Kansai Kabuki (Kabuki of the Kyoto and Osaka Area) (関西歌舞伎)
Kamigata Kabuki is the collective name for forms, technique, direction, performing method, program, theatrical world and other aspects of Kabuki that have been developed centered on Osaka and Kyoto. It is often mentioned as an art comparable with Edo Kabuki (Kabuki of old Tokyo).
Since the Meiji period in particular, it has been used as an expression to mean daikabuki (Kabuki performance or troupe) in the Kansai region. After World War II in particular, the number of kabuki actors in Kansai gradually decreased, and it became impossible to organize multiple troupes in this region. Inevitably (except when making guest appearance in Tokyo), leading actors were obliged to build a troupe together. This art form is called Kansai Kabuki in contrast to the Kikugoro troupe, Kichiemon troupe and Ennosuke troupe.
Together with Edo Kabuki, Kansai Kabuki is one of the two main schools of Kabuki, and in contrast to Edo Kabuki, which created valiant performances called aragoto (Kabuki play featuring exaggerated posture, makeup and costume), formed gentle and tender performances called wagoto (the production style of a love scene). Around the 18th century Kamigata Kabuki was more advanced, as evident from the fact that stage setting mechanisms such as mawari-butai (revolving stage) and seriage (stage elevator) were invented in Kamigata. Many scripts called maruhonmono (Kabuki dramas of joruri (puppet-play) origin), which are ningyo joruri (traditional Japanese puppet theater) arranged for Kabuki, and other scripts such as Goemon ISHIKAWA that deal with family feuds in which villains seek to take over the entire country, play important roles. The plots are complicated and contain comic-like elements. Generally speaking, the plays are rich in variety but lack originality. After Gohei NAMIKI, who lived in the latter half of the 19th century, no excellent script writers comparable to Nanboku TSURUYA and Mokuami KAWATAKE of Edo Kabuki appeared. Consequently Kabuki kyogen plays performed today do not include many works that originated in Kamigata, except maruhonmono. Only a few remain, such as "Kari no Tayori (Letter)" (by Ryugyoku KANAZAWA), "Iseondo Koi no Netaba (literally, Ise Dances and Love's Dull Blade)" (by Tokuzo CHIKAMATSU) and "Katakiuchi Tengajayamura (The Revenge at Tengajaya)" (by Kamesuke NAGAWA).
After this period, Kamigata Kabuki drifted from the center of the Kabuki world, coinciding with the development of Edo Kabuki in conjunction with the dissemination of culture from Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area) to Edo.
Kamigata and Edo also differ with respect to staging. For maruhonmono performed today, there are Kamigata-style staging and Edo-style staging. This can be seen in the following example of the performance of the role of Kanpei in "Chushingura rokudanme (Act 6 from Chushingura)."
Edo: Kanpei changes into a light blue silk monpuku (clothing decorated with one's family crest).
Kamigata: Kanpei is always under the guise of a hunter. At the end, Okaya makes Kanpei put on a monpuku on his shoulder.
Kamigata makes the most of a wording of joruri, "Isuka no hashi no kuichigai (Nothing goes right as it should)," and emphasizes the nature of the tragedy that he dies immediately before his innocence is proven.
Edo: Kanpei dies with his hands joined and held in Okaya's arms.
Kamigata: He crawls to see off SENZAKI and HARA, then dies. (Staging by Enjaku II). Kanpei also prostrates himself before both of them (Ganjiro I).
The Edo-style ending attaches importance to stylization, while Kamigata maintains the logic that Kanpei showed courtesy as a samurai at the end. As seen above, the rational and logical aspects are conspicuous, and it is thought this has a certain relationship with characteristics of Osaka, where a merchant society had matured.
Another feature of Kamigata Kabuki is the use of highly individual staging, such as keren (eye-catching performances) and ad-libbing adopted in order to please an audience by various means. With respect to the entertainment factor, a similar tendency is seen in today's Yoshimoto Shin Kigeki (Yoshimoto New Comedy Troupe) and Kamigata Rakugo (traditional Japanese comic storytelling as performed in the Kyoto-Osaka region). When "Megumi no kenka" (literally, fighting by "megumi" group) was performed in Osaka in the Taisho period, the curtain was closed for a scene in which tobi (firemen) and sumo wrestlers taunt each other.
