Thanks much as always to Mr. Mark Frey of the JETAANC Kabuki Club for the updates on Kabuki news, which I can then pass on to all of you, faithful readers.
Firstly, the big news this month is that popular film/TV actor Kagawa Teruyuki has joined the ranks of the Ichikawa family of kabuki actors, taking on the name Ichikawa Chûsha IX.
After his parents divorced when he was young, he had very little contact with his father, the famous kabuki actor Ichikawa Ennosuke III, who has now taken the name Ichikawa En’ô II. En’ô is famous as a master of keren (stage special effects), including chûnori (wirework, flying out over the audience), and as the pioneer of Super Kabuki, which employs such special effects, as well as lighting, makeup, and other elements in a truly over-the-top manner. The 72-year-old En’ô has not been seen onstage in eight years, due to medical problems, and Kagawa has stated that while he had considered simply sending his son to become a kabuki actor in order to continue the lineage, with En’ô ill, he felt it better that he go as well, to do his duty to the family. Duty to the family, and the obligation to perform if born into a kabuki family, seem major elements of the life of a kabuki actor; but the impression I get from news articles is that Kagawa does not feel forced into doing this, so much as that he is choosing to do this, and that it feels right. In one article from the Asahi Shimbun, he speaks of a “sense of mission,” and of feeling right in the makeup, saying that “When my father applied stage makeup on my face for the first time, I thought, ‘Hey, you are 40 years too late,’” and that “it feels as if this were all a grand scheme for fathers and sons to be reunited.” In an article in the Mainichi Shimbun, he says “I think it’s destiny. I’m keeping the promise made when I was born into this family.”
Left: Kagawa Teruyuki, out of kabuki makeup. Photo from wiki.d-addicts.com DramaWiki.
Kagawa has played roles in numerous TV dramas, including Mr. Brain, Kômyô ga Tsuji, and Ryômaden, and many films, from Tales of Earthsea and Sukiyaki Western Django to the 20th Century Boys trilogy and Tokyo Sonata. His son, 8-year-old Kagawa Masaaki, has taken the stage name Ichikawa Danko V, while a cousin has followed in his uncle’s footsteps, becoming the fourth Ennosuke.
A news post on Kabuki-bito.jp (the official website of professional kabuki) has some great pictures from the name-taking ceremony & performances.
Some other news articles covering the topic, though the information overlaps a lot:
*Actor Kagawa debuts in Kabuki, succeeds Ichikawa Chusha (Kyodo News)
*At 46, actor continues in father’s kabuki footsteps (Japan Times)
*Actor Kagawa debuts in Kabuki, succeeds Ichikawa Chusha (Mainichi)
*Kabuki actors get new names while movie star makes debut (Asahi)
I have myself never yet had the fortune of attending a shûmei (襲名, “name succession”) performance, with its accompanying kôjô (口上, “stage announcement”), but it seems a rather special occasion. It goes beyond simply going to see a play, but is an important moment in kabuki history – in the careers of these actors, and of their families and lineages. As the actors appear on stage making the formal announcement of their new names, and congratulating one another, one gets a glimpse into their relationships, and their world. I would love, one day, to attend such an event, and to be able to say afterwards that I was there when so-and-so the fourth became so-and-so the third, or whatever it may be.
It is a three-week program offered every summer in which participants are given the opportunity to train intensively in either Noh, Kyôgen, or Nihon Buyô. (I had thought that it was one week per form, but actually it’s a full three weeks in one form of your choice – much nicer.) And, apparently, many of the teachers speak excellent English, so a high level of Japanese language ability is not required. Personally, I’d rather train more explicitly in kabuki, including voice, stage fighting, mie poses, acting, and not just in the dance form kabuki employs / draws upon. But, nevertheless, this seems like an amazing experience. You get to train with Kyoto-based masters, in genuine traditional performing spaces in Kyoto, including the Ôe Nôgakudô (Ôe Noh Theatre) which I got to visit briefly when I was in Kyoto two summers ago, and, you get to be in Kyoto. I’m sure the program is quite intense, but, whatever time you might find in the evenings, weekends, or before or after the program, you’ll be in Kyoto already! Lots to see and do and enjoy, in what is quite possibly my favorite city in the world.
The classes are very small, which means it’s intimate and you get more attention, I’m sure, and, I get the impression that demand (surprisingly) is low enough that it might not be too competitive getting in. (If anyone knows different, let me know.) The program is also surprisingly cheap, this current summer costing only 50,000 yen for students in tuition & fees (or 70,000 if you’re not a student or practicing artist). Airfare, housing, and living expenses are extra, I’m sure, but even so, I don’t think I have ever heard of another program that is so inexpensive in its tuition and fees. The 10-week language program I attended in Kyoto two years ago cost around $4000 for the summer.
So, if you’re interested in Japanese traditional theatre, and especially if you happen to already be in Kyoto (or elsewhere in Japan) and can therefore save on airfare & housing, check out the TTT program. I hope to take part myself sometime in the next few years.