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Kabuki’s Early Ventures onto Western Stages (1900‑1930):
Tsutsui Tokujirō in the footsteps of Kawakami and Hanako

Jean‑Jacques Tschudin
Translated by Karen Grimwade

Abstracts

The discovery of Japanese theatre by Western theatrical buffs was very gradual, starting with the impressions of the first travellers and foreign residents who landed in Japan in the 1860‑1870’s, and slowly progressing with the essays and translations of the pioneers of Japanese studies. But, on the other hand, the opportunities to watch the real thing were extremely few: from the early Meiji up to the 1950’s, only four companies tried to present on foreign stages productions claiming, rightly or wrongly, to belong to the art of kabuki. After a brief sketch of Kawakami, Hanako and Sadanji’s European ventures, this essay examines in detail the long journey of Tsutsui Tokujirō’s company (January 1930-April 1931), which triumphs in practicaly all the Western capitals. Neglected by the Japanese historians, Tsutsui’s work had nonetheless a profound influence on the European stage directors with productions relatively faithfull to the spirit of genuine kabuki.

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Original release: Jean‑Jacques Tschudin, « Le Kabuki s’aventure sur les scènes occidentales : Tsutsui Tokujirô sur les traces des Kawakami et de Hanako », Cipango, 20, 2013, 13‑63, mis en ligne le 17 avril 2015. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/​cipango/​1901 ; DOI : 10.4000/cipango.1901

  • 1 See for example Siegfried Wichmann, Japonisme (Paris: Éditions du Chêne, 1982); Lionel Lambourne, (...)

1In the 1860s, as Japan opened its doors to the outside world, the previously unknown arts of this mysterious Land of the Rising Sun were unveiled to the West, revealing aesthetic options and techniques that not only aroused its curiosity but also offered its artists and creators novel solutions and stimulating possibilities for their own work. Although this phenomenon is primarily associated with the world of painting, printing and the decorative arts, somewhat away from the influence of Japonism1 and at a slightly later date, theatre also came to be fascinated with the performing arts of Japan. But what was truly known about these arts at the time? By what means and through whose initiative could they be discovered?

  • 2 For more on this subject, see Ury Eppstein, “The Stage Observed. Western Attitudes Toward Japanese (...)

2From the early Meiji period (1868‑1912) through to the eve of World War II (1939‑1945), information generally took the form of narratives published by visitors returning from Japan who described their forays into Japanese theatre. These highly impressionistic accounts were gradually supplemented with studies by leading specialists, many of them long-term residents to Japan and fluent in the language. Nevertheless, this scholarly approach tended to focus solely on the literary—and in some cases liturgical—dimensions of theatre, taking little interest in it as a stage art.2 It was only towards the late 1920s that serious, enlightened studies of the subject began to appear. Generally speaking, theatre practitioners inspired by the Japanese example—such as Appia, Artaud, Brecht, Craig, Copeau, Dullin, Eisenstein, Fuchs, Gémier, Lugné‑Poe, Meyerhold, Reinhardt, Stanislavski and Yeats—had no knowledge of Japan (with the exception of Paul Claudel, French ambassador to Japan from 1921 to 1927) and drew on an assortment of fragmentary data, themselves based on a handful of performances of questionable authenticity. It is precisely these rare appearances by Japanese theatre on European stages that I propose to examine in this paper.

The first international tours

3A quick tally reveals just four tours throughout the entire first half of the twentieth century! The first came courtesy of the theatre troupe led by Kawakami Otojirō 川上音二郎 (May  1899-December 1900 and April 1901-August 1902). This was followed by a long sojourn in Europe by Hanako 花子, from 1901 to 1916, and a brief visit to the Soviet Union by Ichikawa Sadanji 市川左団次 (summer 1928). Finally, there was the lengthy tour conducted by Tsutsui Tokujirō 筒井徳二郎 (January 1930-April 1931), taking in twenty-two countries.

4The first three tours, which are relatively well documented even in the West, will merely be outlined briefly in order to focus on Tsutsui’s as‑yet relatively unknown endeavour.

Kawakami Otojirō’s troupe

  • 3 For a general presentation of this tradition in French, see Jean‑Jacques Tschudin, Histoire du thé (...)
  • 4 See in particular Nicola Savarese, “La peripezia emblematica di Sada Yacco,” Sipario, no. 406 (198 (...)
  • 5 Western chroniclers generally write her name “Sada Yacco.”

5While visitors to Japan were sending home colourful descriptions of their theatre excursions, and French travellers were expressing shock or delight at kabuki-style realism, theatre enthusiasts back in the West were about to discover a curious version of this performing art right on their doorstep thanks to a tour organised by a Japanese actor who arrived in Paris with a programme supposedly representing the great Japanese tradition.3 Although the ircumstances of this tour are well known, a brief summary would no doubt be useful.4 It consisted of course of the performances given by Kawakami Otojirō and his troupe as part of the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. These performances, and the acting skills of Kawakami’s wife Sadayakko 貞奴5 in particular, charmed Parisian aesthetes, eliciting an abundance of sometimes surprising commentary. The situation was paradoxical in that, despite being supposedly traditional, these plays were introduced by a pioneer of modern theatre, performed by actors considered in the world of kabuki to be low‑class showmen, and starred a woman in the main female roles.

