Utaemon NAKAMURA (the sixth) (中村歌右衛門 (6代目))

Utaemon NAKAMURA, the sixth (January 20, 1917 - March 31, 2001) was a kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) actor representative of the postwar period. His acting house name was Narikoma-ya. His Jomon (family crest) was gionmori (the emblem of the Narikoma-ya Kabuki family) and kaemon (alternate personal crest) was ura-ume (reversed plum flower). His haimyo (pen name of a haiku poet) was Kaishun and his real name was Fujio KAWAMURA.

He was committed to kabuki, especially female roles throughout his life and was called the greatest actor among the kabuki actors in the postwar period. He only performed kabuki and Japanese dance and did not appear in movies nor TV dramas.

Brief Personal History

He was born as the second son of Utaemon NAKAMURA (the fifth), the acting master in the Meiji period, on January 20, 1917.

He was adopted by the Kawamura family, his mother's parental house, in childhood, so his real name became Fujio KAWAMURA. His father, Utaemon V was the acting master who dominated the then theater world as the chief of the executive artistry committee of Kabuki-za Theatrical Corporation and spent his childhood in the lap of luxury as a son of a distinguished family.

He succeeded to Kotaro NAKAMURA III in "Sanada Sandaiki" (three generations of the Sanada family) as his debut at the Shintomiza Tokyo in October, 1922. His stage life seemed smooth sailing, but when his brother Fukusuke NAKAMURA V (commonly called Kei-chan Fukusuke) died from disease in 1933, it was turned around. In November of that year, he succeeded to Fukusuke NAKAMURA VI by acting Hatsugiku of "Judanme (Act X) of Ehon Taikoki" (The Picture Book of the Meritorious Prince) at Kabuki-za Theater on his father's wishes. He was under intense pressure as the person who must assume the next generation of Narikoma-ya line.

His father, Utaemon V died in 1940, Fukusuke was left alone in the kabuki world so young. On this occasion, Kikugoro ONOE V, who assumed the next generation, gained power rapidly, and people around Utaemon V gathered around Kikugoro without scruple after Utaemon V's death. Fukusuke, who had been treated as a son of the distinguished family of the most influential person in the theater world, did not even have a guardian.

Fukusuke lost the dominant backing, but he succeeded to Shikan NAKAMURA VII by acting the previously cited Hatsugiku and Gonpachi of "Ukiyozuka Hiyoku no Inazuma" at the Kabuki-za Theater in October, 1941. He asked Kichiemon NAKAMURA I to allow him to enter the Kichiemon troupe, had training as a young actor of female roles, and was under the tutelage of senior acting masters such as Kichiemon, Baigyoku NAKAMURA III in Osaka, and Enjaku JITSUKAWA II.

There were not so many actors of female roles in the Kichiemon troupe, so he was actively selected to act major roles especially since the later stages of the war, replacing his real brother Tokizo NAKAMURA III, who had played opposite to Kichiemon for a long time, and Kichiemon trained Utaemon by leading him on the stage. Utaemon was famous for his shining beauty in those days and ranked with Kikunosuke ONOE III (later Baiko ONOE VII) among young actors. Besides, by performing many times on the scene of Maruhon Kabuki (kabuki plays of doll theatre origin) which Kichiemon was good at, he deepened the interpretation of the play and the understanding of the role and steadily acquired the classic beauty of style and techniques of modern psychological descriptions.

