Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the ninth) (市川團十郎 (9代目))

Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the ninth) (Danjuro "團十郞 [old letter shape], 団十郎 [new letter shape])," (November 29, 1838 - September 13, 1930) was a great kabuki actor in the Meiji period. His yago (stage family name) was Naritaya. His Jomon (family crest) was Mimasu, and his kaemon (alternate personal crest) was Gyoyobotan. His names as a haiku poet were Shisen, Danshu, Jukai, Sansho, and his pseudonym was Yoan. His real name was Hideshi HORIKOSHI.

He established the so-called 'Dankikusa period' together with Kikugoro ONOE (the fifth) and Sadanji ICHIKAWA (the first). While trying to modernize Kabuki by realistic acting and re-creating historical backgrounds authentically, he rearranged aragoto (Kabuki play featuring exaggerated posture, makeup, and costume) of the traditional Edo Kabuki, determined many patterns handed down to the present and contributed greatly to the upgrading of Kabuki from as an entertainment of common people to a refined art representing Japanese culture.

He was praised as a 'gekisei' (Holy Actor) for his many great achievements. In the Kabuki world, saying simply 'Kudaime' (the ninth) refers to Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the ninth).

Training Period

He was the fifth son of Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the seventh), adopted by Gonnosuke KAWARASAKI, the Zamoto (leader of a theatrical company) of the Edo Sanza (Edo's three licensed kabuki theaters), and succeeded to the name Chojuro KAWARASAKI. His foster parents made Chojuro learn dancing, shamisen, painting and calligraphy for his future from his childhood. Mrs. Masu told reflectively about his strictly-controlled past, that he was made to go to take lessons without rest from early morning to evening and went to bed early; it is said that his foster mother boasted that "other children are preserved in sugar, but my child is preserved in sugar containing red pepper." He made his debut in February, 1845 in the Kawarazaki-za Theater when he was eight years old, acting a role of Koyakko Masuhei, jitsuha Gentamaru in "Kaigenjisoga-tehajime."

Years of Biding His Time

In October 1852, a son was born in the Tokugawa Shogunate and named 長吉郎 Chokichiro, so that to avoid having the character of '長' (cho) in his name, he succeeded to the name Gonjuro KAWARASAKI (the first). Two years later, his older brother, Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the eighth) killed himself in Osaka, therefore he came to be expected to succeed to the name of 'Danjuro ICHIKAWA' in future.
Because of that his foster parents trained him more strictly, and one day when he, having a bad headache, tried to skip a stage, his foster father forced him to appear on the stage, saying in a stern tone, "You are an actor, an actor's stage is the same as a samurai's battlefield, go to the stage and die" (Seitan KAWAJIRI "Commentaries of Danjuro ICHIKAWA [the ninth]".)

In the end of Edo period, Kodanji ICHIKAWA (the forth), the leading disciple of his father became his guardian. However, at that time even in acting important parts such as Obo kichisa in "Sannin Kichisa Kuruwano no Hatsugai" or Shinzaburo HOZUMI in "Hachiman Matsuri Yomiya no Nigiwai [Chizimiya Shinsuke]," his stiff performances and plain speaking of his lines brought him bitter criticisms of a "daikon" (ham) or the "tea urn Gon-chan." It mocked Gonjuro, because the snobbishness of the officials who were guarding the tea urns to the Shogunate family was laughed at on the street at that time, and he looked more snobbish than those officials. When acting Yosaburo in "Yohanasake Ukinano Yokogushi," from which his brother gained a reputation, he received a bad reputation because of his heavy speeches, although his performances had something in common with his brother's. When acting Benkei in "Kanjincho," he was severely scolded for his immature acting by Kodanji. Having been given one severe criticism after another, he was so discouraged that he did not see any improvement in his art.

In fall of 1868, he met a disaster that a ronin broke into the house for robbery, and stabbed his foster father to death, while he had a hairbreadth escape by hiding in a closet. He said that he could not forget all his life that his foster father groaning at that time. In such an adversity he, taking on a burden of an inherited role of the Zamoto of Kawarazaki-za Theater, succeeded to the name Gonnosuke KAWARASKI (the seventh).

However, four years later he gave the name Gonnosuke KAWARASAKI to Fukujiro KAWARASAKI, his wife's nephew, and named himself Sansho ICHIKAWA. In 1874, the following year, to carry out the wish of his foster father who died an unnatural death, he rebuilt Kawarazaki-za Theater in Shiba (Minato Ward, Tokyo) that had been discontinued for 20 years after it was burned down by the fire in 1855. Leaving it to the adoptive family, he returned to his family home, the head family of Ichikawa, and succeeded the name Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the ninth) at the age of 37 in July, the same year.

Years of Great Progress

Even after returning to the head family of Ichikawa and succeeding to the name Danjuro ICHIKAWA, he could not cut off the relation with Kawarazaki-za Theater for some time. Kawarazaki-za Theater had been renamed to Shinbori-za Theater, but Gonnosuke (the eighth), his nephew-in-law had difficulty carrying out the duty of the Zamoto; he soon fell into financial difficulties, and entreated Danjuro to help him. After all, Danjuro, doubling as the Zamoto of Shinbori-za Theater, had to pay its debt. However, his performance finally began to show improvement around when he performed in Shintomi-za Theater, invited by Kanya MORITA (the twelfth).

In the age of the civilization and enlightenment, from the review of the traditional nonsensical Kabuki, Danjuro, intended to reform it, tackling dramas based on historical backgrounds (called Katsureki) together with people of learning and culture (Theatrical performance movement) in the second decade of the Meiji era. However, he could not gain any support from the theater audience, suffering from commercial failures, often went on the road. After that, he tackled the rearrangement of patterns of classic Kabuki.

