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Kabuki Playbill (Tsuji Banzuke) for Plays at the Initial Opening of the Imperial Theater: Yoritomo, Igagoe and Hagoromo


 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Kabuki Playbill (Tsuji banzuke) for Plays at the Initial Opening of the Imperial Theater:

Yoritomo, Igagoe and Hagoromo

by Torii Kiyotada VII and unread artists, 1911

Ichikawa Danjūrō IX as Narukami Shōnin in the play Narukami from the series The Kabuki Eighteen (Kabuki Jūhachiban)

IHL Cat. #1263

About This Print

The playbill from the opening performances in March 1911 at the new Imperial Theater (Teikoku gekijō). The three plays illustrated are (from right to left) Yoritomo 頼朝, Igagoe 伊賀越 and Hagoromo 羽衣, brief descriptions of which are provided below, along with an American reporter's on-the-scene critique of the theater opening and the plays. In addition to the play names being given in the illustrations, they appear again with details of their various scenes in the rectangular box at the bottom of the print, along with the names of the cast members and their roles, and the theater name written in kanteiryū, a special calligraphy used in the Kabuki theater.  Among the many cast members are the three leading actors of the Imperial Theater's in-house troupe, Onoe Baikō 尾上梅幸 VI, Ichikawa Komazō 市川高麗蔵 VIII and Sawamura Sōjūrō 沢村宗十郎 VII.  

The paper used for this playbill appears to be dusted with mica.

The Plays: Yoritomo, Igagoe, Hagoromo - A Brief Summary

Yoritomo - One of many plays based upon tales of Japan's first shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo appearing in the 12th century Heiki Monogatari, an account of the overthrow of the Heike (Taira) by the Genji (Minamoto) clan.  

Igagoe - Considered to be one of Japan's three great vendetta tales, this play deals with the revenge carried out by Araki Mataemon at Igagoe.  A thrilling revenge is carried out by Wada Shizuma and his brother-in-law, Karaki Masaemon, following the death of Shiuma's father, Wada Yukie, at the hands of Sawai Matagorō.1

Hagoromo (The Feathered Cloak*) - A dance play included in the play collection titled Shinko engeki jūshuo of the Onoe Kikugorō line.  It was first performed by Onoe Kikugorō V and the actor who later became Onoe Baikō VI.  Based on a famous Nō play of the same name, Hagoromo tells the classic legend of a fisherman who finds the robe of an angel on Miho Beach and gets the angel to dance for him before he will return her robe.2

* also seen translated as Robe of an Angel

The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) October 22, 1911


TOKYO, Japan. (Special.)

The new million yen Imperial Theater which opened recently is the sensation of Tokyo. The first two days and nights were devoted to opening ceremonies, Baron Shibusawa presiding. There was much oratory, followed by Japanese sketches by old-school actors and modern presentations by artists of the new school, winding up with a grand ballet in which the Japanese actresses, attired in the fancy costumes of the real musical comedy order, performed the foreign dances with remarkable ease and grace.

After a one-day intermission to let the excitement subside, the regular Japanese performance, which is to run throughout the month, made its debut. The house was packed with Japanese to its full 1700 seating capacity. There were but 60 foreigners in the house, guests of Managing Director Aisaku Hayashi of the Imperial Hotel. The foreign gentlemen were in evening dress, while the ladies of the party wore gowns and opera coats of the latest Paris fashion. Japanese as a rule are not particular what they wear, although a large proportion of the higher class have adopted European clothes. In back of the foreigners, who were seated in the front center rows of the orchestra, were a number of Japanese society ladles dressed in dark colored kimonos with their hair done up three-leaf clover style, or to use a better illustration, like "your uncle's" trade mark-three balls-one on top and one on either side, with a wad protruding in the back. Among these were some elderly ladles who didn't have much hair left and this was coiled into a little round knob in the back. In general appearance they resembled scrubwomen who invade the offices of the big buildings in American cities after the high financiers and their hirelings have done their day of toil. Further to the rear sat one Japanese lady of refined features, with her breasts bared, nursing a babe throughout the performance. Near her sat a comely Japanese matron with her daughter, a strikingly handsome girl. When she smiled, although she was of the pure Japanese type, she looked very much like some of the American beauties which grace the summer seaside resorts.

Many of the Japanese women nestled into the handsome silk upholstered chairs with their feet sticking up their back. The chairs are built so that the seats may be slipped forward and the backs down to meet, so that the occupants may huddle in Japanese fashion, while Europeans and modern Japanese can sit up and take notice with their feet on the floor without moving the seats.

The Japanese men were robed in all manner of fashions, as they usually are. Some wore divided skirts that hung full down to their ankles and were just tied on around the waist with no belt, and a low V-cut dark waist which showed all kinds of undershirts at the neck, the sleeves of the undershirts hanging down over their wrists. Over this characteristic attire they wore dark kimonos with a little white figure between the shoulder blades. They wore no shoes, for their sandals that pass for shoes were left outside. In the lobby. During the Intermissions this motley throng rambled about the foyers and lobbies, some taking light refreshments in the tearooms to the right of the auditorium or drinking wine in the cafe to the left, while others patronized the magnificent restaurant on the second floor back of balcony, or sipped tea, served by little Japanese maids in black frocks and white aprons, at a long table in the palatial first balcony lobby. Numbers of these little maids are employed to attend to the patrons.

