Nakamura Sojuro (中村宗十郎)
Sojuro NAKAMURA (1835 - October 8, 1889) was a kabuki actor who acted in Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area) during the Meiji period. He was called 'Ensou' (took one letter from these three popular actors) with Enjaku JITSUKAWAⅠand Udanji ICHIKAWA Ⅰat the same period enjoying popularity as the grand person in the Kansai region theatrical world. His real name was Shigebei FUJII. His yago (stage name) was Suehiroya and his haimyo (offstage name) was Sensho, Kasen.
He was born as the child of the owner of a Sento (public bathhouse) in Atsuta Tomie Town, Nagoya, Owari Province. Later he was adopted by his mother's family home, Fujii who was a dental technician. He loved the arts and learned dance, shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese banjo), joined an itinerant actors troupe leaving his home and called himself Kamezo ARASHI and while he was acting on stage from Ise Province to Nagoya, he was discovered by theater officials who happened to see his play and in Osaka. In Osaka, he became a disciple of Kanjaku NAKAMURA Ⅱ (Ganjiro NAKAMURA Ⅰ) and called himself as Kamezo NAKAMURA. During this practice period, he met a young kabuki actor Enji JITSUKAWA and they performed together as a duo; one played shamisen and the other danced on the street and they were paid by pedestrians to make up money for traveling. This Enji will be EnjakuⅠ.
While he was performing in Osaka, Jakuemon NAKAMURA Ⅰrecognized his natural talent so Sojuro was adopted by his wife's family (Daigoro MIMASU Ⅳ was his wife's father) and in July 1860, he was given the name Gennosuke MIMASU Ⅲto succeed the name of his dead brother-in-law. He became popular as a young promising star appearing on the big stage, but in 1864, he became a disciple of Jakuemon because he divorced his wife. He changed his name to Sojuro NAKAMURA. The name 'NAKAMURA' was given by his master, Jakuemon and the reason he took 'Sojuro' was because he thought that if Gennosuke SAWAMURA succeeded Sojuro SAWAMURA, his first name was also the same Gennosuke, so he thought he could succeed with Sojuro too. It seemed like a sloppy way of naming, but it's like Kamikata naming that doesn't care about professional names so much.
He performed well as a top-billed performer on the big stage in Dotonbori and people called him 'master Enjaku, superior Sojuro, sharp like katana Udanji' so this 'Ensou' competed with each other. In 1873, angry with Enjaku who became the leader of the troupe ahead of him, he went to the east capital, Tokyo. This time he couldn't achieve popularity so it was a slightly bitter debut for him in Tokyo.
From outside the distinguished pedigree, he gained a successful career and became a top actor so, he made a lot of effort, but at the same time he was in conflict with other actors many times and he didn't show up when he didn't like the part. In 1876, when he had a fight with Tanosuke SAWAMURA Ⅲ, haughty Tanosuke despised Sojuro as an upstart and the fight got worse and worse because both had a strong fighting instinct, Sojuro suddenly gave up acting and opened a drapery shop in Tazaemon-bashi, Osaka with his real name Shigebe FUJIImade and everybody around him surprised this career change. Soon Sojuro returned to the stage with the cooperation of theater officials who worried about business due to a fire at the theater.
In Osaka, the Sojuro problem was so notorious that person who nags and complains a lot was called 'Suehiro ya.'
He had often performed on stage in Tokyo invited by the great show manager, Kanya MORITA Ⅻ since 1877. He performed with 'Dangikusa' (taking one letter from each popular performer) and performed in the dramas such as "Youchisoba Karibanoakebono" (Youchisoga) written by Mokuami KAWATAKE, "Kumonimagou uenonohatsuhana" (Kouchiyama) so he gained popularity in Tokyo but he couldn't get along with Danjuro ICHIKAWA Ⅸ and let everybody know that he was a trouble maker. After the premiere of "Youchisoga," Sojuro told Danjyuro that 'he was not good at all. Sadanji was bad, too.
He condemned them and said that Kikugoro's performance was much better' and fought with Sadanji who intervened and Sojuro didn't like Danjuro's Katsureki-orientation, Danjuro re-creating authentically wearing a graphic outfit such as eboshi (formal headwear for court nobles) and Shinosuneate when he played Goro and on the other hand, when Sojuro played Juro, he appeared wearing kosode (short-sleeved kimono) as if he didn't wear costumes and this odd combination was even laughed at as if 'one was calling on someone to express one's sympathy after a fire and the other called on someone to express one's sympathy after water damage.', 'The older brother went to river to wash his clothes and the younger brother went to the mountain to mow grass.'