6Indeed, far from being an actor born and bred, Kawakami Otojirō (1864‑1911) was originally a sōshi 壮士, a political agitator within the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement (Jiyū minken undō 自由民権運動). It was within this agitprop context that he staged politicised plays and cabaret acts. He continued his theatre activities after political calm was restored by developing a new genre known as shinpa 新派 (new school), which gradually won over Japanese audiences with plays examining contemporary society and performed in a more realist style that was neither truly modern nor clearly modelled on Western theatre. As for his wife Sadayakko (1871‑1946), she was a former high-ranking geisha and talented dancer, but only truly began her acting career with the American tour.

  • 6 On Fuller’s career, see Loïe Fuller, Quinze ans de ma vie [Fifteen Years of My Life] (Paris: Libra (...)

7To the great consternation of the traditional masters, these curious individuals were thus to be the ambassadors of Japanese theatre overseas. Having arrived in San Francisco in late May 1899, they travelled across the United States and then to London where they were hired by the dancer-promoter Loie Fuller (1862‑1928)6 to perform at the Exposition Universelle. These were the unexpected circumstances in which the Kawakamis came to embody—somewhat involuntarily—an approximation of Japanese tradition alongside Fuller’s avant-garde experiments.

8They presented four plays very loosely adapted from the kabuki repertoire (The Geisha and the Knight; Kesa and Morito; Jingoro; and Takanori) and were such a triumph that they eventually stayed at Fuller’s theatre for four months, signing a contract for a lengthy tour (April 1901‑August 1902) that would take them to all the major European stages.

  • 7 See the Rondel collection (Richelieu Library, Bibliothèque Nationale de France) which includes all (...)
  • 8 These documents were found in the 1990s. The first was presented in 1995 by the Japanese public br (...)

9Their performances were enthusiastically received and Sadayakko hailed as a triumph by artists and high society. Painters, theatre professionals, writers, critics and essayists all flocked to admire her, showering her with praise and making countless drawings, sketches and photographs of her.7 This textual and iconographic body of work was recently supplemented with two newly discovered documents: a collection of twenty‑nine gramophone records featuring ballads, monologues and melodies performed by members of the Kawakami troupe, and a fragment of film showing a samurai performing martial kata amongst the swirling white dresses of Fuller’s dancers.8

Hanako: a new Japanese star

10The following episode confirms both the appetite of theatre enthusiasts for such performances and the blatant commercialism with which they were proposed.

  • 9 For more information on this issue, see Miyaoka Kenji 宮岡謙二, Ikoku henro tabigeinin shimatsusho 異国遍 (...)
  • 10 For more information on Hanako, see the special feature devoted to her in Asian Theatre Journal, v (...)

11Just as with the Kawakamis, the success of this new tour was largely due to the encounter between Loie Fuller and a former geisha who arrived in Europe with an unlikely troupe of music‑hall performers. Thanks to the World Fairs, Japanese fairground artists—jugglers, acrobats, illusionists and dancers—were highly appreciated in the West, encouraging a relatively large number of them to try their luck.9 And so it was that Hanako (Ōta Hisa 太田ひさ, 1868‑1945),10 an impoverished geisha from Gifu Prefecture, came to be hired as a dancer in a troupe leaving Japan in March 1901. After a series of shows in Copenhagen, she found herself working in a Japanese restaurant in Antwerp and was subsequently hired by a producer of variety shows in Dusseldorf. Performing alongside a small troupe of locally recruited actors, she played the lead female role in a play entitled Bushidō 武士道 (The Way of the Warrior), set in a pleasure quarter. The plot sees two debauched samurais draw their swords after a quarrel and ends with the disgraced loser committing hara‑kiri. The reception in Germany encouraged Hanako to form an independent troupe. She performed first in England, then (having come under Fuller’s management) all around Europe.

  • 11 On Hanako’s ties to Rodin, see Sawada Suketarō, Rodan to Hanako ロダンと花 子 [Rodin and Hanako] (Nagoya (...)

12Rodin discovered Hanako at the Marseilles Colonial Exhibition in 1906, having come to admire the Cambodian dancers, and later made several portraits of her.11 When the troupe disbanded leaving Hanako alone, she hit a slump before once again finding success. She performed throughout the West for over a decade, until the war put a stop to her activities in 1916. She then opened a Japanese restaurant in London before permanently returning to Japan in 1921.

13Whereas the plays performed by the Kawakamis retained links to kabuki, little trace of this stage art remained in Hanako’s shows, invariably designed by Fuller to culminate in murder or suicide, thereby allowing the heroine to shine in scenes of tragic demise. Fuller also concocted a series of eloquently titled Japanese plays—The Martyr, A Drama at Yoshiwara, The Japanese Doll, The Japanese Ophelia, Hara‑Kiri, The Little Japanese Girl, and The Way of the Warrior—all of which, bar of a few comic sketches, featured the same bloody conclusion.

14Given the language barrier, the plays relied heavily on mime and dance, with the actors essentially contenting themselves with emitting a variety of highly expressive vocalisations such as growls, grunts and laughter. Hanako enthralled new audiences with her undeniable stage presence, classical dance skills, astonishing range of pained facial expressions and incredible ability to switch instantly from cheerful, doll-like warbling to the most tragic of masks. Yet fundamentally, she and her cobbled-together troupe merely adopted the same formula as the Kawakamis. Thus, despite her indisputable talent and charisma, she failed to contribute anything truly new and was even less authentic than her predecessors.

Ichikawa Sadanji in the USSR

  • 12 For more information on this tour, see Kitamura Yukiko & Dany Savelli, “L’Exotisme justifié ou la (...)
  • 13 Ichikawa Danjūrō 市川団十郎 IX (1838‑1903), Onoe Kikugorō 尾上菊五郎 V (1844‑1903), Ichikawa Sadanji 市川左団次 I (...)
  • 14 Although kabuki and shinpa troupes had toured Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria and Northern China, these r (...)
  • 15 This difficult-to-define term refers to the kabuki dramas influenced by Western theatre and writte (...)

