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【Lineage】Naritaya – the best known Kabuki acting family in Edo Kabuki!History and the actors


On 14 January 2019, Kabuki actor, Ichikawa Ebizo XI announced he will become the thirteenth successor to Ichikawa Danjuro, the greatest name in Kabuki before the opening of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Many Kabuki actors’ names have been passed down from generation to generation until the present. Succeeding to an actor’s name is called Shumei, and a name passed down from generation to generation is called Myoseki. Generally speaking, in the Shumei of Kabuki, acting traditions and specialty repertoire items are inherited together with the Myoseki (family name).

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, the current family head of “Ichikawa-Soke”, the “Ichikawa family” will be succeeding “ Ichikawa Danjuro” in 2020 and will start a his new chapter of his performing career.

To celebrate the succession of Ichikawa Danjuro, the greatest name in Kabuki, this article introduces the history of the “Ichikawa-Soke” and the successive actors of Ichikawa family.

The Beginning of Narita-ya

Juzo Horikoshi, the father of Danjuro I grew up in Narita, Chiba-prefecture where there is the “Naritasan Shinshoji Temple” in the neighbourhood.

Ichikawa Danjuro I prayed to “Fudomyoo” at the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple for a boy and was given his request.

In deep appreciation, Ichikawa Danjuro I played the role of Fudomyoo in “Narita Fumoyoo” on the stage. During the performance, the audience shouted “ Naritaya!” and the family started using “Naritaya” as their “Yago”, the stage name thereafter.

Ichikawa Danjuro

Ichikawa Danjuro I

[1660 – 1704

Ichikawa Danjuro I was the pioneer of the “Aragoto”, rough style of acting which grabs the audience with its dynamic performance and the unique Kabuki make-up method called “ Kumadori” which is made up of dramatic lines and shapes applied in different colors, each representing different qualities such as anger, passion, sadness and cruelty etc.

The “Aragoto” style of acting was established Danjuro I.

It is the speciality of the “Ichikawa-Soke”’ to this day.

In 1704, the life of Ichikawa Danjuro I ended in a rather shocking way.

He was stabbed to death on stage.

Ichikawa Danjuro II

[1688 – 1758

Ichikawa Danjuro II was blessed with so many talents and charisma as an actor.

His dynamic and yet elegant performance fascinated the audience.

Ichikawa Danjuro II accomplished the “Aragoto” style of acting and also the “Kumadori” make-up method which were both established by his father, Ichikawa Danjuro I.

Danjuro II gained his reputation not only in Edo but in “Kamigata”, the Kansai region, with his performance in “Kenuki”, the Tweezer.

Ichikawa Danjuro III

[1721 – 1742

Ichikawa Danjuro III succeeded the prestigious name in 1735.

Danjuro III was adopted by Danjuro II when he was five years old.

He made his debut as “Ichikawa Matsugoro“ at the age of seven.

He was expected to become an inspiring actor, however Danjuro III became ill during his trip to Osaka in 1741 and died at the young age of twenty-two.

Ichikawa Danjuro IV

[1711 – 1778

Ichikawa Danjuro IV was the first actor who performed “Kagekiyo”, one of the “Kabuki Juhachiban”, the repertoire of 18 Kabuki plays.

Danjuro IV established a new Kabuki acting style which adds the role of villains to the Aragoto style.

He made an enormous contribution to the Kabuki circles by making a full effort to coach youngsters.

Ichikawa Danjuro V

[1741 – 1806

Ichikawa Danjuro V performed the role of “Aragoto”(rough style), “Jitsuaku”(villain style) and “Onnagata”(female role) with great ability and built up the golden age of eighteenth centuries’ Edo Kabuki.

Danjuro V was honest yet humorous man and always serious about his career as a Kabuki actor.

His sincere and humane personality impressed many people and he was called the Saint of Theatre.

Ichikawa Danjuro VI

[1778 – 1799

Ichikawa Danjuro VI succeeded Danjuro in 1791.

Danjuro VI was said to be very attractive, attracting throngs of female fans who would wait for him at the stage door.

