KABUKI ABC (70) / Kabukiza exhibition: Display of Koraiya’s interesting features and impressive history

Courtesy of Shochiku Co.

A life-size doll of the new Matsumoto Koshiro and other items are displayed at the “Koraiya no Koryaiiya” special exhibition at the Kabukiza Gallery in Tokyo.

By Tatsuhiro Morishige / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterA special exhibition titled “Koraiya no Koryaiiya” is being held at a gallery in the Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo, to commemorate the simultaneous name successions of three generations — father, son and grandson — of the Matsumoto Koshiro family, also known by the family stage name Koraiya.

The Kabukiza Gallery is located on the fifth floor of the current Kabukiza Theater, which opened in 2013 in the Higashi-Ginza district. The gallery’s aim is to help kabuki novices, as well as Japanese and foreign tourists, enjoy the world of the traditional Japanese theatrical art in an inviting environment.

Regular displays include equipment to create sound effects behind the scenes, such as the sound of rain, waves and the wind, and “riding stage props” such as a horse, boat and kago litter transport. Visitors can even touch these items.

Inside the gallery is Kobikicho Hall, which has a small stage and hosts various events such as kabuki music performances and talk events with popular kabuki actors. The current special exhibition features items related to three actors — Matsumoto Hakuo II, Matsumoto Koshiro X and Ichikawa Somegoro VIII — and started on Jan. 2, which is also the day that a special program of kabuki performances began at the theater to mark their name successions.

The exhibition’s title is a play on words linking “koryaiiya,” a Japanese expression that means excellent, and Koraiya, the family’s stage name.

It features a life-size doll of the newly named Koshiro, who is said to have liked figurines since childhood. The doll was created at his request with the help of a company specializing in figurines — it’s dressed as Matsuomaru, a character that Koshiro plays in the “Kurumabiki” commemorative program.

Also on display is a sliding screen painting depicting Benkei — a work by new Somegoro, who is good at drawing — in the “Kanjincho” program. Other highlights include costumes and stage properties related to Benkei that have actually been used in the “Kanjincho” program, as well as books authored by the new Hakuo and Koshiro.

Life-size photo panels of the three kabuki actors in kamishimo ceremonial attire are also there — visitors can take photographs in between the panels. I visited the exhibition alone, but an usher kindly offered to take a picture of me with the panels.

What impressed me most at the exhibition was video footage of the statements made when Matsumoto Hakuo I, Matsumoto Koshiro IX and Ichikawa Somegoro VII succeeded to their predecessors’ stage names 37 years ago. The scene showing late kabuki legends — including Onoe Shoroku II, younger brother of Hakuo I; Ichikawa Ebizo X, a cousin of Koshiro IX (now Hakuo II) and who later became Ichikawa Danjuro XII; and Onoe Tatsunosuke, who was given the stage name of Shoroku III posthumously — also being present at the occasion is extraordinary.

The new Koshiro, who was only 8 years old at that time, looked magnificent. It reminded me of the old Japanese saying, “Genius displays itself, even in childhood.”

The special exhibition will run through Feb. 25, but will be closed from Feb. 15 to 19.

— Morishige covers traditional Japanese performing arts.

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