On that occasion the audience complained, shouting "What, is it over? What is this junk?"
The audience expected an action to follow. Staging that is accepted as "iki (sophisticated)" in Edo is felt to be somehow lacking in Kamigata. Conversely, Kamigata-style staging was judged to be tedious and felt "yabo (unrefined)"in Edo. This is the reason Utaemon NAKAMURA III (sandaime) and Kodanji ICHIKAWA IV (yondaime) were not well accepted by certain spectators in Edo. Staging of Kamigata Kabuki declined after World War II, but in recent years has been reevaluated thanks to efforts by performers such as Ennosuke ICHIKAWA and Tojuro SAKATA.
In the Edo Period there was an active exchange between Kabuki in eastern and western Japan, and many of the Kamigata-style stagings were brought to Edo and used as a source of nourishment for Edo Kabuki. These included the use of gidayu called Takemoto, kerengei such as quick costume changes and realistic performance. Nanboku TSURUYA IV, Mokuami KAWATAKE and others added arrangements as the Edo style. Also, Kabuki actors of the east and west devoted themselves to brushing up their skills as good rivals, which improved performances on both sides.
In Kamigata, "form" is not given importance, and exerting one's originality and ingenuity is considered important with respect to performance. In Edo it was considered important to carry on the beauty of the style, but in Kamigata, a performer was criticized for lack of original effort if he performed as taught. A good example is Ganjiro NAKAMURA I, who performed the same Kabuki play in a different way every day, and who scolded his son Ganjiro II (Senjaku I at that time) for performing "Kamiji" as he had learned from his father, saying, "Why you perform as you were taught? There is no ingenious thought of your own." Therefore inherited family performance was not produced and disappeared. This is perhaps the reason the number of generations of Kamigata Kabuki actors is very small compared to that to Edo Kabuki. On the other hand, there were many cases of performers who are not from good lineage becoming a leading actor through their own abilities. The reason is thought to be the difference between Edo, a city of samurai where "family" and formality were considered important and Osaka, a city of merchants where personal capability governed. However, with respect to succession to a professional name, for example, factors such as family line and blood relationship are considered important. As an example in the Showa period, the circumstances surrounding succession to the professional name Raizo by Raizo ICHIKAWA VIII are well known.
History (From Edo to Meiji, and up to World War II)
In the Genroku era (the latter half of 17th century), Tojuro SAKATA I (shodai) completed performances of wagoto in cooperation with Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU. "Yatsushi" in which a person of high rank disguised as a poorly dressed townsman meets a familiar harlot was a typical pattern. In the same period, famous actors such as Sanemon ARASHI I (shodai), Ayame YOSHIZAWA I (shodai), Jinzaemon YAMATOYA and Tatsunosuke MIZUKI I took active parts. Kabuki theaters were centered on Minami-za in Shijogawara in Kyoto, and in Osaka many theaters were concentrated in Dotonbori, where playhouses such as Dainishi, Naka, Kado, Kadomaru, Wakadayu and Takeda stood side by side. Among them were Naka and Kado, which were high-class oshibai (a licensed theater in the Edo period), while others were hamashibai (nakashibai, or small theaters in Dotonbori in the Edo period) where plays could be enjoyed with low admission charge. Both were symbols of Kansai Kabuki. Minami-za still maintains the old traditions by carrying out kaomisekogyo (the season's first performance with the new company) at the end of the year, but almost all the playhouses in Dotonbori have disappeared.