The splendor of this playhouse places it among the show buildings of the world. Its marble pillars and balustrades, the white and gold decoration on pale blue background in the auditorium, together with myriads of incandescent lights, make it a veritable palace. The stage is tremendous, the scenery and lighting effects well carried out and, from a Japanese point of view, the acting is simply perfection. The Inflections of voice, grace and harmony of gesture and scenic displays indicate a high order of work, but the weird wails and uncanny sounds that accompany the plays are distracting to the foreigner, who is unable to grasp their meaning.

"Yaritomo," [sic] the first play given, starts about 5 o'clock in the afternoon and runs until about 8 in the evening. The "Garden of Hojo’s Mansion" upon which the curtain rises in the first, act is a magnificent stage setting. The love scene between Mr. Komazo Ichikawa as Minamoto-no-Yorimoto and Mr. Baiko Onoye as Masako under the camphor tree, is a clever presentation. The scene before Torii, the sacred arch of the Mishima Myojin shrine, is a reliable production of dramatic art. A unique feature of the theater is the revolving stage which is used in the last act to give the action in the garden in front of the wall surrounding Yoritomo's garden, and then turns and shows the conflict between the forces of Hojo and Yamaki on the other side of the wall. 

After this play is a short intermission and then Ganjiro [sic], the most famous Japanese tragedian, is seen in an old Japanese melodrama entitled "Igagoe," in two acts. The dialogue of this play runs from the high head tones to low growls and snarls and is accompanied by two musicians squatting on a platform to one side and a bunch of wailers in a dungeon-like enclosure high up at one side of the stage, with bars running up and down in front of it. While the actors are struggling with their gutteral tones and doubling up till their heads touch the floor in mutual obeisance, the musicians and maniacs are making the most fiendish noises imaginable, sometimes yelping like dogs, with a prolonged howl at the end, and now and then clucking and crowing like chickens. This infernal racket is rendered more hideous by the beating of drums that produce hollow, discordant sounds like Indian tom-toms, and the incessant plunkety-plunk of one stringed guitars that produce no vibration.

The last performance of the evening closes at midnight. It is called "Hagoromo." This is a series of grotesque dances. The performers come out from a curtained enclosure at one side of the house and begin their dancing while on the way to the stage, thus performing in the midst of the audience. The dancing consists of hopping around and squirming, the evolutions resembling a snake's contortions. There is a grand finale with a fairylike creature with spangled wings and long tail feathers like a bird, ascending into the air near the proscenium arch, where she is joined by two others attired likewise, the scene slowly ascending until the fairies appear to be hovering in the clouds.

Kabuki Playbills (Tsuji Banzuke)

Source: website of kabuki21 http://www.kabuki21.com/glossaire_7.php
Tsuji banzuke presented the programs and casts for each production. In Edo large, single sheet prints were used. On the upper right edge, the ōnadai (Kabuki kyōgen title) appeared, as on the billboards, while to the left were images of characters appearing with their respective actor crests, along with jōjūri announcements. At the bottom, casts and the name of the theater were shown. Over time, the number of actors appearing increased and the banzuke was extended transversely.

The Imperial Theater

photo taken between 1914 to 1918
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/adavey/5075680124
Tokyo’s first purely Western-style theater, opening in March 1911, the Imperial Theater (Teikoku gekijō) “was a highly Gallic structure of marble, hung with tapestries, and provided with seventeen hundred Western-style seats”3 designed by the Japanese architect  Tamisuke Yokogawa (横河民輔, 1864–1945).  Situated beside the Imperial Palace moat, on the western edge of Mitsubishi Meadow, “it was the place for gala performances.”4   “Its management included various prominent persons connected with the 'Association for the Improvement of Drama' (Engeki Kairyōkai), among them members of the aristocracy, politicians and businessmen. It also employed its own kabuki actors [the three leading actors being Onoe Baikō VI, Ichikawa Komazō VIII and Sawamura Sōjūrō VII;; it started presenting plays with actresses, and even put on kabuki with 
actresses instead of onna-gata in the female roles.5 The Imperial management would go on to import Western opera, the first performance being The Magic Flute with a Japanese cast directed by the Italian, G. V. Rossi. Destroyed during the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake, it was rebuilt and reopened the following year and in 1966 it was replaced by a modern theater carrying the same name.

1 Kabuki Encyclopedia, An English-Language Adaption of Kabuki Jiten, Samuel L. Leiter, Greenwood Press, 1979, p. 138.
2 Ibid. p. 105.
3 Low City, High City: Tokyo from Edo to The Earthquake, Edward Seidensticker, Alfred A. Knopf, 1983, p. 153.
5 Kabuki, Matsakatsu Gunji, Kodansha International Ltd., 1986, p. 35.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description  Kabuki Playbill (Tsuji banzuke) for Plays at the Initial Opening of the Imperial Theater: Yoritomo, Igagoe and Hagoromo
 辻番付 帝国劇場初開場番付 頼朝 伊賀越 羽衣
 Artist  Torii Kiyotada VII (1875-1941)
right panel
center panel
Torii Kiyotada hitsu
followed by
Nanryō 南陵 seal
left panel

 Seal  as shown above
 Publication Date  March 4, 1911 明治44年3月4日
 Publisher  Okamoto Toyoharu 
 as printed in the center of the lower margin:
 京橋区金六町十三番地 岡本豊陽堂製
 Kyobashi-ku, Kinroku-cho 13-banchi Okamoto Toyoharu sei 
 Impression  good
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  good - full size; 3 full-length vertical folds
 Genre  tsuji banzuke 辻番付
 Format  vertical oban 
 H x W Paper 
 14 x 19 1/4 in. (35.6 x 48.9 cm) 

 Collections This Print
Rekibun Digital Museum 14200160; Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Digital Archives Collection of Waseda University ro18-00092-0021AZ