The show to unveil Danjuro Ichikawa XIII’s succession to the title of Ichikawa Danjuro was a hot topic of conversation.
The much-talked-about Danjuro Ichikawa XIII Succession Performance opened in December.
Although the performance by Ichikawa Chuguruma (Teruyuki Kagawa), who has been away from television, has become a topic of conversation, there is still room for more tickets.
In such a situation, attention is not only focused on Danjuro, Shinnosuke, and Chuguruma, but also on one thing in this performance. It is the “iwaimakura” (curtain of congratulation).
As the name implies, a curtain is hung during celebratory events. In particular, it refers to a specially made curtain given by a patron of a Kabuki play when the actor assumes the title of successor or makes his first stage appearance.
Various congratulatory curtains have decorated the stage of the Kabuki-za Theater in the past for performances announcing the succession of names, but the curtain created for the “November Kichi-e Omise Grand Kabuki,” the first performance by Shinnosuke Ichikawa VIII under the name of Danjuro Ichikawa Shirasaru XIII, was slightly different from previous ones.
The curtain, 7.1 meters high and 31.8 meters wide, was designed by Takashi Murakami, a world-renowned contemporary artist. It depicts all the characters from the Danjuro family’s art, “Kabuki Juhachiban” (Eighteen Kabuki Plays).
The inspiration for the production of the celebratory curtain came from film director Takashi Miike. Miike, who produced a documentary film on Danjuro Ichikawa XIII, was shooting the film.
He asked Murakami to create a modern-day portrayal of an actor by a modern-day painter.
This collaboration was realized as a result of his request to Murakami.
Danjuro has always challenged himself to create something new. Danjuro Ichikawa’s predecessor, Danjuro Ichikawa, gave his first successful performance at the Paris Opera back in 2007.
Danjuro (Ebizo) set up a hanamichi, one of the unique features of Kabuki, in the theater at the Opéra. It was different from the hanamichi seen at kabuki performances in Japan, but the hanamichi gave visitors to the Opera House a taste of kabuki at its best. It was thought to be impossible to build a hanamichi in an opera house, so everyone was impressed by Ebizo’s “feat of strength.
In 2004, also during Ebizo’s time, he successfully staged his first Middle East tour. He performed at a beach resort in Fujairah, one of the northern emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and received a great ovation.
In December of the same year, he launched an official fan club for traditional performing arts and Naritaya, “THUNDER PARTY ! was established in December of the same year. In January 2010, Naritaya presented a new kabuki play “Puppel: Tenmei no Gobijinma” at the Shinbashi Enbujo Theater, which was a great success.
Pupel” is based on the picture book “Pupel in the Town of Entsu” written by Akihiro Nishino of the comedy duo “King Kong,” and is a successful combination of a picture book and kabuki.
For Danjuro, who continues to take on new challenges, this celebratory curtain is truly a fusion of traditional performing arts and modern art. The power of the curtains on the stage of the Kabuki-za is so great that visitors are said to be overwhelmed by them. However, the audience is not so sure about the “Shukumaku” as it has been talked about.
I think it’s a good thing that it is attracting attention,” said Mr. Kikuchi, “because there has been very little talk about the Shukumaku. However, it does not seem to be well received by Kabuki fans of the past. In the center of the curtain is Kamakura Gongoro from “Tantan,” with his sleeves, which are dyed with the Naritaya crest, spread wide. Other roles include Benkei in “Kanjincho” and Sukeroku in “Sukeroku yuen edo sakura” (Sukeroku: The Cherry Blossom of Edo), all of which are roles in which successive generations of Danjuro excelled.
Shinnosuke is also portrayed alongside his father in “Sotoro Seller”. The heroes all appear together in a powerful performance, but since all eyes are on the audience, some people say they feel like they are being “stared at” all the time and that the pictures are jumbled together, making them feel uncomfortable. (Sports newspaper reporter)
Also, the drawings are said to be in the style of recent anime, which older fans find hard to get used to.
Since the congratulatory curtain was a donation, Danjuro is not responsible for it, but it has put a damper on the modernization of kabuki that he is promoting. Nevertheless, this has not stopped Danjuro.
He will perform with “Snow Man” member Miyadate Ryota in the New Year’s performance of “SANEMORI” next January. Danjuro’s “Kabuki reform” is steadily advancing.
Interview and text by： Hiroyuki Sasaki (entertainment journalist)
Born in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, Hiroyuki Sasaki became a reporter for FRIDAY at the age of 31, reporting numerous scoops during his time at FRIDAY and later working mainly for the weekly magazine. Currently, he also appears on TV and radio as a commentator.
PHOTO： Ippei Hara