Kanya intervened to calm down the fight but Sojuro couldn't come to terms with Danjuro so, their relationship worsened more than ever before. Moreover, he thought Kikugoro and Sadanji were on Danjuro's side so he stayed back stage without greeting them when he came to the theater. As a matter of course, he ran the gauntlet from patrons in Tokyo but he stood his ground. He took that much pride in his performance.
In Danjuro's katsurekimono (historical play), Danjuro and Sojuro always worked together, but they were not popular except amongst some of the intellectuals so, their play was called 'Son (damage) juro' using their names.
(That's why he gained popularity performing in Kikugoro, Sadanji's play dealing with the lives of ordinary people.)
In April 1889, he died at the age of fifty-five and his last performance was the role of Danjo NIKKI in the drama "Meibokusendaihagi" at the Naniwaza Theater.
Style of Performance, Personal Profile
As a great achievement of Sojuro, he enthusiastically trained juniors and especially, he recognized Ganjiro NAKAMURA Ⅰ's talent faster than anybody.
In 1882, he added Ganjiro to his own troupe and when he performed Yashichi in "Uekiya," he performed first himself saying 'Please pay attention to what I do carefully.'
Later he let Ganjiro perform as a substitute at first and then taught Ganjiro's successful characters such as Jihei in the drama "Shinju-ten Amijima, Kawasho" (Kawasho of "The Love Suicide at Amijima"), Genzo TAKEBE in the drama "Sugawara Denji Tenarai Kagami, Terakoya" (Sugawara's secrets of calligraphy, a private school in the Edo period), Jujibei in the drama "Futatsu chocho kuruwa nikki, Hikimado" (Skylight of [A Diary of Two Butterflies in the Pleasure Quarters]), Jiroemon in the drama "Katakiuchi tsuzureno nishiki, Daianjizutsumi" (Splendid revenge by the man who wore a rag), Moritsuna in the drama "Omi-Genji Senjinyakata, Jinya Moritsuna." Moreover, he used a graphic stage effects aiming at new Kabuki which influenced Sadanori SUDO and Otojiro KAWAKAMI. Then he represented the translated version of "The Merchant of Venice" which is said to be the first Shakespeare play in Japan.
His performing style was plain but elegant and realistic; he played an amazing range of roles such as a historical figure, wagoto (a style that emphasizes realistic speech and gestures), a role of old person and woman. Unlike the flashy Enjaku style, intellectual and unconventional were characteristics of his performance. His most successful characters were Jubei in the drama "Iga-goe dochu sugoroku, Numazu" (through Iga Pass with the Tokaido Board Game, Numazu post), Genzo in "Terakoya" (a private elementary school during the Edo period), Wakasanosuke MOMOI in the drama "Kanadehon Shijushichimoji," Harubei in "Kawasho," Gengobei in the drama "Godairikikoinofujime."
When he played a mother and her child drama "Koinyobo Somewake Tazuna" (Shigenoi Kowakare), he took the pattern of onnagata, Kumehachi ICHIKAWA.
At that time, actors of female roles were considered as lower among actors and were criticized, as a matter of course, but Sojuro didn't mind and answered 'if it is a good performance, I will imitate female roles.'
His personal principle was to get into the character even back stage, and when he played the role of a blind woman, Sodehagi in the drama "Oshu Adachiga-hara" (story of the blind woman in the Adachiga-hara Plain), he fell from a hanamichi (passage through audience to the stage) and dragged himself back onto the stage by touch and this impressed the audiences very much.
In 1888, when he performed Genzo TAKEBE in the drama "Terakoya," he was asked how to play Tonami by his junior who played Genzo's wife Tonami and he asked him, 'Tonami is whose wife and what her husband Genzo's position?
Whose wife it Tonami and what her husband Genzo's position?'
If your master or husband is caught up in a disaster, what does his wife feel?'
Wouldn't you wish to help him even if you are a helpless woman? In order to return the favor to your husband, wouldn't you promise yourself to be royal to him?'
Once you put yourself in her position, there is no way you cannot perform.' theoretically explained in the newspaper Osaka Asahi Shinbun on October 11, 1889. He was an appropriate actor for the new Meiji era in all senses.