With his elegant presence, Danjuro VI was the most popular Kabuki actor in those days.

In 1799, Danjuro VI performed the Ichikawa classic “Sukeroku” to great acclaim, but the following month he caught a cold and passed away aged just twenty-two.

Ichikawa Danjuro VII

[1791 – 1859]

Following the unexpected death of Danjuro VI in 1799, a ten year old boy found himself suddenly named as Danjuro VII in 1800.

Ichikawa Danjuro VII is known as the first actor who performed “Benkei” in “Kanjincho”, one of the most popular plays in the modern kabuki repertory.

Danjuro VII established a new type of villain character – the handsome but cruel youth, typified by the role of Tamiya Iemon in “Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan” Namboku’s Ghost Stories of Yotsuya.

Ichikawa Danjuro VIII

[1823 – 1854]

Ichikawa Danjuro VIII was strikingly handsome and had the charm to attract many.

He was often referred to as the most attractive man in the Edo period and there are many anecdotes which proves Danjuro VIIIís unprecedented popularity.

Danjuro VIII was elegant and refined, with a distinctive allure and no hint of baseness.

His voice was high-pitched, clear and mellifluous, and he had a masterful grasp of rhythm.

He was skilled at performing “Sukeroku”, one of Ichikawa-Soke’s classic plays and fans expected him to hold the great name, Danjuro for a long period of time.

However, sadly Danjuro VIII commuted suicide while he was visiting Osaka in 1854.

He was thirty-two years old and his motive remains unknown.

Ichikawa Danjuro IX

[1838 – 1903]

Danjuro IX stood at the pinnacle of Kabuki in 1887 when he was thirty-seven years old.

Danjuro threw himself into a series of radical experiments in kabuki staging and acting, performing in new realistic “katsurekimono”, living history plays and playing a leading role in the theatre reform movement.

In 1887, at age fifty, Danjuro was invited to perform The Subscription List (Kanjincho) and Takatoki before the Emperor. This was the culmination of his attempts to raise the lowly status of kabuki actors in Japan.

Also, Danjuro IX is well known as the pioneer of “Haragei”,a restrained form of acting based on psychology.

He applied this style of acting to traditional roles, and thus exercised a great influence upon the form of modern kabuki.

The performance patterns and approaches to roles developed by Danjuro IX are still respected and often used by todays kabuki actors.

Ichikawa Danjuro X

[1882 – 1956]

Danjuro X was posthumously named on the recommendation of his successor, Ebizo IX (later Danjuro XI).

Danjuro X was performed as Horikoshi Fukugoro and Ichikawa Sansho V during his acting career.

He married the eldest daughter of Danjuro IX, Mitsuko in 1882 and after the death of his father-in-law, he became an actor at the age of twenty-nine .

As will inevitably be the case when an amateur begins acting in middle age, Danjuro X struggled to master the unique Kabuki techniques and in spite of his valiant efforts he never found favour with critics or audiences.

However, through his determination and sense of responsibility in attempting to maintain the Ichikawa familyís position, he must be recognized as having fulfilled his duty as head of the family.

He was noted for his scholarly bent, and he succeeded in reviving many long neglected plays from the Kabuki Eighteen repertoire.

Ichikawa Danjuro XI

[1909 – 1965]

Danjuro XI became one of the leading actors of the post-war period.

Under the name Matsumoto Kintaro he made his debut appearance in January 1915, aged six.

In 1940, aged thirty-two, he took the name Ebizo IX.

Danjuro XI was been credited with single-handedly reviving kabuki after World War II through its so-called Ebi-sama craze.

He gained much popularity after acting as the Shining Prince Genji in “The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari)”.

Ichikawa Danjuro XII

[1946 – 2013]

Danjuro XII was popular for his grand and expansive style of acting and successful performance of a number of roles that the line of Danjuro specialises in such as “Kanjinchō”

He aq1qcontributed to boosting the popularity of kabuki by giving grand name-succession celebrations, including a series of performances at the Kabukiza 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 such U.S. cities 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 such as “Kanjinchō” and “Sukeroku”.