As the 18th century commenced, Kabuki lost its popularity to ningyo joruri, but many scripts of ningyo joruri such as "Kanadehon Chushingura" (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), "Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami" (Sugawara's secrets of calligraphy), "Yoshitsune Senbonzakura" (Yoshitsune and One Thousand Cherry Trees) and "Meido no Hikyaku" (Courier to the Hell) were arranged for Kabuki. They are called maruhonmono (Kabuki drama of joruri (puppet-play) origin) and had a major influence as an important repertory of Kabuki on later generations. At the beginning of the mid-18th century, Kabuki was revived with completion of shosagoto (dance in Kabuki) by star actors for female roles such as Kikunojo SEGAWA I (shodai) and Tomijuro NAKAMURA I (shodai), the restoration of forgotten wagoto performances by Kichitaro OGAWA and the creation of excellent scripts and improvement of stage installations by Shozo NAMIKI I in cooperation with Utaemon NAKAMURA I (shodai). In the latter half of the 18th century, Gohei NAMIKI as a Kabuki playwright and Hinasuke ARASHI I, Kikugoro ONOE I (shodai) and Sojuro SAWAMURA I (shodai) as actors went up to Edo and had a major influence on Edo Kabuki.
From the 19th century to the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate, famous actors such as Utaemon NAKAMURA III, who was called "kaneru (to serve concurrently)" and an all-round excellent actor, Nizaemon KATAOKA (nanadaime), Nizaemon KATAOKA VIII (hachidaime), Kichizaburo ARASHI II (later, Rikan ARASHI I (shodai), Tamizo ONOE II, who was famous for keren performances and Gakujuro JITSUKAWA II, who was good at wagoto performances, all played an active role. On the other hand, many actors such as Kodanji ICHIKAWA IV, Utaemon NAKAMURA IV (yondaime) and Shikan NAKAMURA IV (yondaime) went up to Edo and gave outstanding performances, and the level of actors was not inferior to that of Edo. However, the difference in quality with Edo Kabuki was reversed as actors of oshibai performed in lower-ranked hamashibai, decreasing the dignity of the plays, and capable Kabuki playwrights did not appear, which resulted in the rewriting of titles with same content and representation of popular plays of hamashibai, and originality was lacking as revue-style plays emphasized variety.
I believe the causes of decline of Kamigata Kabuki were theater audiences that thought it was enough if the play was interesting and not expensive and the fact that all of Kabuki playwrights, actors and theaters lost moderation with respect to Kabuki as a drama."("Kamigata Kabuki no Fukei (literally, landscape of Kamigata Kabuki) by Yoshikazu GONDO, 2005, Izumi Shoin)
After the start of the Meiji period, however, the great promoters Sanei and Daisei produced successful plays in Dotonbori. There were many great actors such as Enjaku JITSUKAWA (shodai), who was the top performer of Kamigata wagoto, Udanji ICHIKAWA I (shodai), who excelled at keren and Sojuro NAKAMURA I, who aimed at new Kabuki. Their activities resulted in unprecedented prosperity. Around the end of the 19th century Ganjiro NAKAMURA I (shodai), whose existence was decisive for Kansai Kabuki, entered the picture.
Ｅra of Ganjiro
From Meiji to Taisho, the art of wagoto reached the height of sophistication under Ganjiro NAKAMURA. In addition to innate good looks, a strong desire to learn as seen in his effort to learn performances of various actors both in the east and west including Enjaku I and Danjuro ICHIKAWA IX (kudaime) and gorgeous performances full of efforts to please the audience, made Ganjiro the king of Kansai Kabuki.
Similar to today's teenage stars, young girls rushed to the stage yelling "Ganjiro-han," and goods bearing his "ibishi (diamond shape formed with katakana "I") family crest fast-selling items. He did not end as a mere teenage star, however, and his numerous excellent stage appearances became legends and still have a great influence on present Kansai Kabuki. Popular plays that are performed today such as "Shinju Ten no Amijima - Kawasho," "Futatsu Chocho Kuruwa Nikki - Hikimado," "Tsuchiya Chikara (Chikara TSUCHIYA)" and "Tojuro no Koi" were originated by Ganjiro. His performance was acknowledged not only by audiences in Osaka and Kyoto, but also by audiences in Tokyo, leading to Ganjiro Nakamura being regarded as a synonym for Kansai Kabuki.
