KABUKI ABC (43) / Father’s footsteps: 3 generations of prestigious family to simultaneously adopt new names

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Matsumoto Koshiro, right, poses with his son Ichikawa Somegoro and grandson Matsumoto Kintaro.

By Tatsuhiro Morishige / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterTo the delight of kabuki fans, it has been announced that three generations of the prestigious Matsumoto Koshiro family, also known by the family stage name Koraiya, will simultaneously adopt new stage names in January next year.

After the succession, Matsumoto Koshiro, 74, his son Ichikawa Somegoro, 44, and grandson Matsumoto Kintaro, 11, will each perform under their father’s stage name, becoming Matsumoto Hakuo II, Matsumoto Koshiro X and Ichikawa Somegoro VIII.

Back in October 1981, the current Koshiro and Somegoro similarly succeeded to their father’s names, while Koshiro’s father received the stage name Hakuo I. The event marked the first time in kabuki’s 400-year history that three generations of a family adopted new stage names at the same time and attracted a great deal of public attention. Hakuo I died in 1982.

Next year’s triple-name succession will be the first such auspicious event in 37 years.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 8, Koshiro said he felt “extremely happy.”

“I feel as if everything I’ve done for the past 71 years since making my stage debut has been for today,” he added.

Asked what he thought about his son assuming his own name, Koshiro said: “Watching his recent performances, it’s apparent that he’s surpassed the level expected of an actor performing under the name Somegoro.

“I hope he will take on the challenge of acting under a higher-pedigree name and acquire a wider range of expertise.”

Somegoro, meanwhile, said he feels “so excited” about assuming the name Matsumoto Koshiro, which belongs to the family head.

“I want to pursue my career as a kabuki actor for the rest of my life. I’ll take on the name [Koshiro] to inherit the performing style of the Koraiya family and encourage more people to learn about it,” he added.

Kintaro, a sixth-grade elementary school student, said assuming his father’s stage name “does not seem real yet.” He said his goal is to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and father by performing the role of Benkei, the central character in “Kanjincho” (The Subscription Scroll).

Three members of the Matsumoto Koshiro family have ascended to the name Ichikawa Danjuro — the most respected moniker in kabuki circles — helping the family cement a strong relationship with the iconic Ichikawa Danjuro family. The late Danjuro XI, for example, is an uncle of the current Koshiro.

The Koraiya family stage name is said to have come from a merchant family to which Koshiro I was apprenticed when he was young.

Koshiro VII (1870-1949) performed the role of Benkei as many as 1,600 times, helping to make “Kanjincho” one of the most popular pieces in the kabuki repertoire. The current Koshiro has performed the role more than 1,100 times and counting.

The current Somegoro had his turn in the role — which he said he had “dreamed of playing since I was just 1” — for the first time in November 2014 at Kabukiza theater in Tokyo.

Koshiro VIII, the current Koshiro’s father, enjoyed performing with artists from outside the kabuki world including narrators in the bunraku puppet theater, an approach that was regarded as taboo at the time. He also acted in Shakespearean plays.

The current Koshiro has also been active in genres outside kabuki, including musicals, modern theater and TV dramas. Somegoro has been trying to attract new fans to kabuki, including by giving performances in Las Vegas featuring advanced technology and playing a lead role in a new movement called “Kabuki Next” that aims to stage original pieces.

The efforts have contributed to the Koraiya family’s reputation as “a family with a frontier spirit.”

Performances marking the simultaneous name successions will be staged at Kabukiza from January to February 2018, after which they will move to large theaters in Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto and Fukuoka.

— Morishige covers traditional Japanese performing arts.

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