Utaemon performed many successful characters in his lifetime, and those were Shirabyoshi (women who play Shirabyoshi (Japanese traditional dance)) Hanako of "Kyo Kanokomusume Dojoji" (The maiden at Dojo Temple), Yatsuhashi of "Kago Tsurube Satono Eizame" (Basket bucket in red-light district), Yukihime of "Gion Sairei Shinkoki" (The Gion Festival Chronicle of Faith)(Kinkaku-ji Temple), Tokihime of "Kamakura Sandaiki, Kinugawa-mura" (Three Generations of the Kamakura Shogunate in Kinugawa Village), Yaegaki-hime of "Honcho Niju-shi ko, Jusshuko" (24 Paragons of Filial Piety of our Country, Incense Burning), "Oiwa of "Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan" (Tokaido Yotsuya Ghost Stories), Sadaka and Omiwa of "Imoseyama Onna Teikin" (An Exemplary Tale of Womanly Virtue in Mt. Imose), Yodogimi of "Hototogisu Kojo no Rakugetsu" (The Sinking Moon over the Lonely Castle Where the Cuckoo Cries), Tonase of "Kanadehon Chushingura, Kudanme" (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, 9th act), Komachi and Sumizome of "Tsumoru Koiyuki no Seki no To" (The Barrier Gate), Umegawa of "Koibikyaku Yamato Orai, Ninokuchi-mura" (The Amorous Courier on the Yamato Highway, Ninokuchi Village), Tamate-Gozen of "Gappo Anjitsu (hermitage of Gappo), Sesshu Gappo ga Tsuji (A Kabuki Drama of Unfettered Evil)," Masaoka of "Meiboku Sendai Hagi" (The trouble in the Date Clan), Onoue of "Kagamiyama Kokyo no Nishikie" (old brocade pictures of Mt. Kagami), Hanjo of "Sumida-gawa Gonichi no Omokage" (Latter-day Reflections of the Sumida-gawa River), and he acted many types of female roles, such as a daughter, princess, Katahazushi (female role of nyobo (a court lady) of a samurai family or goten jochu (palace maid)), and keisei (courtesans with high dignity and literacy).
On the other hand, he acted together with Utaemon ICHIKAWA, who got intimate for his namesake, at the Actors Festival, and had mischief to act 'Mondonosuke SAOTOME, a woman.'

In 1948, he won the Prize of the Minister for Education (Grand Prize) at the National Arts Festival. He succeeded to Utaemon NAKAMURA VI in the Kabuki-za Theater reconstructed in 1951. At kojo (a ceremony to announce that an actor takes a new stage name), only three people were there, including Kichiemon NAKAMURA I, Utaemon, and Fukusuke (present Shikan NAKAMURA VII) in front of a gilded folding screen, but the kojo itself was done by Kichiemon alone.

After Kichiemon died, he started a voluntary workshop named 'tsubomi-kai' in 1954 and had many experimental approaches. He was certified as the youngest (forty-six years old) member of the Japan Art Academy in 1963 and an Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) in 1968. In 1969, following the death of Sadanji ICHIKAWA III, the chairman of the Japan Actor's Association, he was appointed to be the deputy chairman of the association. Then, in 1971, he was officially appointed as chairman of the association and served the position for twenty eight years until 1999. In 1972, he became a Person of Cultural Merits. In 1979, he received the Order of Culture. In 1996, he received Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure (it was the first time for a living person to receive the Grand Cordon in the entertainment industry). He had many overseas performances in the United States in 1960 as the beginning, Soviet Union (present Russia), Hawaii, Canada, England, Germany, and France. He performed in front of Elizabeth II from the United Kingdom who visited Japan in 1975, and devoted himself to introduce Kabuki overseas.

His Late Years

In the years from 1975 to 1980, it became noticeable that his legs were weakened, so a performance labeled as 'once in a lifetime' started to be played. He carefully performed and fulfilled many major roles that he was good at such as Yaegaki-hime of "Jusshuko" (Incense Burning) and Yatsuhashi of "Kago Tsurube" (Basket bucket) and his last performance of the role was even heroic. When the Heisei period started, he had fewer opportunities to be on stage. However, he actively supervised (directed) plays in the meantime and instructed the younger Jakuemon NAKAMURA IV, Tamasaburo BANDO V, and Fukusuke NAKAMURA IX.

He performed on the stage for the last time in 1996 and spend time under medical treatment. He died at the age of eighty-four on March 31, 2001.

Episodes as an Actor

It was said that the fifth Fukusuke was his brother, but he was actually his father.

It was said that Utaemon VI suffered from congenital dislocation of his left leg, so he was laid up for a few years since it got worse when he was young but could eventually walk again after major surgery. Thus, Utaemon's left leg remained crippled throughout his life.

