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KABUKI ABC (60) / Nakamura Shido: New energy for performance after returning from lung cancer surgery

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Nakamura Shido smiles at his first press conference since his lung operation, in Tokyo, on July 28.

By Tatsuhiro Morishige / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKabuki actor Nakamura Shido, who suspended his stage performances in June and July for surgery to treat early-stage lung cancer, is scheduled to return to the stage in November.

He and fellow troupe members will spend that month performing in 20 different locations nationwide, from Hokkaido to Kyushu.

During the tour, Shido will play the part of Igami no Gonta, the lead character of the “Sushiya” act of the masterpiece “Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura,” for the first time in his kabuki career.

Shido turns 45 on Sept. 14. He belongs to the Yorozuya troupe led by the family of Nakamura Tokizo. Shido is a cousin of Nakamura Tokizo V and Nakamura Kinnosuke II, who are brothers.

Shido’s uncles include Yorozuya Kinnosuke, formerly named Nakamura Kinnosuke, who became a big movie star in the years after World War II ended.

This may be an aside, but all of the actors in the Yorozuya troupe have conspicuous noses. I recommend that people go see the stage performances and confirm this.

Shido has an image as an “attention seeker” because he has dyed his hair blond, worn a Spider-Man costume, formed a punk rock band and done other eccentric things.

However, he is actually a man of hard past experiences.

Though he belongs to the Yorozuya troupe, his father, Nakamura Shido I, got out of the kabuki business when he was young. Shido junior thus did not have supporters, so he was not given any remarkable parts on the stage in his younger days.

He said that he was once openly told, “You are not capable of acting in lead parts.”

But Shido did not become desperate, instead repeatedly applying for numerous auditions for movies and modern dramas to make his name as an actor widely known.

Just before he turned 30, he was given an important supporting role in “Pingpong,” a movie featuring table tennis. His appearance in this movie quickly made him famous.

Since then, he has gradually received requests to play good roles in kabuki plays. Currently, his popularity is not far below that of other kabuki stars of his generation, such as Ichikawa Somegoro and Ichikawa Ebizo.

Igami no Gonta is one of the lead roles in “Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura.” The other main characters are Taira no Tomomori and Kitsune Tadanobu, and he has already played those parts. He will now take on the challenge of the lead, the last remaining important character in this drama that he has not played.

Gonta is a foxy small-time crook who defrauds his own mother and tries to hand over a noble person given shelter by Gonta’s relatives to enemies. But Gonta later shows repentance.

Shido expressed his enthusiasm, saying, “I would like to make Gonta’s character somehow humorous and full of human touches.”

Since leaving the hospital, Shido said that he regularly goes to the gym and loudly practices lines of dialogue from kabuki stories while taking walks.

“My physical strength has recovered to 70 percent or 80 percent. I want to fully recover so that I will be told, ‘Your voice is louder than before getting the disease, and you’ve got more physical strength than before,’” he said, with the winsome smile that is his trademark.

Shido also revealed that he and his wife are expecting his child late this year. He found out he had lung cancer just after he learned his wife was pregnant.

He expressed his profound feelings, saying: “It feels meaningful just to be alive every day. I believe that everything, good and bad, provides an actor with skills for performance.”

Shido has experienced both the sorrow and joy of life while still young. In his comeback in November, he is certain to show spectators the joys of living as he performs with his whole body, as an actor and also as a human.

— Morishige covers traditional Japanese performing arts.

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