15In 1927, Osanai Kaoru 小山内薫 (1881‑1928), one of the pioneers of modern Japanese theatre, was invited to the Soviet Union to attend celebrations for the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. Back in Japan, he relayed the Soviets’ desire to host a tour by Ichikawa Sadanji II (1880‑1940) and his troupe. Sadanji was keen to accept and managed to obtain approval from Shōchiku 松竹—the Japanese show business giant—and implicitly, from the government.12 As the eldest son of Sadanji I (the third name in the Dan-Kiku-Sa trio that dominated kabuki during the Meiji period),13 Sadanji II represented both grand tradition and the most successful attempts at modernising the genre. As well as managing a large kabuki troupe, he co-founded with Osanai Kaoru the pioneering shingeki 新劇 group Free Theatre (Jiyū gekijō 自由劇場), responsible for introducing the likes of Ibsen, Hauptmann, Maeterlinck, Chekhov and Gorky to Japan between 1909 and 1919. Though not an iconoclast, Sadanji headed the progressive, modernising branch of kabuki and was thus ideally placed to lead the first excursion of this dramatic art beyond Japan’s shores,14 proposing a balanced programme of emblematic plays from the classic repertoire and the best of new kabuki (shin-kabuki 新歌舞伎).15

  • 16 This play was translated into French by René Sieffert in Le Mythe des quarante-sept rōnin [The Myt (...)
  • 17 Text by Tsu’uchi Hanjūrō 津打半十郎, staged in Osaka in 1742 based on a libretto composed by Danjūrō I (...)
  • 18 Banchō sarayashiki 番長皿屋敷 [The Dish Mansion at Banchō], Toribeyama shinjū 鳥辺山心中 [Double Suicide on (...)

16The troupe performed at the Moscow Art Theatre II from 1 to17 August before moving to Leningrad to present the same programme at the State Academic Maly Opera Theatre (since restored to its original name, the Mikhailovsky Theatre). It staged two major classics: the legendary historical drama Kanadehon chūshingura 仮名手本忠臣蔵 (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers)16 and Narukami 鳴神, an emblematic play in the bravura or “rough style” (aragoto 荒事) pioneered by the Ichikawa family and featuring a wonderful onnagata 女形 role.17 The other section of the programme alternated three plays by Okamoto Kidō 岡本綺堂 (1872‑1939), one of the few new-kabuki authors whose work is still performed.18 This ensemble was completed with a series of well-known danced pieces (shosagoto 所作事) like Musume Dōjōji 娘道成寺 (The Maiden at Dōjō Temple) and Sagi musume 鷺娘 (The Heron Maiden).

17The tour was carefully prepared in advance through the publication of illustrated brochures featuring synopses of the plays, as well as two booklets on kabuki written by Russian orientalists. Explanations were also provided at the beginning of each performance.

  • 19 See Georges Banu, “Eisenstein, le Japon et quelques techniques de montage” [Eisenstein, Japan and (...)

18The shows were an immense hit: they played to a full house, fascinated both artists and theatre professionals, and inspired Eisenstein’s famous reflections,19 yet their international impact remained limited because the troupe did not perform elsewhere in Europe, though Sadanji visited a few European capitals on his way home, apparently to test the waters in view of organising another tour. In fact, several star vehicles were discussed in the following years, but for a variety of reasons—financial and to a lesser extent political—none came to fruition.

Tsutsui Tokujirō on the world stage

19Following Ichikawa Sadanji’s venture, official kabuki hung up its touring hat and the task of representing this theatrical art overseas once again fell to actors from the fringes. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that, in contrast to Hanako’s shows, centred entirely on the diminutive dancer’s performances, those presented by Tsutsui featured a professional troupe performing a series of plays taken essentially from the classical repertoire.

20Little information exists on Tsutsui’s career, hailing as he did from the world of popular theatre, disdained by the establishment and overlooked by historians. The term popular theatre (taishū 大衆 or minshū 民衆 engeki 演劇) refers to the plays performed by small, generally itinerant troupes that resembled the travelling entertainers who roamed Japan during the Edo period performing at shrine and temple festivities. Based in the popular entertainment capitals of Asakusa (Tokyo) and Dōtonbori (Osaka), troupes in the 1910s and 1920s performed a simplified kabuki in the modernised style of Kansai, marked by shinpa modernity and a nostalgic attachment on behalf of the public for old Edo.

  • 20 Literally meaning “sword theatre,” kengeki is the stage equivalent of the samurai film or chanbara (...)
  • 21 Ōe Michiko 大江美智子, Onna no hanamichi 女の花道 [Women on Stage] (Tokyo: Kōdansha 講談社, 1982).

21Tsutsui himself had established a solid reputation in kengeki 剣劇20 swordplay dramas. The popularity of this subgenre in the 1920s and 1930s was such that it gave rise to a variant combining eroticism and martial exploits: onna kengeki 女剣劇, performed, as the name suggests, by women.21

  • 22 Mukai Sōya 向井爽也, Nippon minshū engeki shi 日本民衆演劇史 [History of Japanese Popular Theatre] (Tokyo: NH (...)
  • 23 The scholar in question is Tanaka Tokuichi 田中徳一, who since the early 2000s has regularly published (...)

