By Junichiro Shiozaki / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterPopular kabuki actor Nakamura Hashinosuke III, who also stars in TV dramas and other productions, will be the highlight of the Kabukiza theater’s October and November schedule when he appears in a series of shows held to announce his shumei, or the taking on of his late father’s stage name.
Beginning in October, Hashinosuke will perform under his new stage name: Nakamura Shikan VIII. The shumei celebration is especially noteworthy because Hashinosuke’s three sons, all kabuki actors, will also take on new stage names.
“[As Nakamura Shikan VIII], I vow to commit myself not only to performing well but also to contributing to the kabuki world as a whole,” Hashinosuke said.
The prestigious stage name will be revived after a five-year absence following the death of Hashinosuke’s father, Nakamura Shikan VII.
Hashinosuke’s eldest son, Kunio, will start performing as Nakamura Hashinosuke IV; his second son, Nakamura Muneo, as Nakamura Fukunosuke III; and his third son, Nakamura Yoshio, as Nakamura Utanosuke IV. It is apparently rare in the kabuki world for four members of a family to celebrate adopting new names at the same time.
Hashinosuke announced last September he would assume the name. Last month, he joined his three sons in a procession in Tokyo’s Asakusa area as part of the celebrations to mark the upcoming name succession.
“I’d been thinking it was still far in the future. Now that it’s about to happen. My palms get sweaty just thinking about it,” he said.
The name Shikan dates back to the late years of the Edo period (1603-1867). The actor who first used the name was based in the Kamigata area, which encompasses Kyoto and Osaka. Initially reserved for actors in male roles, the name has more recently been bestowed upon celebrated actors in female roles, and assumed a place of great honor and importance.
“I’ve done everything I can possibly think of under the name Hashinosuke,” he said. “I’m honored and happy to take on the name Shikan, and at the same time, I’m a little sad since I feel as if my late father will fade and eventually disappear [in my mind].”
In the show from Oct. 2 to 26, he will play the lead in “Banzui Chobe” (The end of Banzuiin Chobe) in the matinee, acting as a chivalrous Edo-period commoner named Chobe, who bravely confronts a hatamoto high-ranking samurai.
In the evening show, he will play the lead in “Kumagai Jinya” (Kumagai’s battle camp), performing in a style called “Shikan-gata” that is said to have been established by famed actor Shikan IV, who was active from the late Edo period to the Meiji era (1868-1912). The piece depicts Kumagai, a warrior who kills his son for the sake of his master during the time of the Genpei wars between the Minamoto and Taira clans.
Three actors — from Shikan V to VII — have successively performed under the name Shikan in female roles. Hashinosuke is the first performer of male roles to take on the name in quite some time.
“I’ll aim to be an actor who emanates masculinity. In ‘Chobe,’ I want to perform as a man with maturity, since I’m now 51 years old. In ‘Kumagai,’ I’m preparing to entertain the audience with the Shikan-gata [performing style], which is one of the few specialties associated with my family,” he said.
His gallant style can be seen again in shows from Nov. 1 to 25. In the matinee, “Renjishi” (Parent and child lion dance), he will star and perform a magnificent dance with his three sons. In the evening show, “Moritsuna Jinya” (Moritsuna’s battle camp), he will play the lead role of the warrior named Moritsuna for the first time. Particularly challenging will be a scene in which Moritsuna inspects the severed head of a samurai and anguishes over whether he should tell the truth and risk someone’s life or lie to protect them.
Hashinosuke said Moritsuna is one of the most demanding but rewarding roles for any actor playing male characters.
Both “Kumagai Jinya” and “Moritsuna Jinya” are masterpieces of kabuki’s “jidaimono” genre, dramas themed on war and historic events. Hashinosuke hopes to demonstrate his commitment to performing as Shikan VIII by starring in both of the historic dramas. The genre performances will test whether he has what it takes to become a leading light in the kabuki world.
“My sons and I would like to express our deep appreciation over adopting the names, and do our best each day during the shows,” he said.
Call (0570) 000-489 for ticket information.
— Shiozaki is a specialist in kabuki.
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