally performed by Danjuro I and II. The collection was a way to reaffirm the power of the Ichikawa family at a time of great competition in the kabuki world. While many of the plays are rarely performed today, The Subscription List (Kanjincho), Sukeroku, The Medicine Peddler (Uirouri), and The Arrow Sharpener (Ya no Ne) remain popular showcases for the family art.
The role of the famous Heike warrior Akushichibyoe Kagekiyo is a signature one for the Ichikawa family, and the play is part of the Kabuki Eighteen. The role was first played by Danjuro IV, whose thin frame and long face made him unsuitable for the pure Ichikawa aragoto roles. Instead he developed his art in other directions, playing the logical and loyal heroes known as jitsugotoshi, as well as villain (katakiyaku) roles. He enjoyed huge success with the part of Kagekiyo. The part adds a new psychological dimension to aragoto, in that Kagekiyo is imprisoned by his enemies, and endures a tearful reunion with his wife and children before smashing his way out of the prison in which he is being held. The make-up he developed for the role used black lines, suggesting his evil nature. Later generations of Danjuro continued to play the role, and it had a special significance for Danjuro VII, who acted it to celebrate his return to Edo after seven yearsí banishment. Perhaps we can sense a hint of pride in the way he used Kagekiyoís escape from prison to mirror his own banishment and return.
A unique fabric design, traditional to the Ichikawa family. The pattern shows a sickle (kama), a circle (wa), and the syllabic character nu, to spell out the word kamawanu (I donít give a damn). The design was particularly associated with Danjuro VII, and his popular role of the handsome villain Yoemon in the play Kasane, who murders a man using a sickle. However, the design itself predates Danjuro VII, and is said to have been popular with street toughs in the late seventeenth century. However, either way the masculine insouciance of the design is a perfect match with the Ichikawa familyís aragoto image. Similar designs exist for the Kikugoro (yoki koto to kiku) and Omezo (kamaimasu) lines of actors.
A writer of the late nineteenth century, the last to preserve the old, light-hearted gesaku style of the Edo period. He established a satirical newspaper called the Kanayomi Shimbun, and it was here that coined the derisive term ëliving historyí for Danjuro IXís experiments with history plays.
An elegant style of narrative shamisen music, developed in the early 18th century by Masumi Kato, the son of an Edo fishmonger. In contrast to more popular styles like Tokiwazu or Shinnai, Katobushi was appreciated largely by the intelligentsia. Today, the music survives in just one play ñ Sukeroku, the Flower of Edo (Sukeroku Yukari no Edo Zakura). Whenever the play is acted by a member of the Ichikawa family, amateur Kato bushi musicians are invited to perform. Since it was the hobby of the old elite, the actor playing Sukeroku will always address the musicians respectfully.
The hereditary name held by the managers of the Kawarasaki-za theatre. The Kawarasaki-za was a hikae yagura ñ an alternate theatre that could step in to stage plays whenever the main, license-holding Morita-za was dark. The first holder of the name was an accomplished author who wrote a theoretical text on kabuki dance called Bukyoku Senrin (see above). Each generation continued to work as both actors and theatre managers. In the mid-nineteenth century Gonnosuke VI was particularly successful as a manager, eventually becoming a major backer of the Ichimura-za. He was murdered in 1867 by burglars and his adopted son went on to become Danjuro IX. It is said that Danjuro drew upon his adoptive fatherís death in his portrayal of the death scene of Banzui Chobei.
Kiba no Oyadama
ëThe Boss of Kibaí, a nickname given to Danjuro IV and taken from the area of Fukagawa where he lived out his retirement. The nickname also refers to impulsiveness and the fact that he was heavily-built. He retired from the stage in 1776 after playing one of his greatest roles, Matsuomaru in Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy (Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami). His retainers were said to be shocked when he returned home after the final performance, having already shaved his head and changed his name to Zuinen to symbolize the severing of ties with his former life.
Kinpira puppet theatre, a popular puppet genre of the late seventeenth century that began in Kyoto and later flourished in Edo. It is said that Danjuro I was inspired to create his aragoto acting style by watching Kinpira joruri. The stories of Kinpira joruri revolve around Sakata Kinpira, a powerful and fierce warrior figure. It is said that the popular Kinpira joruri chanter Sakurai Tanba no Jo would beat out time with an iron stave and twist off the head of his puppets. The violence of the form seemed to suit the rowdy atmosphere of the expanding city of Edo.
Aragoto is often thought as a purely physical art, and the Ichikawa family physical actors. It is easy to forget that they also excel in the verbal arts. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the kojo ñ the formal, onstage announcement where actors directly address the audience.
Kojo are designed to increase the sense of intimacy between actors and audience, and with the high regard that the Ichikawa family were always held by Edo audiences, it was only natural that their kojo should be rapturously received. The kojo held when Danjuro V passed his name to his son and became Ebizo was a huge success, and audiences flocked to the theatres specially to hear Danjuro address them. In more recent memory, in 1903, when Onoe Kikugoro V passed away and his young son became Kikugoro VI, Danjuro IX performed the kojo with tears running down his cheeks. And in 1965, Danjuro XI, who was usually thought as being a clumsy speaker, delighted audiences and his fellow actors with the wit and freshness he displayed at a kojo held to mark the passing of Matsumoto Koshiro VII.
Literally, ëwheel sidelocksí. An exaggerated type of wig in which the sidelocks are stiffened with oil so that they stick out on both sides of the head like crab legs or the spokes of a wheel. It is used for aragoto characters, for example in the play Just a Minute! (Shibaraku). The wig expresses power and anger, almost as though the hair is standing upright. A softer, slightly less stylized version is used for gangster-like characters such as Chobei in Suzugamori.