Matsui Sumako (松井須磨子)

Sumako MATSUI (March 8, 1886 - January 5, 1919) was an actress of the Japanese shingeki (literally, new play). Her real name was Masako KOBAYASHI.


She was born as the fifth daughter (the youngest of nine children) of Tota KOBAYASHI who was a warrior class (a samurai belonged to the former Matsushiro Domain) in Kiyono-mura Village, Hanishina-gun County, Nagano Prefecture (presently known as Kiyono, Matsushiro-cho, Nagano City [Nagano Prefecture]). She was adapted by the Hasegawa family in Ueda-cho when she was six years old (age by the traditional Japanese system) and graduated from a common elementary school in Ueda in 1900. However, she came back to her biological parents' home after the death of her foster father. Her biological father also passed away in the same year she returned. She moved to Tokyo when she was 17 years old (age by the traditional Japanese system).

However she married a man who was introduced by her relative in 1903, they divorced within a year. She remarried Seisuke MAEZAWA who was working for an actors' training institute in 1908 and became a member of the inaugural class of the dramatic workshop of the literature association established by Shoyo TSUBOUCHI in 1909. She devoted herself to acting and often neglected her household chores, therefore, Maezawa was disgusted and divorced her.

She was recognized by playing Nora, a main character, in "A Doll's House" in 1911 and started Geijutsuza (Arts Theatre) with Hougetsu SHIMAMURA in 1913. Moreover, her role as Katyusha in the play "Resurrection (novel)" (written by Lev Tolstoj, translated by Shimamura) made a huge hit and she became a popular actress. The theme song "Kachusha no uta (Katyusha song)" (by composer Hougetsu and lyricist Shinpei NAKAYAMA) sung by Sumako became a huge hit and more than 20,000 records ware sold at that time. Thus, Sumako became the first Japanese actress who could sing.

However, her record "If I am reborn" (lyrics by Hakushu KITAHARA) released in 1917 became the Japan's first banned record which was shut down by Ministry of Education at that time because the part "sleep and live with a cute girl" in the lyrics were considered as obscene.

Two months after Shimamura died of the Spanish Flu on November 5, 1918, she committed suicide (by hanging) in an equipment room on January 5, 1919.

Although her wish was to be buried together with Shimamura with whom she had been having an affair, she was instead buried in a graveyard of the Kobayashi family (locates on the hill behind her birthplace) in Kiyono, Matsushiro-cho County in Nagano City. A portion of her ashes was buried in Tamonin Temple in Benten-cho Country, Shinjuku Ward.

Literary work

"Botanhake" (Peony brush) (1914)