22Back to Tsutsui, significantly his name is absent from seminal theatrical histories and even Mukai Sōya, a specialist in Japanese popular theatre, merely includes him in a simple list of kengeki actors performing at Asakusa.22 In fact, it was only very recently that a Japanese scholar, originally specialising in German literature, began to conduct research on Tsutsui’s lengthy Western tour.23

  • 24 Troupe founded in 1917, performing a mixture of shingeki, shinpa, kabuki and kengeki. See Brian Po (...)

23Tsutsui Tokujirō (1881‑1953), an Osaka native, is known to have begun his career at the age of nineteen performing with a small shinpa troupe under a variety of stage names. The troupe was led by Fukui Mohei 福井茂兵衛 (1860‑1930), a fairly well‑known actor who, after performing with Kawakami Otojirō, was based essentially in Osaka. In 1919, following a series of tours in Japan’s colonies, Tsutsui adopted the name Tsutsui Tokujirō and performed notably at the Benten‑za, a popular theatre in the Dōtonbori area of Osaka. In 1920, he joined a group of actors who had left the Shinkokugeki (New National Theatre 新国劇)24 due to artistic differences with Sawada Shōjirō 沢田正二郎. Together they formed a touring kengeki troupe which, aside from a handful of shows in Asakusa in 1926, performed essentially in the Kansai region and apparently came to represent the genre there.

24Given Tsutsui’s background, it is easy to see why he would have interested Yasuda 安田, a Japanese-American impresario: though not a star, Tsutsui was a seasoned actor who managed a small, well‑reputed theatre company in the Kansai area and was capable of writing his own plays. Furthermore, he was experienced at touring, both in Japan and the colonies, and as a minor player in the world of show business was available to undertake a lengthy journey. This was not the case for kabuki and shinpa stars, whose contracts with major impresarios prevented them from making prolonged absences. As a specialist in kengeki, Tsutsui was also a versatile actor equally experienced in performing shinpa, grand melodramas—whether Japanese or adaptations of Western plays—and modernised, Kansai‑style kabuki adaptations.

25After returning to Japan from the West, Tsutsui resumed his tours of the empire presenting kengeki, shinpa and kabuki plays, and like many fellow actors, also worked in the booming film industry.

The American tour

  • 25 For more information on the American tour, see Tanaka Tokuichi, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza no Ōbei j (...)

26Tsutsui Tokujirō gathered together a group of twenty‑three actors, including nine women, and left Yokohama on 14 January 1930 for a tour that, against all expectations, would only see the troupe return to Japan the following spring. They arrived in San Francisco in late January—captured by cinema newsreels—then immediately travelled to Los Angeles where a reception had been planned by the tour’s organiser and featured a kengeki demonstration at the station followed by a rickshaw parade through the city’s streets.25 The US tour was split into two distinct stages, one designed for Japanese immigrants and another for an American audience. It kicked off at Daiwa Hall, located in a predominantly Japanese neighbourhood, and featured a programme heavily focused on the kengeki dramas that were highly popular in Japan. It then continued at the Figueroa Theater on Santa Barbara Boulevard, which had opened in 1925. The programme for this second stage had been specifically put together for American audiences and combined kengeki, kabuki extracts and dance pieces.

  • 26 This was the largest theatre in New York at the time with a capacity of 6,000. Opened in 1927 and (...)

27Forced by financial considerations to abandon the mid‑section of the tour, the troupe travelled directly to New York, arriving on 1 March. It first appeared at the Booth Theater, a famous venue opened in 1913 on West 45th Street, at the heart of the city’s theatre district. Yet response to the performances was mitigated due to competition from the great Beijing Opera star Mei Lanfang, performing on his first Western tour right opposite the Booth! As a result, Tsutsui decided to move to the huge Roxy Theater, no doubt during a gap between performances.26 At any rate, the lukewarm reception meant that the troupe did not linger in the United States and instead set sail for Europe.

Conquering Europe

  • 27 For more information on the entire tour, see Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza no Ōbei jungyō ryote (...)
  • 28 Founded by Baron Henri de Rothschild, the Théâtre Pigalle was initially under the artistic directi (...)
  • 29 The Parisian programme is ambiguous in its use of this name: does it refer to the association orga (...)

28This tour27 actually consisted of three separate stages, each managed by a different impresario. The first stage, from May to September 1930, was organised by the famous concert producer Arnold Meckel, impresario to Arthur Rubinstein, La Argentina and other international celebrities. The troupe made its European debut in Paris. On 25 April, newspapers announced the arrival at Saint‑Lazare station of the “Tokyo Grand Theatre” troupe, its twenty‑four members having travelled to Paris from New York along with their costumes and scenery ready to present “tragedies, comedies, mime shows and dances from the kabuki repertoire.” In addition to organising receptions and press conferences, the tour’s promoters also enlisted the help of Japanese artists living in Paris, who introduced Tsutsui and his actors to high society and artistic circles, and explained the plays to audiences. Performances were held at Théâtre Pigalle,28 managed at the time by Gabriel Astruc, and presented under the patronage of the Association of Japanese Theatre (Nihon Geki Kyōkai 日本劇協会)29. Two programmes were performed:

First programme

Koi no yozakura

“Night of Love and Cherry Blossoms”: opera and dance piece

Kyō ningyō

“Dancing Doll of the Capital”: a single-act mime and dance piece

Kanjinchō

“The Subscription List”: Medieval samurai drama. Scene I: “Matsubara”; Scene II: “Atakamatsu”.

Kage no chikara

“Hidden Providence”: sword‑fighting drama

Second programme

Banzuiin Chōbei
(Medieval samurai drama on the character of the same name).

