Jusuke HANAYAGI, the first (花柳壽輔 (初世))

Jusuke HANAYAGI, the first (March 22, 1821 - January 28, 1903) was a classical Japanese dancer and a choreographer. He was the founder of the Hanayagi school, the biggest in the classical Japanese dance world, and he played a starring role in Buyo dance (classical Japanese dance) world and Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) world by choreographing for a lot of states such as "Kanjincho" (a statement to explain reasons for gathering donations for Buddhist activities) and "Funa Benkei" (Benkei Aboard Ship) from the Edo period to the early Meiji period.

To be an actor from a young age

In 1821, he was born as the first son of Seibei MIKUNIYA, a toy dealer in Edo. At the age of four, he was adopted by Yoshigoro (吉五郎) TSURUMA who ran the catering business 'Uoyoshi' (魚吉) in Shinyoshiwara, Asakusa. Being encouraged by Yoshigoro, who loved achieving accomplishments because of the features of their living environment, Yoshiwara, Jusuke studied with Senzo NISHIKAWA the fourth from the age of six. At the same time, he was given the stage name Yoshimatsu. In 1828, he became an actor as expected by Danjuro ICHIKAWA the seventh, and he was named Koikichi ICHIKAWA (市川鯉吉) after his father's business 'Uoyoshi' (魚吉). He had been training as an actor to appear on the big stage, but his foster father, Yoshigoro, suddenly died in 1839. At that time, actors generally went to Osaka to practice for great success, but he thought it was impossible to take along his adopted mother to train in Osaka, and gave up acting. He returned to Senzo to establish a career as a Buyo dancer in Edo, calling himself Yoshijiro NISHIKAWA.

His success as a choreographer

In 1840, the first production of "Kanjincho" was performed by Danjuro the seventh who had succeeded to the name of Ebizo, and Yoshijiro was engaged in the performance as an assistant choreographer of Senzo. The part of Kanjincho, 'Ennen no mai' (Ennen dance), is said to have been performed with Yoshijiro's choreography, so that was an exceptional promotion for a newcomer of twenty years old (however, later Jusuke's disciple, Yoshizo HANAZAWA, thought it was impossible for Yoshijiro, who was an assistant). Participation in this "Kanjincho" became a great experience for his later choreography, and also the foundation for a great success as a choreographer was laid down by winning the favor of top grade actors of the times including Ebizo.

After that, Yoshijiro continued to make efforts as a choreographer with Senzo, and he was expected to become the heir of the Nishikawa school. However, in 1845, when Senzo suddenly died at the age of fourty-nine, Yoshijiro entered into conflict with senior apprentices including Minosuke NISHIKAWA (later Senzo NISHIKAWA the fifth), and he was slandered and kicked out from the Nishikawa school. The exact time of excommunication is unclear; it is said to be just after the death of Senzo in 1845 or around October 1847 because it is recorded that he choreographed under the name of Yoshijiro NISHIKAWA until October 1847. However, he couldn't have been involved in choreography just after being excommunicated, so he returned to Yoshiwara where he was raised, and taught Buyo dance to geisha girls.

Founding the Hanayagi school

In April 1848, for the first time, the name Yoshijiro HANAYAGI appeared on the banzuke (literally, ranking lists, referring to kabuki playbills) at the performance in Nakamura-za Theater, said to be the beginning of the Hanayagi school. His last name, 'Hanayagi,' was derived from the Gago (pseudonym), '園清喜 HANAYAGI,' of Sansaburo TAMAYA, the owner of the house of prostitution which was famous in Yoshiwara, and it was Tamaya who recommended Yoshijiro, who returned to Yoshiwara, using his own Gago. Yoshijiro, who returned to a choreography, gradually widened his appeal with the backing of Tamaya and actors he associated with in previous times. Especially Uzaemon ICHIMURA the twelfth and Utaemon NAKAMURA the fourth appreciated the competence of Yoshijiro, and Uzaemon recruited Yoshijiro as a choreographer for the Ichimura-za Theater in which Uzaemon himself took the role of Zamoto (leader of a theatrical company). In addition, in 1849, his former master, Ebizo ICHIKAWA the fifth (Danjuro ICHIKAWA the seventh) who was expelled from Edo as a result of the Tenpo Reforms, returned to Edo. Ebizo gave one Chinese character of his own haigo (the pen name of a haiku poet), 'Jukai Rojin' (壽海老人) to Yoshijiro, and the name of 'Jusuke HANAYAGI' (花柳壽助) had appeared on banzuke from September of the same year. Jusuke, who had won a lot of powerful supporters, started to work as choreographer in all of the Edo Sanza (Edo's three licensed kabuki theaters). He changed his name to 'Jusuke HANAYAGI' in 1860, but the reason is uncertain. Jusuke, who had built a strong position as a choreographer, worked on all the choreography for a stage and also stage effects such as music. At that time, the relationship between an actor and a choreographer was valued, and it was not unusual that actors, who took same stage, had different schools for choreography. Jusuke produced the coherency of the stage by changing such manners.