Other actors who flourished in Kabuki roles included Enjaku JITSUKAWA II (nidaime), Nizaemon KATAOKA XI (juichidaime), Baigyoku NAKAMURA II (nidaime), Jakuemon NAKAMURA III (sandaime), Usaburo ONOE II (nidaime), Tamizo ONOE III (sandaime), Gansho ARASHI and Rikan ARASHI IV (yondaime). Each had the ability to establish his own school, but they could not compete with Ganjiro both in popularity and awareness. Such was Ganjiro's outsized influence.
The way the promoter Shochiku ran its performances to center on Ganjiro, however, created various biases and distortions. Capable rivals such as Nizaemon KATAOKA XI and Enjaku JITSUKAWA II were treated coldly and forced to shift their field of activity to Tokyo. The Kansai Kabuki environment, in which awareness of family performance was low, was not active in fostering successors and the situation of Ganjiro sweeping the board continued. People involved in the Kabuki business did not take any measures to prepare for the post-Ganjiro era, however, and Ganjiro died in 1935.
Kansai Kabuki before World War II (Big Three Era)
After Ganjiro's death the big three, namely Enjaku II, Kaisha NAKAMURA (shodai) and Baigyoku NAKAMURA III (sandaime), became the driving force of Kamigata Kabuki. Moreover, Kabuki performance itself was popular, and as far as tateoyama (the leading Onnagata actor) is concerned, Kansai was superior. Baigyoku often came to Tokyo and showed his unrivaled performance in role such as Sadataka in "Yoshinoyama" and Tamategozen in "Gappo Anshitsu (Gappo's country hermitage)", and was appreciated highly by Kabuki fans in Tokyo. Nizaemon KATAOKA XII (junidaime) moved to Tokyo to cover the shortage of tateoyama in Tokyo.
Performances by the big three - Enjaku the amorous tachiyaku (a leading male-role actor), Baigyoku the classic tateoyama and Kaisha the technical actor - showed unique characteristics and their level was comparable to Ganjiro I. In supporting players as well there were many versatile actors such as Ichizo ICHIKAWA IV (yondaime), Hakotora ICHIKAWA I (shodai), Kichisaburo ARASHI VII (nanadaime), Enjo ICHIKAWA I (shodai), Okuzan ASAO IV and Kasen NAKAMURA II. These actors transferred from Tokyo and promising young actors joined as well, which strengthened the lineup of actors. New efforts such as joint performances with Shinpa-Geki (a New-School Play) were also conducted. For theaters, Kabuki was performed in Minami-za in Kyoto and at Naka-za, Naniwa-za, Osaka Kabuki-za and Dotonbori Kado-za in Osaka.
However, both promoters and audiences pursued the illusion of Ganjiro NAKAMURA I and demanded Enjaku perform Ganjiro's star role, which had an poor result that did not take advantage of the actor's characteristics. Despite difficult wartime conditions in which many theaters and shibaijaya (restaurant attached to a theater) were closed, kabuki centered on the big three achieved wide-spread popularity in Kansai. In defiance of air raids, Kabuki performances were conducted even in the closing days of WWII.
Kansai Kabuki immediately after World War II
Kansai Kabuki declined rapidly after WWII. The main theaters except the Minami-za in Kyoto and Osaka Kabuki-za in Osaka were destroyed by fire in air raids, resulting in great damage to the world of Kabuki. In addition, following the death of Kaisha NAKAMURA from war injuries in March 1945 and the unexpected death of Nizaemon KATAOKA XII in 1946, Baigyoku NAKAMURA died in 1948 and Enjaku II, who was called "the last actor of Kamigata," died in 1951. Within only 15 years after Ganjiro I's death, the four leading lights were lost.
In 1948 the Naka-za was restored. Kado-za and Naniwa-za were converted into movie theaters, however, and one after another the kabuki theaters with long history disappeared from Dotonbori in Osaka.