Act 1: “Geki chu no geki Yoshinoyama” (combat among audience members)
Act 2: “Susugamori” (meeting of Chōbei and Gonpachi)
Act 3: “Chōbei no uchi” (at Banzuiin Chōbei’s home)
Act 4: “Mizuno tei” (at the home of Mizuno, a samurai serving the shogun)
Act 5: “Mizuno tei adauchi” (the tragic revenge of Mizuno)

  • 30 To view the programmes, press cuttings and other documents on the Parisian performances, see the A (...)

29The performances, held between 2 and 15 May, were a huge popular and critical success, inspiring, as we shall see, abundant commentary from theatre specialists.30

  • 31 Founded in 1906, this 970‑seat theatre adopted this name in 1919 before being renamed the Gielgud (...)

30In June, the troupe travelled to Belgium where it performed in Liège, Antwerp and Brussels before moving onto Holland and Germany. It then set sail for Scandinavia, performing in Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. The following section of the tour took Tsutsui and his troupe to London, where they performed at the Globe Theatre.31 They returned to the continent in early July, passing rapidly through France to perform in Barcelona, then moving back to Paris where they appeared from 18 August to 8 September at the Apollo, a large music-hall theatre on Rue de Clichy. This first part of the tour concluded in Switzerland, with performances given at the Casino‑Théâtre in Geneva and then at the Schauspielhaus in Zurich.

31Faced with the tour’s success and the invitations extended by various European venues, Tsutsui modified his original plan to return home via the United States and instead remained in Europe before travelling directly back to Japan. This second stage of the tour (October 1930 to January 1931) was entrusted to a new promoter, a certain Dr. L. Leonidoff. It began in Berlin, where the highly successful performances were admired by the leading lights in German theatre, particularly Bertolt Brecht, Herbert Ihering, Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator. The troupe then appeared in Frankfurt, Augsburg and Chemnitz before reaching Prague, Vienna and, after a brief detour in Holland (The Hague), Italy, where it performed in Milan, Turin, Florence, Rome, Genoa and San Remo.

  • 32 For more information on this third stage of the tour, see Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza Ōbei ju (...)
  • 33 This is the name that appeared on the Parisian programme, but the normal pronunciation of her give (...)

32The final stage, managed by the impresario Bruni Dudeck, spanned the winter of 1931 and focused on the Baltic States and Eastern Europe.32 The troupe spent Christmas and New Year in Berlin, losing its young star Kikuchi Taisuke33 菊池靖祐 to a bout of pneumonia caused by the exceptionally cold weather. The tour kicked off in Poland, where the troupe performed in Warsaw and other cities such as Danzig (Gdansk), Poznan and Krakow. After touring the Baltic States and Finland, the group then bypassed the USSR—although a stop here seems to have been considered briefly—, travelling directly to Romania and Yugoslavia (to perform in Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana) before finally ending the tour in Trieste in late March 1931. From there, Tsutsui travelled to Moscow to catch the Trans-Siberian Railway; the rest of the troupe crossed Italy to Naples and boarded a boat bound for Japan in late April.

The repertoire presented to Western audiences

33The plays chosen by Tsutsui for this tour hailed mainly from the kabuki repertoire but were reformatted to appeal to Western tastes and take into account certain constraints, namely time (the performances could not exceed two hours) and language (since the plays were performed in Japanese). Synopses were included in the programmes in order to facilitate audiences’ understanding of the plays, and local figures provided explanations before the curtains went up.

  • 34 Itō Michio (1892‑1961) studied song and dance in Europe, notably at the Institut Jaques‑Dalcroze i (...)
  • 35 Tsubouchi Shikō (1887‑1986) was the nephew and adopted son of Tsubouchi Shōyō 坪内逍遥. After studying (...)

34When devising his programme, Tsutsui took advice from fellow Japanese with extensive experience in Western theatre. These included Itō Michio 伊藤道郎,34 a pioneer in modern dance who had been based in the United States for well over a decade and acted as general manager of the tour, and Tsubouchi Shikō 坪内士行,35 one of the rare Japanese professionals to support Tsutsui’s work. He also took inspiration from the Kawakamis, effectively borrowing two of their hit plays (The Geisha and the Knight, and Jingoro), something that can hardly be considered a coincidence.

  • 36 For more information on this repertoire, see Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza kaigai jungyō no rep (...)

35Tsutsui brought with him sixteen plays (including four performed only to Japanese residents of Los Angeles, absent from the European programme) presented generically as kabuki, although some of them hailed directly from the kengeki repertoire.36

Kanjinchō 勧進帳 (The Subscription List. Presented in Paris as Crossing the Border [Le Passage de la frontière])

  • 37 Translation/adaptation available in J. Brandon, T. Niwa, Kabuki Plays: ‘Kanjinchō’ and ‘The Zen Su (...)

36Adapted from the noh drama Ataka 安宅, written by Namiki Gohei 並木五瓶 III, this play had been staged in 1840 by Ichikawa Danjūrō VII (1791‑1859). As one of the Kabuki Jūhachiban 歌舞伎十八番, the eighteen plays most representative of the Ichikawa family line, Kanjinchō has become one of the great classics of the kabuki repertoire.37 The basic storyline was essentially conserved, despite Tsutsui’s modifications to show Yoshitsune 義経, his female companion, his loyal retainer Benkei 弁慶 and the other warriors changing into their monks’ disguises mid‑play, providing the opportunity for one of the spectacular onstage costume changes associated with kabuki. This modification was a curious nod to the original noh drama, which included a monogi 物着 (onstage costume change) by Yoshitsune. Another difference consisted, for some obscure reason, in allocating the role of the enemy to the Heike 平家instead of Yoshitsune’s half‑brother Yoritomo 頼朝. Finally, the play was performed entirely in the vernacular. According to both the programme and Parisian reviews, the plot was as follows:

37Scene I: “Matsubara,” a village near the sea. Yoshitsune from the Genji clan has fled to northern Japan to escape the Heike troops bent on revenge. He is preparing to return south but when the group makes enquiries at a village near a checkpoint, Yoshitsune learns that the Heike have stepped up their surveillance. Benkei decides on the group’s disguise and they change onstage before continuing on their way.