He spent his life as an actor who acts only female Kabuki roles, but it was not the case when he was young. When he was young, he caused an incident when he ran away with his male attendant and escaped to hot springs. He started to behave like a woman in his private life after his wife died.

He spoke very politely to people and was soft in manner, but he was actually resolute to carry through to the end once he decided to do something and sensible to pull back when he should do so.

His Rivals

He was fortunate to have many good rivals that led Utaemon to grow up.

Especially, he was often compared with Baiko ONOE VII.. Both of them regarded the same characters as their successful characters--Shirabyoshi Hanako of "Musume Dojoji," Tamate-Gozen of "Sesshu Gappo ga Tsuji," Onoue and Ohatsu of "Kagamiyama," Okaru, Tonase and Oishi of "Chushingura,"--these were the pearls of post-war Kabuki as stages where both actors rivaled each other.

Also, Ganjiro NAKAMURA II was the rival and the best friend as their fathers were. He yearned for Ganjiro like his brother when he was a child. The stages that both east and west Narikoma-ya performed with great chemistry, such as Omiwa and Fukashichi of "Imoseyama," Hanjo and Funaosa of "Sumida-gawa," Masaoka and Yashio of "Meiboku Sendai Hagi," Onoue and Iwafuji of "Kagamiyama," Kenreimonin and Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa of new Kabuki, "Kenreimonin" attracted audiences.
When Ganjiro II died, Utaemon grieved saying 'he was a brilliant person and took wonderful performance with him.'
When his son Tojuro SAKATA IV succeeded to Ganjiro NAKAMURA III he had kojo and performed Koharu of "Kawasho, Shinju Ten no Amishima" (Double Suicide) in spite of his handicapped body.

Outside the kabuki world, he had friendship with Kazuo HASEGAWA. Having been a disciple of Ganjiro NAKAMURA I, Hasegawa was connected to Utaemon as a disciple of the same Narikoma-ya line. In August 1954, both of them went on a Hokkaido tour with a troupe of actors. There were ulterior motives in both of the Toho Co., Ltd. side, which Hasegawa belonged to and was searching for an actor of female roles, and Utaemon, who was searching for personal contacts outside Shochiku Co., Ltd. During the tour, they got along with each other and called each other 'Hasegawa-sensei' and 'Narikomaya-san' and enjoyed mah-jong every night. In the first kabuki stage by Toho Co., Ltd. in the following year, 1955, they performed together at Tokyo Takarazuka Theater. He went out into the entertainment world different from Kabuki and eagerly absorbed the different culture around him, which made him the acting master.

Personal Profile

He liked collecting teddy bears. He eventually had one thousand and several hundred different teddy bears. He loved animals so much that he traveled far to Kenya, hugged a giant panda in China, and had plenty of other episodes. During a month he did not had a stage, he was mostly on overseas travels, and especially since he had the first kabuki stage in the United States in 1960, he was fond of visiting Las Vegas and often enjoyed the casino all day long. He later received an award as an honorary citizen by the City of Las Vegas. He also liked flowers, so a gardener was often called to his house in Setagaya Ward and he enjoyed seasonal flowers until his last years.

He liked sweets, especially cream puffs, and favored Kimishigure (Japanese sweets made of red bean jam, white beam jam and yolks) at the Japanese-style confectionary shop in front of Keio University in Mita. He liked overseas and western dishes, and, for example, he was fond of the coquille and omelet of Tokyo Kaikan Hall. Also, he enthusiastically paid reverence to the emperor so when the Imperial family attended Kabuki, he once performed in spite of the fact that he was absent from the stage due to illness. The Tenran Kabuki (Kabuki the royal family attends) in 1953, "Musume Dojoji" that he performed in front of Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun at Kabuki-za theater became a legend and was a cherished memory for him.

His Children

His adopted children were Baigyoku NAKAMURA (the fourth) and Kaishun NAKAMURA. His geiyoshi, which is a talented disciple adopted as the master's child, was Tozo NAKAMURA VI.