The remaining successors to Kansai Kabuki at this time were Ganjiro NAKAMURA II (nidaime), Gato KATAOKA IV (later, Nizaemon KATAOKA XIII (jusandaime)), Jukai ICHIKAWA III (sandaime), Jusaburo BANDO III (sandaime), Tomijuro NAKAMURA IV (yondaime), Minosuke BANDO VI (rokudaime) (later, Mitsugoro BANDO VIII (hachidaime)), Mataichiro HAYASHI II, Roen KATAOKA V (later, Gado KATAOKA XII; after his death, posthumously conferred Nizaemon XIV), Fukusuke NAKAMURA V (Takasagoya), Enjiro JITSUKAWA II (later, Enjaku JITSUKAWA III (sandaime)) and Naritaro NAKAMURA II. In addition there were young actors, such as Tsurunosuke BANDO IV (later, Tomijuro NAKAMURA V (godaime)) and Senjaku NAKAMURA II (later, Ganjiro NAKAMURA III and Tojuro SAKATA (yondaime)). Furthermore there were many supporting actors, starting from Kasen NAKAMURA who was acting before World War II, and including Shojaku NAKAMURA, Kichisaburo ARASHI VII (nanadaime), Sanemon ARASHI XI (or X) (juichidaime), Hinasuke ARASHI X (judaime), Ainosuke KATAOKA V (godaime) and Kikujiro ONOE IV (yondaime). Among them, Jukai, Minosuke and Tomijuro were born in Tokyo and Gato, whose style of performance was modest and reserved, was not a pure actor from Osaka.
(He was born in Tokyo.)
Although Jusaburo was born in Osaka, the quality of his performances was not suitable for wagoto. Because Enjiro, Senjaku and Tsurunosuke were not sufficiently experienced, the only pure actors from Kamigata were Ganjiro and Mataichiro, his younger brother. Mataichiro had a delicate constitution, however, and only Ganjiro could lead the next generation.
Eve of collapse
Ganjiro himself was in extreme slump under the pressure of expectations from his surroundings and acute awareness for his great father. In terms of age, Jukai and Jusaburo were leaders. However, although both were very good actors, they lacked the skills to lead the industry. At the promoter Shochiku, after Matsujiro SHIRAI's death, management power shifted to his younger brother (who he had adopted as his male successor), Shintaro SHIRAI. He too, however, had too little ability to revive Kansai Kabuki,, which was already in its period of decline. In addition, because Osaka's economy declined after World War II, sponsors who had supported Kabuki successively relocated to Tokyo. Following World War II, Kansai Kabuki had no strong leader or support and appeared set to collapse at any moment.
Immediately before and after Enjaku's death, however, Kansai Kabuki exhibited renewed vigor for a short time. The first stage began with the "two ju era" by Jukai and Jusaburo. With youthful performances, Jukai established a new art that had never been seen in Osaka kabuki. Jusaburo also had been showing such ability in Shinkabuki (new kabuki) as he was called "Sadanji in Kansai," and, gradually his skill in maruhonmono, which was his weak point, began to improve. He came to be recognized as the next generation leader of Kansai Kabuki. "Takechi Kabuki" was started by Tetsuji TAKECHI, who ushered in a new phase in Kansai Kabuki, which had stagnated, through his method of working with young Kansai Kabuki actors and concentrating on staging that emphasized the original work. From among such young actors, Senjaku and Tsurunosuke distinguished themselves and established the "Senkaku Jidai" era.
In particular, Senjaku was enormously popular for his tremendously successful performance of "Sonezaki Shinju," and he obtained nationwide awareness that spread beyond the bounds of Kabuki. In 1953, a toshikyogen (performance of an entire play) of "Kanadehon Chushingura" (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers) was staged at Teikoku-Gekijo Theater in Tokyo by all-star performance by Kansai Kabuki, including Jukai and Jusaburo. Also, in December of the same year the kaomisekogyo (the season's first performance with the new company) at Minami-za in Kyoto was conducted centered on actors in Kansai. Although such events made it appear that young skills had been nurtured, it proved to be the last flickering of the stage lights just before they burned out.
Jusaburo BANDO III died on September 24, 1954. One view considers Kansai Kabuki to have collapsed at this point. Ganjiro and Tomijuro, who had not been given important roles and had been treated coldly in the shadow of the popularity of "soju" and "senkaku," were smoldering with dissatisfaction. Shochiku took only temporary stopgap measures, such as making Jukai perform the star role of Ganjiro I, for example, which injured Ganjiro's pride and showed a lack of consideration for the proper successors of Kansai Kabuki.
