Table Speech

Life on the Stage for 10 Years

Ocotber 27th,2004

Mr. Tomijuro Nakamura
A Designated Human Cultural Asset and member of the Japanese Arts Academy

Today, I wish to speak about the Kabuki plays ‘Funabenkei’ which I performed in this November, and ‘Kyokanoko Musume Dojoji’ which was first performed in 1753 by the first generation Tomijuro.

‘Funabenkei’ was performed in the Meiji Era by Danjuro Ichikawa IX followed by Kikugoro Onoue VI who performed in it for 18 times in 18 months.

‘Funabenkei’ represents the Meiji Era in that it was the first time that Kabuki and Noh were allowed to perform together on stage. I have been able to perform in ‘Funabenkei’ 14 times and is a role I will never forget, and my role was originated by Kikugoro VI.

In my role the drum and flute which accompany me are quite important. The quality of the accompaniment decides how effective I will be in my role, but I was fortunate to have 2 of the leading artists in their fields accompany me.
My health deteriorated during my performance and I was inhaling oxygen when I was off stage and had to be carried back to my dressing room after the performance. I had to be hospitalized, but it was a performance which was unforgettable.

The ‘Dojoji’ play was first performed as a Noh performance in the Muromachi Era (1392 – 1537 A.D.) but as a Kabuki drama it was the role of Tomijuro Nakamura I to change his appearance on stage from that of a dancing girl to an ordinary girl.

The large temple bell in the drama was lost, but its successor was taken from Dojoji Temple to Kyoto where it remained for 420 years at Myomanji Temple. It was returned to its former place after a long time and I was invited to the ceremony where I was able to see it.

As the costumes for the ‘Dojoji’ kabuki are gorgeous, many wish to perform it.
Tomijuro I is said to have instructed that the dance to be performed in the play was not to be too artificial but one which was quite simple. But it still remains an important dance.

Dojoji Temple is the oldest one in Wakayama and was built in 701 A.D. It’s first bell was destroyed in 923 A.D. as a result of the Kiyohime / Anchin affair, and the second generation bell was cast in 1359 A.D. 200 years later it was taken to Kyoto by an invading army, and 200 years later the Kabuki play ‘Dojoji’ was first performed in Edo in 1753 by Tomijuro I.

Although the bell had remained in Myomanji Temple for 400 years, it was not rung.

I feel that I have a responsibility to pass on the traditions of my art to those who follow me. However, I have a principle that I can only teach the roles that I have personally played. When I am asked to watch a performance that I have not experienced personally, I can only offer my impressions.

Video tapes are used for instruction but this has shortcomings as just viewing them misleads one into thinking that he has understood what to do. They can simulate the appearances but they do not learn the essence of the role.

I have seen a motion picture of the ‘Kanjicho’ kabuki drama numerous times and every occasion was a learning experience for me. Thus films and video tapes can be used effectively.

In his volume ‘Kadensho’, Zeami has summarized the principles of Noh, but unless one had learned the rudiments of the art, it is difficult to understand. One cannot master the art by just reading, but learn from a master, and then learn from written works.