Jan 24, 2011

A Performance by a Living Legend

A Special Performance by Tamasaburo Bando
with an appearance by Shido Nakamura
at Le Theatre GINZA

中村獅童 出演

January 6, 2011

The guests are greeted by Tamasaburo as the elevator opens at the floor of the theater
(=a giant panel of him ^^).

Lobby decorated with ornaments.


1. Dan no Ura Kabuto Gunki - Akoya
壇浦兜軍記 阿古屋

Authors Matsuda Bunkôdô
Hasegawa Senshi

History: The play "Dan no Ura Kabuto Gunki" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in September 1732 in Ôsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted to Kabuki the same month, in Kyôto at Miyako Mandayû's theater. It was staged in Ôsaka for the first time in March 1733, at the Kado no Shibai [casting]. It was staged in Edo for the first time in November 1737, at the Kawarazakiza under the title "Uruoizuki Ninin Kagekiyo" [casting]. Only one scene survived, the "koto torture" scene, and the role of Akoya was reserved to the elite of onnagata actors, able to play the traditional instruments of music. From 1950 to 1980, only the star Nakamura Utaemon VI was able to perform this role. The drama "Dan no Ura Kabuto Gunki" was revived as a tôshi kyôgen at the National Theatre in January 1997, with Bandô Tamasaburô performing the role of Akoya for the first time.
Structure The play "Dan no Ura Kabuto Gunki" was in 5 acts. The "koto torture" scene, commonly called "Akoya", was the third act.


The drama opens in the law court of Horikawa. The rebel Akushichibyôe Kagekiyo, who was captured after his defeat, successfully ran away. Chichibu no Shôji Shigetada is in charge of discovering Kagekiyo's hiding place. The only way to learn about Kagekiyo's whereabouts is to question Kagekiyo's lover, the courtesan Akoya, who is brought to the court under the escort of Hanzawa Rokurô and some soldiers. She says that she has no idea where her lover is. Iwanaga Saemon Munetsura, an akattsura villain performed in the ningyôburi style, who assists Shigetada in his mission, would like to send her to his palace and physically torture her there. Shigetada rebukes him and reminds him that he is the one to lead the mission. Then, he asks Rokurô to bring the instruments he intends to use to question Akoya. Iwanaga takes this request as an opportunity to summon a large group of torturers, who come on stage holding various instruments of torture and performing their role in the comical takeda yakko style. Shigetada order them to leave the palace and Rokurô is back with 3 instruments of ... music: a shamisen, a koto and a kokyû. Akoya is ordered to plays these instruments. She reluctantly accepts and starts with the koto. Her song is about the love she feels for Kagekiyo. After the koto, she plays the shamisen and ends with the kokyû. Her performance is perfect. Even Iwanaga is under the spell of Akoya's music and his hands simulate the playing of an instrument. The true feelings and worries that Akoya expressed in her songs are the definitive proof that Shigetada was looking for: Akoya does not know for sure where her lover is hidden. A liar would not be able to create such a pure music. Shigetada orders the release of Akoya and holds back with his sword the villain Iwanaga, who unsheathes his sword for the final pose.

Akoya is considered a particularly difficult reperotoire as the "onnagata" playing the title role is not only required to display her virtuosity on all three instruments, but to express the inner emotions of the character. Tamasaburo is considered the only onnagata capable of giving the ideal peformance of this role today.

Tamasaburo playing Akoya in 1997 at Kokuritsu Gekijo (National Theater).

2. Onnadate

As the title indicates, the principle character in the dance is a spirited female (onna) version of the OTOKODATE, the "chivalrous commoner" or "street knight" who, as a self-appointed representative of the common poeple and equipped with a sharp tongue, a fiery temper and a penchant for extravagant bravura be habit , strenuously opposed the gang of unemployed warriors who roamed the streets of Edo intimidating the populace. A rival of her male counterpart, she seeks to outswagger him as best she can but not at the expense of her feminine allure. A brisk and colorful dance, it is important as the original of the more famous "Sukeroku".

(summaries credited to KABUKI 21 and Senwaka-Kai)

Dancing his Signature dance "Sagimusume" or "Heron Maiden"


jaime said...

Hi flowerbossa,

WHat a wonderful opportunity to watch the Legendary onnagata Bando Tamasaburo's performance! Thank you for sharing your precious experience. In Sagi Musume video, I am totally captivated by his charm, every little detail of his moves is so flawlessly executed. I can't help but rewatch the dance a few times to fully appreciate it. I also enjoy listening to his prespective on the beauty of women during his interview.

Thank you for bringing this beautiful post in our lives in this cold harsh winter.

Please take care and send my regards to Pallet san.

love .... jaime

Anonymous said...

Dear Flowerbossa,

Thank you for this interesting post. I enjoyed watching the dances. and the interview with the artist.


flowerbossa said...

Konnichiwa Jaime-san,

I am so happy that you enjoyed the dance by Tamasaburo because I thought about you as I was watching his performance. Yes, I was grateful too that I was given this wonderful opportunity.

I hope you are enjoying your odori lessons.

Please stay warm during this cold weather!


flowerbossa said...

Dear Ida,

I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed this post. Have you ever heard of Tamasaburo before? He is primarily a kabuki artist, but he also often collaborates with artists from many different cultures. I hope I can introduce some of them in the future^^


Anonymous said...

Dear Flowerbossa,
I'm sorry, but no I have never heard of him. Maybe he is heard of among people here who have a special interest in dancing and theater. I don't think the culture of Japan is common knowledge here but something thought about as exclusive. But I find it very interesting and I have heard of theater performances made by only men playing all parts including the women part. I think that
exists in China too.


flowerbossa said...

Dear Ida,

So you know about the theater performances in China! I am hoping to post something on that in the future^^