Leading Kabuki Actor Ichikawa Danjuro Dies at 66

Leading Kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro died late Sunday of pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital according to his son, Ichikawa Ebizo. Speaking to reporters in front of his father’s home in Tokyo on Monday morning, Ebizo described Danjuro as a man “who cared about people around him before caring about himself. He was a person of great love.”

He had been recuperating from pneumonia but his condition became critical in mid-January. He was 66.

Danjuro, whose real name was Natsuo Horikoshi, was born in Tokyo as the first son of Ichikawa Danjuro XI. He made his debut in 1953 at age 7.

Danjuro is a stage name taken on by kabuki actors of the Ichikawa family, and is considered the most prestigious of the kabuki stage names. Most members of the family have been blood relatives, although some were adopted.

Recognized for his outstanding theatrical skills, Danjuro won fame for his performances as a “tachiyaku” male actor together with “onnagata” female impersonator Bando Tamasaburo.

Danjuro also contributed to boosting the popularity of kabuki by giving grand name-succession celebrations, including a series of performances at the Kabuki-za Theater in Tokyo that ran for three months, an unusually long period for such celebrations. He is also the only kabuki actor to have given shumei performances abroad, staging them in U.S. cities such as New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

He was popular for his grand and expansive style of acting and successful performance of a number of roles that the line of Danjuro specializes in, such as Benkei in the play “Kanjincho” in the Kabuki Juhachiban (The Kabuki Eighteen), a series of plays which showcase the specialties of the Ichikawa family.

Danjuro was also and actor outside of kabuki. He appeared in period TV dramas and theatrical plays throughout his career.

Danjuro received many awards including an award from the Japan Art Academy, the highest-ranking arts organization in Japan, in 1988 and the Medal with Purple Ribbon, a Japanese government award given to people who have made outstanding contributions in academic fields, sports and the arts, in May 2007.


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