It was under such conditions that Jusaburo, who played the role of mediator to some extent, died suddenly. Already on September 1, before Jusaburo's death, Tsurunosuke had withdrawn from Shochiku. In April 1955, Minosuke brought accusations against the management of Shochiku at the Regional Legal Affairs Bureau, alleging that the problems with respect to Tsurunosuke constituted human right violations. In addition, within a period of slightly more than six months a series of problems occurred, including the decision by Ganjiro and Senjaku, who were father and son, to join the cinema world. Under such circumstances, the number of theatergoers fell drastically as a matter of course. At this point, the decline and collapse of Kansai Kabuki became clear to all.
Jukai, who was comparable to Jusaburo, held the important post of chairman of the Kansai Kabuki Actors' Association, and with his great personality had become the greatest kabuki actor both in name and reality because of his improvement of the level of performance. Because he had been born in Tokyo, however, and partly because of the negative impact of Shochiku's above-mentioned policy of overemphasizing Jukai, no one supported him. As top stars were lost and the number of performances dwindled, actors worried about their future and lost their motivation. Some left Kansai Kabuki and others grew discouraged, and many left even though they continued to be actors as shown below.
Transferred to the film industry
- Ganjiro, Senjaku and Raizo ICHIKAWA
Sought a way out in stage entertainment for the masses
- Sanemon ARASHI XI (or X) (juichidaime) and others
Relocated their base to Tokyo to pursue activities and seek opportunities
- Tsurunosuke, Minosuke and others
With each actor working for his own gain, Kansai Kabuki had virtually disintegrated. Afterwards Senjaku did not return to the world of kabuki for eight years, and Ganjiro for ten years. Tsurunosuke and Minosuke, who sought their ways in Tokyo, never moved their base of operations back to Kansai. Many Kabuki actors also worked as movie actors, as seen in the case of Tomoemon OTANI VII (present Jakuemon NAKAMURA (yondaime)).
Repetition of easy performances, and lack of efforts by people in the business to foster capable successors, were the large bill that came due. With respect to Raizo ICHIKAWA VIII in particular, considering his later achievements in the movie industry, the fact that the kabuki world would not develop his talent and let him move to the film industry because of his weak blood relationship with the kabuki world and the fact his initial foster father was a supporting player resulted in major damage to Kansai Kabuki, in the sense of kabuki's performance as a business, because kabuki at that time was competing with films.
After World War II, like Osaka, the kabuki world in Tokyo also began to decline because of the successive deaths of famous actors such as Koshiro MATSUMOTO VII, Kikugoro ONOE VI and Kichiemon NAKAMURA I. Thanks to efforts of leading actors such as Utaemon NAKAMURA VI, Shoroku ONOE II and Sadanji ICHIKAWA III, however, kabuki in Tokyo was able to hold its ground. Connections with the political and business worlds since Danjuro ICHIKAWA IX also had an effect, and support from these connections helped significantly. With performances in America by Utaemon and the performance announcing the succession of Danjuro ICHIKAWA XI serving as triggers, Tokyo recovered smartly. Kansai Kabuki proved unlucky by comparison because of overlapping negative elements, including a lack of solidarity among actors and promoters and a drop in the number of sponsors because of the decline of Osaka's economy.
Rehabilitation of Kansai Kabuki (Shichinin no Kai (A Kabuki study group created by seven Kamigata actors))
In August 1958, Nizaemon KATAOKA XIII held a "Shichinin no Kai" in Osaka Mainichi Hall. This was an independent performance with a lineup of the seven kabuki actors Nizaemon, Ganjiro, Gado KATAOKA (jusandaime)(posthumously, conferred Nizaemon KATAOKA XIV), Mataichiro, Enjaku, Senjaku and Fukusuke NAKAMURA (Takasagoya V) and produced by Koichi YAMAGUCHI. The group performed three times until 1961. It disappeared because of financial reasons, but the performances themselves were successful and served as a motive for rehabilitation of Kansai Kabuki.