38Scene II: “Atakamatsu,” the border control. Discussions are held with the officer on guard who informs them that the mountain pass is closed. Benkei flies into a rage and turns on his porter, insulting and striking him. The officer guesses that the porter is Yoshitsune and understands the reasons for Benkei’s behaviour. Admiring his courage, he lets the group pass.

Koi no yozakura 恋の夜桜 (Night of Love and Cherry Blossoms)

39This play, or rather the brief episode that remains of it, depicts a pair of samurai in love with the same courtesan; they quarrel and fight before being separated by the lady herself. The story merely served as a pretext to show geishas in all their finery and samurai engaged in a sword fight. It also replicated almost exactly the first part of The Geisha and the Knight, the flagship drama presented thirty years earlier by the Kawakamis to much acclaim.

40The original play is a historical drama—a jidaimono 時代物—depicting the love rivalry between two famous kabukimono 歌舞伎者, Nagoya Sanzaburō 名古屋山三郎 and Fuwa Banzaemon 不破伴左衛門, a more or less legendary story that had already been staged in the 1670s. Many versions exist, including one created by the dramatist Tsuruya Nanboku 鶴屋南北 at the Ichimura‑za 市村座 in Edo in 1823, still occasionally staged today. In fact, the play was presented to Japanese residents in California as Fuwa to Nagoya no saya’ate 不破と名古屋の鞘当. With the original play reduced to the samurais’ quarrel, Tsutsui, like Kawakami Otojirō before him, decided to pad out the threadbare storyline by combining it with another tale. But whereas his predecessor had chosen Dōjōji, the story of a female dancer, Tsutsui opted for another well‑known series of danced pieces (shosagoto)—Kyō ningyō, presenting them sometimes as a continuation of the first part of the show, sometimes separately, depending on circumstances.

Kyō ningyō 京人形 (Dancing Doll of the Capital)

41This shosagoto tells the story of the famous sculptor Hidari Jingorō 左甚五郎 (1594‑1651), who creates a statue of a famous courtesan named Koguruma 小車. In the first part of the play, the statue comes to life and dances with her creator, first as a puppet, then as a real woman after holding a mirror belonging to the courtesan. The second part sees a group of enemies burst into the room in search of a princess; the statue is decapitated instead of the princess, who is able to evade her enemies thanks to the sculptor’s protection. The play ends with a mimed fight scene or tachimawari 立回り. Many variants exist, including one written in 1847 by Sakurada Jisuke 桜田治助 III and featuring Nakamura Utaemon 中村歌右衛門 IV and Ichimura Uzaemon 市村羽左衛門 XII, which borrows from and expands on earlier plays from the early eighteenth century.

  • 38 This was already a popular theme in the 18th century, for example Jean‑Philippe Rameau’s Pygmalion (...)

42International enthusiasm38 for the theme of a doll coming to life most likely influenced this choice, for Kawakami had already presented a variant (entitled Jingoro) at the Exposition Universelle, and Hanako (or rather Fuller) clearly used it as inspiration for some of her acts. Tsutsui initially combined Kyō ningyō with Koi no yozakura by making Jingorō an impoverished sculptor in love with the geisha and who, having witnessed the confrontation between the two samurai, picks up the mirror the geisha has dropped. In the second act, the sculptor has finished his statue of the geisha and playfully puts a few drops of rice wine on her lips. The statue comes to life; her movements remain hesitant but she begins to dance with infinite grace once he places the mirror on her chest. The play concludes with the couple dancing under the cherry blossoms accompanied by other young girls.

43After leaving Paris, Tsutsui altered his approach and separated the two stories, although they continued to be presented one after the other. In this new version, Jingorō no longer witnesses the two samurai fighting. The second play opens directly in his studio with him sculpting a beautiful woman with whom he falls in love. He drinks and then gives some to the statue, which comes to life and awkwardly imitates his gestures. He remembers that mirrors represent a woman’s soul and places one in the neckline of her kimono, at which point she begins to move with the elegance and grace of a real woman. The play concludes in front of the ornate façade of Tōshōgū Shrine (東照宮) in Nikkō, with the doll dancing surrounded by local girls.

Mitsuhide 光秀

44This play is none other than “Amagasaki no ba 尼ヶ崎の場”, the tenth act (and only one still performed today) of a thirteen-act jidaimono entitled Ehon Taikōki 絵本太功記, written by Chikamatsu Yanagi 近松柳, Chikamatsu Kosuiken 近松湖水軒 and Chikamatsu Sen’yōken 近松千葉軒. Ehon Taikōki was first performed in 1799 by the puppet troupe of the Wakadayū‑za 若太夫座 (Osaka) and subsequently adapted for kabuki in 1800 at the Kado‑za 角座. Inspired by the novel of the same name, it presents one of the most famous episodes of the conflicts preceding the unification of Japan and the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate. It covers the thirteen‑day period—each with its own act—between the death of Oda Nobunaga 織田信長 and that of his assassin, Akechi Mitsuhide 明智光秀. In the original, the episode in question shows Mitsuhide’s mother criticising her son for his actions and encouraging her grandson to marry his fiancée before leaving to fight a desperate battle. Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豊臣秀吉, Nobunaga’s successor, is determined to avenge his master personally. He disguises himself as a priest in order to enter the home of Mitsuhide’s mother. Mitsuhide, although aware that the priest is really his enemy, accidently kills his own mother. The son returns from battle mortally wounded and informs his weeping father of the defeat. When the enemies arrive, they allow Mitsuhide to leave, telling him that they will meet again on the battlefield (he dies in combat during the final act).