His success in the early Meiji period

Moving into the Meiji period, Jusuke reached the peak of activity. Although there were some sadness such as the death of his first son, Yoshijiro, by disease at the age of twenty-nine in 1873, Jusuke created the stage based upon new techniques and equipment including "Gaslight" and "Phtographer," generated by cultural enlightenment, and the Buyo dance in a new era such the choreography of Kappore (one of the street performances during the late Edo period). After the Noh style of Kabuki Buyo dance, that excluded romance and respected historical facts, was produced by the movement of improving the theater, Jusuke used his experience in collaborating on the Noh style of "Kanjincho," produced the masterpieces of Matsubamemono (Pine-backdrop Dance) one after another such as "Funa Benkei" with a playwright, Mokuami KAWATAKE, and a nagauta (long epic song with shamisen accompaniment) player, Shojiro OKEYA the second. However, at this time, he was opposed to Danjuro ICHIKAWA the ninth, who was the top star at the time, about the expressions on stage. The confrontation between Danjuro, who thought about creating a new stage after the Meiji Restoration, and Jusuke, who inherited the tradition even though he had cooperated with Danjuro, made a fateful distance between them. Danjuro bestowed favor on Kanemon FUJIMA the second in spite of Jusuke, and as a result of the aging Jusuke, the Fujima school gradually superseded the Hanayagi school. It is said that Jusuke became severely depressed about a series of sad news such as losing his wife in 1892, and the following year, in 1893, Mokuami KAWATAKE with whom he had been active for a long time.

The birth of his Junior and his later years

In 1894, the second son, Yoshisaburo (芳三郎) (later Jusuke HANAYAGI the second) was born between Jusuke, who became seventy-three years old, and his second wife. Jusuke deeply loved Yoshisaburo, and also that encouraged him to become active again. During 1897, he became a captive choreographer of Meiji-za Theatre to choreograph for Sadanji ICHIKAWA the first. However, he couldn't deal with aging, and the choreography of "Tsurionna" (literally, 'female fishermen') for Ennosuke ICHIKAWA the first in July 1901 was his last work as a choreographer. Around this time, the influence of the Hanayagi school had already declined. Jusuke, who suffered a relapse of kidney inflammation, became a bedridden, and he died on January 28, 1903. His age at death was eighty-three.

That year Kikugoro ONOE the fifth and Danjuro the ninth passed away with Jusuke, and also Sadanji ISHIKAWA the first passed away the following year. The passing away of Jusuke and 'Dan-Kiku-Sa' in succession meant the end of Kabuki during the Meiji period.


Jusuke, who was unyielding and strict about his accomplishments, spared no effort in realizing them. He learned reading and writing skills to deeply understand scripts, and he mastered playing the shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese banjo) by himself to study the beat of the dance. Later, his confidence based on such efforts in addition to the skill of dance itself led to be reflected in the style in which he exceeded the standard of choreograph and performed total stage effects. Kaishu KATSU admired his skills and spirituality, and praised him on par with Takamori SAIGO. However, there was a backlash against the method in which the total stage effects focused on Buyo dance such as a demand on music to be modified to fit in with the choreography, and 博三 MACHIDA, a researcher of Japanese music, criticized the methods of Jusuke.

He was known for bloody hard training, and he was feared as 'Kaminari Shisho' (the master of thunder) by actors and disciples. He had an oak stick in his hand, and if he didn't like what was done, he immediately hit the actors arms and legs, or yelled at them. Kikugoro ONOE the sixth secretly took out his frustration by striking the wooden statue of Jusuke in the training room with sense (folding fan) in his vexation. Even Jusuke's beloved son, Yoshisaburo, was knocked off stage many times during the first lesson when he was six years old.