In 1887 he had an honor of holding Tenran Kabuki (Kabuki, the royal family attend to watch) in front of the Emperor Meij, acting Benkei in "Kanjincho" and so on. This Tenran Kabuki was held in the residence of Kaoru INOUE, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Ninth, having friendly connections with Genro (elder statesmen) including Hirobumi ITO, Masayoshi MATSUKATA and others, strove to improve the social status of Kabuki actors.

In 1889 the Kabuki Za was opened.
From around this time the Ninth activated the world of Tokyo Kabuki together with Kikugoro ONOE (the fifth), Sadanji ICHIKAWA (the first) and others, and established the golden age of the Meiji Kabuki called 'Dangikusa era.'
Also at his time he created many masterpieces: with the help of Mokuami KAWATAKE a Kabuki playwright, he completed "Hojo Kudai Meika no Isaoshi" (Takatoki), "Kiwametsuki Banzui" (Chobei in a bathroom), "Kumonimagou Ueno no Hatsuhana" (ouchiyama), "Funabenkei," "Hikoshichi OMORI" and so on, and, together with Ochi FUKUCH, he created "Kagamijishi" (The Lion Dance), "Sukeroku" and so on.
Moreover, he selected 30 to 40 kinds of 'Shin Kabuki Juhachi Ban' (18 programs of new Kabuki) including many favorite arts of his, by supplementing his father's (the seventh) 18 kinds of 'Kabuki Juhachi Ban.'

In his later years, performing "Musume Dojoji" (The maiden at Dojo Temple) with piano and violin and so on, he pursued the new Kabuki to the last minute. He taught and trained promising young actors including Uzaemon ICHIMURA (the 15th), Ganjiro NAKAMURA (the first), Koshiro MATSUMOTO (the seventh), Kikugoro ONOE (the sixth), Utaemon NAKAMURA (the fifth) and others.

As a Soke (head family) of Kabuki

The Ninth played a variety of roles such as from aragoto (Kabuki play featuring exaggerated posture, makeup, and costume) to wagoto (the production style of a love scene) from tachiyaku (a leading male-role actor) to oyama or onnagata (actor of female roles) with excellent acting and speech. Many of his star roles were as follows: Arajishi Otokonosuke in"Kanadehon Chushingura" (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), Musashibo Benkei in"Kanjincho," Kesori in "Hakata Kojoro Namimakura," Gongoro KAMAKURA in "Shibaraku," Hanakawado Sukeroku in "Sukeroku Yukarino Edozakura," Soshun KOCHIYAMA in "Kumonimagou Ueno no Hatsuhana," Gyou OGUCHIYA in "Sukeroku," SUGAWARA no Michizane and Genzo TAKEBE in "Sugawara Denju Tenanai Tekagami," Kiyomasa KATO in "Zoho Momoyama Monogatari," a daihanji or Omiya in "Imoseyama Onna Teikin" and so on. The patterns of most of these programs completed by the Ninth are the models for today's performances.

The "Momijigari," in which the Ninth played with Kikugoro (the fifth), remains in a documentary film, so that we can see their performances even today.

Both Danjuro (the ninth) and Kikugoro (the fifth) died in 1903. His funeral ceremony was managed by Otojiro KAWAKAMI, who was appreciated by the people concerned. His grave is located in Aoyama Graveyard.

In 1919 a bronze statue of the Ninth acting Gongoro KAMAKURA in "Shibaraku" was built in Senso-ji Temple. It was lost by kinzoku kaishu (metal collections) during the World War II, but it was rebuilt in the original place by Nobuo UNO and others in 1986 when the name of the 12 was succeeded to.

His Family and Successors
The Ninth, being at the top of the Meiji Kabuki, was praised as a "Holy Actor" because of his existence deified as an impersonation of Kabuki; however, he failed to have his successor all his life, which annoyed him.

In contrast to his father who had five sons, all of whom arrived at manhood, the Ninth had only two daughters. Therefore, the Ninth adopted Shinzo ICHIKAWA, who was his disciple, showing the talent at an early age and was called a 'genius,' then trained him with great care and taught him Naritaya's oiegei (the specialty of a school of the performing arts). Shinzo also, responding to the expectations, improved his performance, and came to be naturally expected to be 'Danjuro the 10th in future' from people around him.

The reason why the Ninth had a progressive idea, an intellectually overwhelming idea at that time as not forcing his daughters to marry quickly, but encouraging them to enjoy free love with educated people in other than the theatrical world, was because of the existence of Shinzo. However, in 1897 he suffered a most regrettable incident that Shinzo died suddenly at the age of 37. He was acting on the stage with a patch over one blind eye because of eye disease, and died without seeing any improvement in the condition. The Ninth was extremely disappointed.

Even so he allowed Suisen ICHIKAWA, his first daughter to have a love marriage. Her was Fukusaburo INANOBU, an office worker, who was born in a merchant family in Nihonbashi, learned at Keio University, and worked for Japan Commerce Bank. In addition, Danjuro said that he would adopt him. Fukusaburo was a mere bank clerk, but having a father who was a local prominent figure who became a member of the Tokyo City Assembly before long; Fukusaburo had something gentle in his cheerful character. Moreover, he was quite a studious man, well grounded in calligraphic works and paintings, and in antiques, and a man of culture having a rich stock of topics for conversation. And more than anything else, he was a perfect husband as a good partner to his first daughter.

Two years later Fukusaburo INANOBU became a member of the head family of Ichikawa as Fukusaburo HORIKOSHI, Danjuro passed away quietly before solving the matter of successors at all.