45This play, absent from the Parisian programmes, was apparently a great success elsewhere, particularly in Germany. Tsutsui generally remained faithful to the original story, apart from the ending which, as demanded by Western audiences, saw Mitsuhide perform hara‑kiri.

Banzuiin Chōbei 幡随院長兵衛

46This appears to have been a montage of various episodes from a series of plays following the adventures of Banzuiin Chōbei and Shirai Gonpachi 白井権八, two famous otokodate 男伊達 (fighters for justice and virtual outlaws who defended ordinary citizens against arrogant warriors) often presented as lovers. The first act seems to have been a simple variation of Saya’ate; however, the second act, in which Chōbei encounters the handsome young Gonpachi demonstrating his fighting skills against a group of assailants, is very famous and features in all versions of the play.

Kage no chikara 陰の力 (The Shadow Man. French title: Hidden Providence [La Providence cachée])

47Occasionally presented as Nikkō no Enzō 日光円蔵, this kengeki drama depicted one of the adventures of Kunisada Chūji 国定忠次 (1810‑1850), a gambler and outlaw executed by the government and the hero of many stories, ballades, plays, films and made-for-television movies. The oldest version of the play was written by Kawatake Shinshichi 河竹新七 III and staged in 1884 by Onoe Kikugorō and Kataoka Gadō 片岡我童at the Ichimura‑za in Tokyo. Practically every theatrical genre explored this theme during the Taishō and Shōwa periods, in particular the kengeki dramas developed by the New National Theatre (Shinkokugeki) founded by Sawada Shōjirō, who in 1919 triumphed in the title role. Variations were also presented by shinpa stars like Ii Yōhō 伊井蓉峰 (at the Imperial Theatre), then by new kabuki, with a version written by Mayama Seika 真山青果 and staged by Ichikawa Sadanji in 1932. Another version of the story, this time given a political slant, was written by the proletarian playwright Murayama Tomoyoshi 村山知義, who staged the play himself at the Geijutsu‑za 芸術座 in 1957. Tsutsui proposed a fairly non‑traditional version that seems to have resembled the kengeki play Maboroshi no gizoku 幻の義賊 (The Illusory Honourable Thief), which he presented at the Asakusa Kōen Gekijō in September 1926. Press reviews describe the play as having three parts:

  • 39 The play was thus a gimin-mono 義民物, a story in which the hero sacrifices himself for the collectiv (...)

48Act I: “The Pass Inn.” Kunisada’s father is a self-sacrificing peasant willing to make a direct complaint to his local lord in order to save the peasantry from starvation.39 He asks his friend Enzō to protect his son and pass on his sword to him at a later date. Kunisada is with his fiancée Tsuyu つゆ, the innkeeper’s daughter. The lord arrives with his retinue and wants to acquire the girl for himself but she refuses. During the ensuing commotion, the father arrives to make his request. The lord becomes angry and orders his men to kill the father and conceal his body. Shortly after, Kunisada, seeing his fiancée captured, begs the lord’s second-in-command to intervene. Enraged by the man’s refusal, Kunisada violently overturns a table and discovers his father’s body. He wants to take revenge immediately but Enzō intervenes and refuse to reveal the name of the murderer, believing Kunisada incapable of facing him at that time. Having sworn to become a master swordsman, the young Kunisada is given his father’s weapon.

49Act II: “The forest near Sōja-mura.” Kunisada, now an accomplished swordsman, heads a formidable gang of otokodate (chivalrous men who defended commoners). Having come across a family battling a group of bandits, the hero defeats and captures the men before freeing the young girl. Instead of killing his captives, he lectures them and gives them money to begin an honest life. Enzō, seeing Kunisada’s maturity both as a man and a warrior, reveals the name of his father’s assassin.

  • 40 Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza kaigai jungyō,” 233-235.

50Act III: “The Lord’s Residence.” Tsuyu refuses to become the lord’s concubine despite being a captive. In frustration, he prepares to kill her when Kunisada suddenly appears. The young man puts up a valiant fight but is outnumbered and captured. The lord offers an exchange: he will spare the prisoner if the girl submits to him. The two lovers decide to die together and are about to be executed when Enzō appears, attacks the bad guys, defeats them and allows the wounded Kunisada to kill his father’s murderer and thus exact his revenge. In doing so he violates a law forbidding anyone from raising a hand to their superior. He decides to commit suicide but is prevented by Enzō, who claims the crime for himself, reunites the two fiancés and commits hara-kiri!40

Bushidō (The Way of the Warrior)

51A kengeki drama (source unknown) and variation on the theme of giri-ninjō, or the conflict between duty and feelings. According to the Berlin programme, the play unfolded as follows:

52Act I: A great lord holds a sword-fighting tournament at his residence. The winner of the final battle, Watanabe 渡辺, is named sword-master-in-chief and receives a magnificent sword, while the loser, Isogai 磯貝, demands a revenge match but is refused. He leaves vowing to avenge himself.

