Living history (katsureki)
A new type of historical play, pioneered by Danjuro IX in the late nineteenth century. The phrase ëliving historyí was coined by the writer Kanagaki Robun in a negative review of the 1878 play Nicho no Yumi Chigusa no Shigeto.
Both Danjuro IX and his father Danjuro VII were devoted to the idea of cleansing kabuki of licentiousness and historical inaccuracy, and the living history plays were based upon rigorous historical research into costume, speech and character. However, popular audiences disliked the new, serious staging. The plays were disastrous in commercial terms and wreaked havoc on Danjuro IXís personal reputation. Danjuroís discoveries in stagecraft and acting did eventually filter through, but they took a long time to become accepted. Today, Takatoki and Omori Hikoshichi are amongst the living history plays that remain in the repertoire.
Literally, ëthe battle axeí. A style of topknot that resembles the blade of an axe, often used by villain characters like Iwanaga in Akoya, or the red bellied henchmen in Just a Minute! (Shibaraku). However, actors from the Ichikawa family also wear this style of topknot in kojo ceremonies. In the Edo period the masakari style of topknot was famously worn by the tough firemen employed by the Maeda barons of Kaga domain. The style thus has connotations of masculine dash and verve.
The crest of the Ichikawa family, consisting of three nested square boxes. It is one of the most immediately recognizable crests in all kabuki. There are various theories about its origin, including the idea that Danjuro I adapted the lightning crest used for the role of Fuwa Banzaemon. However, the Ichikawa family likes to think that it came from a gift of three square rice measures, sent to Danjuro Iís father by his friend Token Juemon on the occasion of his first stage performance. True or not, itís a wonderfully romantic story, linking actors and gangsters, honour and friendship.
Other actors in the family add a character to the centre of the three boxes: Sadanji adds the phonetic character ësaí, Danshiro adds ëdaní. Ichikawa Danzo, on the other hand, uses a vertically stretched version of the three boxes.
The penname under which Danjuro I wrote play scripts. Before him there were no recognized playwrights or scripts in kabuki, rather the chief actor would create the plot and teach it orally to the members of the cast.
Mimasuya Nisoji (1784-1856)
A playwright and fan of Danjuro VII. The son of a wealthy rice merchant, in his early years he was the archetypal spendthrift son, but his dissipation obviously served him well since he went on to write the lyrics for popular dance dramas like The Elopers (Ochiudo), Kanda Festival (Kanda Matsuri), Osome, Goro and Ubae. He has also been of immense benefit to future kabuki researchers, as he wrote a book about the structure of the theatre year, and another book of memories about kabuki playwrights. It is said that Danjuro interceded to get him a job in the theatre, and when his family heard about the lavish party he threw to celebrate, they disowned him.
Triple line trellis pattern. Also known as the mimasu trellis, the bold intersecting stripes of this pattern have made it a perennial favourite in designs for male kimonos. The triple lines of the pattern are of course derived from the triple boxes of the Ichikawa familyís famous mimasu crest.
ëTrough-shell shadowsí. A simple style of kumadori make-up devised by Danjuro II. A red line is drawn below the eye, turning upwards at the eyeís outer corner and extending to the eyebrow. It can be seen in roles like Sukeroku or Soga no Goro in Taimen where the suggestion of both youth and power are called for. Danjuro II added a sense of sex appeal and deeper characterization to the red kumadori devised by Danjuro I.