Despite every effort by people in the business, no kabuki performance was conducted in Osaka in the latter half of the 1950s. As kabuki continued its internal discord, audiences in Osaka looked the other way and flocked to cinema, shinkigeki (new comedy) and popular song shows. Although kabuki was performed at the Shin Kabuki-za Theater to celebrate its grand opening in 1958, the theater came to be used for performances by actresses and entertainers and kabuki was performed only once a year or not at all in certain years. Furthermore, in the latter half of the 1960s the theater was used for kabuki only for performances given in commemoration of actor's succession and memorial performances. On the other hand, kaomisekogyo held in Kyoto at year-end was well rooted among local citizens as a seasonal event and attendance never fell. At one point, however, Osaka's theater was renamed Tozaigodo (literally, east and west jointly) and the number of performances of Tokyo-style kabuki increased. The winter of Kansai Kabuki continued.
"Nizaemon Kabuki," which was an independent performance by Nizaemon KATAOKA, XIII, commenced on August 19, 1962. Nizaemon, who had taken part in a spectacular show announcing the succession to Danjuro ICHIKAWA XI in Tokyo Kabuki-za in January 1962, also experienced the small audience for the performance at Minami-za in April and was shocked at the depressing conditions of Kansai Kabuki.
As he described in his autobiography, he was recommended to move to Tokyo and he considered leaving Kansai and moving to Tokyo
He also wrote, however, that "If I gave up Kamigata in its present state, I would not have any excuse not only to the ancestors of the Kataoka family but also to my predecessors who had built up shibai (drama) in Kamigata up until now. By all means, I had to protect Kamigata Kabuki shibai." ("Yakusha nanajunen (literally, seventy years as an actor)" by Nizaemon KATAOKA; published by The Asahi Shimbun Company), and his heart-felt sorrow for kabuki and his thoughts for his ancestors instilled in him the tragic but brave thought that "If failed, I will die with kabuki."(ibid.). Thanks to the cooperation and understanding of his family, Nizaemon started his activity toward independent performances. As a result of his efforts to hold his own press interview to explain his wish and energetically meet with various persons asking for support, the performance held in Bunraku-za Theater was a great success. With the basic policy of an inexpensive admission charge and toshi of Kamigata kyogen, performances were given five times until 1967. Each performance was completed satisfactorily. It had proven that kabuki can also be performed in Osaka, and the last flame of Kansai Kabuki was maintained.
Afterwards, together with his son Nizaemon held kabuki kyoshitsu (kabuki classroom) for high school students and continued his effort to foster fans for kabuki. Many kabuki actors actively engaged in kabuki today entered the kabuki world after becoming interested in kabuki through Nizaemon's kabuki kyoshitu. Even in the long history of Kansai Kabuki, the role played by Nizaemon KATAOKA XIII is extremely large.
Although Kansai Kabuki emerged from the crisis of its collapse thanks to Nizaemon Kabuki, the end of the slump in Kansai Kabuki was not seen in the 1960s and 1970s and conditions of great distress continued. Kabuki was performed sporadically in Dotonbori or Shinkabuki-za but did not last. People in the business were seized by a sense of helplessness, but were unable to take any measures. Kamigata Rakugo (traditional Japanese comic storytelling performed in the Kyoto-Osaka region), which like kabuki had been in slump after World War II, was restored around 1970 and an unprecedented boom in manzai (standup comics) occurred around 1980. Kabuki, however, was still treated as behind the times in Kansai and the desired growth in new fans could not be realized.
Under these circumstances, Tojuro SAWAMURA II in Tokyo established the "Kansai de kabuki wo sodateru kai" (Association to Foster Kabuki in the Kansai Region) as an independent performance. It was said his sense of responsibility was roused by the fact that because of the slump in kabuki performance, the Shinkabuki-za in Osaka decided to withdraw from kabuki performances following the final show to announce the succession to stage name for him and his elder brother Sojuro IX. Persons involved in kabuki in Tokyo also harbored a considerable sense of crisis that the decline of Kansai Kabuki might result in the decline of the entire kabuki world. Because of the enthusiasm of people who sought to restore Kansai Kabuki, a subsidy from Osaka City and cooperation from Minrokyo (liaison conference of private sector labor union), the promoter also got moving. In May 1979, the first performance was given in Asahi-za and Funa Norikomi (Kabuki actor on board greets fans on the bank of the river) was conducted for the first time in fifty-two years.