Danjuro XII was praised for his compellingly realistic facial expressions particularly in his role as “Benkei” in “Kanjinchō”.

After being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in May 2004, Danjuro temporarily left the stage between 2004 and 2005 to receive treatment.

He made a comeback in May 2006 and was acting while still receiving medical treatment.

He died in 2013.

Todai Myoseki

Ichikawa Ebizo XI

[Born on 6 December 1977]

Ichikawa Ezibo XI is not only the greatest in Kabuki but one of the most renowned actor in modern times.

Recently it was reported that he will become the thirteenth successor to Ichikawa Danjuro Hakuen in 2020.

Being the son of a distinguished family, Ebizo XI, the current family head of “Ichikawa-Soke”, the “Ichikawa family”, performed not only on stages in Japan but also throughout the world and his talent as an actor and a producer has been well-received by fans and critics.

Ebizo XI’s talent and popularity have drawn significant media attention to his private and family life.

Name-succession celebrations, including a series of performances at “Kabukiza” that will run for three months, are being planned.

The celebration period will coincide with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the rumour is that Danjuro XIII may be performed at one of the biggest world sporting event.

Ichikawa Shinnosuke VII

[Born on 22 March 2013]

Six year old, Kangen Horikoshi is also known by his nickname “Kankan”.

He made his debut at “Kabukiza” in November 2015.

The son of Ebizo XIII, Kangen Horikoshi, will succeed to the name Ichikawa Shinnosuke VIII at the same time as his father.

Kangen has already performed for a performance series over one month and he looks impressively confident on stage for his age.

Kangen was raised as the heir of the top ranking Kabuki family, Ichikawa-Soke since he was born.

At the recent media interview event, Kangen responded to the questions crisply and clearly.

He said “ I love practicing Kabuki.”

Fans are expecting Kangen to lead the future Kabuki scene.

Haimeis of Ichikawa Danjuro

“Haimei”, also known as “Haimyo” (Kabuki actor’s poetry name) was originally used by Ichikawa Danjuro I.

Danjuro I’s Haimei was “ Saigyu” and he aims to have this become a tradition in the Kabuki community.

Haimei has been treated in the same way as “Myoseki” which means that the name is passed down from generation to generation.

The f. ollowing Haimeis are used by a long line of Ichikawa Danjuro;

Danjuro I : Saigyu
Danjuro II : Mimasu, Saigyusai, Hakuen, Hinasuke
Danjuro III : –
Danjuro IV : Kaigan, Goryu, Sansho, Hakuen
Danjuro V : Baido, Omegawa, Sansho, Hakuen, Hogoan
Danjuro VI : Kaigan, Goryu, Sansho, Hakuen
Danjuro VII : Sansho, Hakuen, Youtei, Kotobukiebinohito, Kofukumono, Nikutei
Danjuro VIII : Donguri, Hakuen, Youan
Danjuro IX : Shisen, Danshu, Jukai, Sansho, Youan
Danjuro X : You
Danjuro XI : Goryu
Danjuro XII : Hakuen
Danjuro XIII : Hakuen

Some Haimeis have the actor’s aspiration implicit in their names.


Ichikawa Danjuro I became a disciple of Shiinomoto Saimaro and started to learn Haikai poetry.

The Haikai master gave him a Haimyo (name as a Haikai poet) “Saigyu”, and it is regarded as the origin of Haimyo.


Ichikawa Danjuro II was born in the year of Tree in Yin and Yang, Chinese philosophy, and he used “Hakuen” as his Haimei using this character in this name wishing to live for 120 years.


Naritaya family uses “Sansho”, three boxes as a family crest and the family treats the“Sansho” symbol mark as their lucky charm.


“Hogoan” was the name of the residence which was built for Danjuro X after his retirement.

Danjuro V often organised a gathering for poets.


I hope you have enjoyed discovering the history and glamour of “Naritaya”.

Wishing all the best for Ichikawa Danjuro XIII and Ichikawa Shinnosuke VIII’s glittering future.

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