This performance was repeated for ten times until 1989. In addition to Sojuro and Tojuro brothers, the father and son actors Kanzaburo NAKAMURA XVII (junanadaime) and Kankuro NAKAMURA (present Kanzaburo NAKAMURA (juhachidaime), Baiko ONOE VII (nanadaime), Danjuro, Kikugoro, Kichiemon, Koshiro and Tomijuro took part from Tokyo. From the local area, Nizaemon KATAOKA XIII, Gado KATAOKA XIII, Ganjiro NAKAMURA II, Takao KATAOKA (present Nizaemon KATAOKA (jugodaime)), Gato KATAOKA, Hidetaro KATAOKA, Enjaku JITSUKAWA III (sandaime), Tokusaburo ARASHI VII, Senjaku NAKAMURA (present Tojuro SAKATA) and others participated. Every year the performance was a major topic, and from the second year it was also performed at Naka-za. In Dotonbori, a sacred place for Kansai Kabuki, banners of kabuki actors lined the street and the performance became a regular annual event for the summer in Osaka. "Kansai de kabuki wo sodateru kai" still exists today as the "Kansai kabuki wo aisuru kai" (Association for Loving Kansai Kabuki).
Ennosuke ICHIKAWA III learned from Enjaku JITSUKAWA III and introduced keren staging into his super kabuki. Keren, which had been disdained as a cheap gimmick, found a new lease of life and provided a tailwind for the rehabilitation of Kansai Kabuki.
Thanks to efforts of many individuals, kabuki enjoyed a boom with the change from the Showa to Heisei period in 1989. In Osaka the number of young fans of Kabuki also increased when Senjaku NAKAMURA succeeded Ganjiro NAKAMURA as sandaime (III) in 1991. Sadly, however, Enjaku died in the same year, just before the rehabilitation of Kansai Kabuki. In addition, Ganjiro NAKAMURA II died in 1982 and Gado KATAOKA XIII died in 1992, and Nizaemon KATAOKA XIII, who made a major contribution to the rehabilitation of Kansai Kabuki, died in 1993. Here too surged a wave of generational change.
Today performances of kabuki well-rooted in Osaka and Kyoto are carried out as seen in the "Kamigata Kabuki Juku (literally, cram school for Kamigata Kabuki)" operated by Shochiku and in "Wakaayu no kai (literally, party of young sweet fish)," which is an independent performance by young actors. Well known names in Kansai Kabuki, such as Kanjaku NAKAMURA V (godaime), Senjaku NAKAMURA III (sandaime), Ainosuke KATAOKA VI (rokudaime) and Kichiya UEMURA VI (rokudaime), have been succeeded by young actors. Plays such as "Kagamiyama" and "Kanadehon Chushingura" are performed after Kamigata-style staging, and in 1998 the Landmark near Ebisubashi was completed as a theater dedicated to theatrical arts. In 2006 Ganjiro NAKAMURA IV succeeded Tojuro SAKATA, which is a legendary name in Kamigata, as yondaime (IV), and talk including revival performances of old program increased.
"Although I said many things, it is of utmost importance to Kamigata Kabuki to be performed and watched by many persons." Therefore we have to exert various efforts to realize it. I believe we must train kabuki actors who can do it. In order to create such actors, the number of persons who like Kamigata Kabuki and want to do it must increase. We must help such individuals understand what Kamigata Kabuki is about, to help its popularity spread. I believe that this is most important. " As told by Tojuro SAKATA.
Compared to earlier periods, Kansai Kabuki has revived to certain extent as seen in the increase in the number of performances, fostering of human resources and improvement of staging equipment. Today kabuki performances are held at Osaka Shochiku-za and Kyoto Minami-za several times each year at intervals of a few months.