53Act II: Watanabe returns home with fellow warrior Soeda 添田 after celebrating his victory. He is ambushed and killed by Isogai, who flees with his family but leaves behind evidence proving his guilt.

54Act III: One year later, Isogai is living in a village at the foot of Mount Fuji, consumed with regret. As he lies on his deathbed, he asks his wife to educate their son in the way of the warrior so that he will be ready to fight the son of his enemy should he come looking for revenge.

  • 41 Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza kaigai jungyō,” 242‑243.

55Act IV: Seventeen years later, Kazuma 一馬, Isogai’s son, is alone with his fiancée; his mother is away on a pilgrimage. They take in a sick young warrior who has arrived in the village with his man-at-arms. They nurse him, obtain medicine and offer their hospitality. The two young men immediately become friends and pledge their allegiance to one another. Meanwhile, Kazuma’s mother returns home and is recognised by Soeda, the man-at-arms, who reveals her identity to his master: Kazuma is none other than the son of his father’s murderer! Although Isogai died long ago, the son is duty-bound to fight Kazuma. Elsewhere, Kazuma’s mother has a similar discussion with her son. With heavy hearts, the two young men cross swords. Kazuma is killed and his mother presents the victor with a new set of clothing that her son will never wear. Soeda is so moved that he commits hara-kiri in offering to the deceased.41

56As is customary in kabuki, Tsutsui chose to present a handful of shosagoto to accompany these melodramas and provide a counterbalance to their bloody endings. Performed by virtuoso dancers, these danced pieces enrich kabuki programmes with their lively energy, melodies and magnificent costumes.

Matsuri

57This appears to have been a combination of two highly popular shosagoto from the late Edo period: Kioi-jishi 勢獅子 (The Impetuous Lion), written by Segawa Jokō 瀬川如皐 III and staged in 1851, and Kanda matsuri 神田祭 (The Kanda Festival), written by Mimasuya Nisōji 三升屋二三治 and first staged in 1839. The story, set during the festivities of Edo’s old town, includes a series of popular dances (tekomai 手古舞, kappore かっぽれ, etc.), a geisha parade, Edo‑era firefighter songs (kiyari-uta 木遣歌), and parodies. It concluded with a general dance.

Haru no odori 春の踊り (Spring Dances)

  • 42 A kabuki version of the ritual dances performed by Okina, presented on special occasions; many var (...)

58A buyō traditional dance. One Berlin newspaper review describes three women dancing slowly and being replaced by two men dancing at a faster pace while making vigorous movements. The costumes are colourful verging on garish and the men’s dance ends with an onstage costume change. Photos exist of the troupe’s actresses, Okada Sumako 岡田須磨子 and Chigusa Momoyo 千草桃代, dancing Chitose 千歳 and Sanbasō 三番叟 respectively. Since this performance took place at the beginning of the New Year, we can suppose that it included a variation of Sanbasō, with Ueno Kazue 上野一枝 (the third woman mentioned in the article) playing Okina 翁, the character who appears onstage first.42

Men odori 面踊り (The Dance of Masks)

59A variation on the lion dances (shishi-mai 獅子舞) seen at most popular festivals. In kabuki, these dances appear either as street dances or folk performances incorporated into the body of the play, or as shosagoto in which the elegant and timid young girl of the first part transforms into a wild lion, as in the spectacular Kagami jishi 鏡獅子 (The Mirror Lion). Depending on circumstances, this act was either performed as a stand-alone piece or incorporated into other shosagoto.

Kitsune Tadanobu 狐忠信 (Tadanobu the Fox)

  • 43 See the English-language translation by Stanleigh Jones, Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees (...)

60Initially this was a road song (michiyuki 道行) taken from Yoshitsune senbonzakura 義経千本桜 (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees), 43 one of the finest plays in the classical repertoire, written by Takeda Izumo 竹田出雲 II, Namiki Sōsuke 並木宗輔 and Miyoshi Shōraku 三好松落, and first performed as a puppet drama at the Takemoto‑za 竹本座 in 1747. This episode, centring on a dance performed by the beautiful Shizuka and her samurai-bodyguard, later became a stand-alone shosagoto composed by Segawa Jōkō II and entitled Yoshinoyama 吉野山 (or sometimes Tadanobu), staged at the Ichimura‑za in Edo in 1808.

Genroku hanami odori 元禄花見踊り (Genroku Cherry Blossom Dance)

61A performance of buyō 舞踊 dance and naga’uta 長唄 melodies by the biggest stars of the day at the inauguration of Tokyo’s first modern theatre, the Shintomi‑za 新富座, in 1878. The first section features a series of characters representative of the Genroku era (1688‑1704) who dance under the cherry blossoms wearing magnificent costumes. The second part is a variation on shakkyō-mono 石橋物 (stone‑bridge plays), a spectacular dance performed by a lion excited by some peonies fluttering in front of the titular stone bridge. In the early 1910s, one particular adaptation, used notably as publicity by the Mitsukoshi department stores, was a huge hit.

62These plays and shosagoto thus made up the repertoire presented by Tsutsui. The performances varied from one city to another, with Tsutsui sometimes alternating two programmes, as he did in Paris, or combining more or less interchangeable dance numbers according to circumstances.

63For information purposes, what follows is a summary of the plays presented at Daiwa Hall in Los Angeles. These plays were reserved for Japanese residents of California and thus had no influence on Western audiences.

Kondō Isami 近藤勇

64Most likely a kengeki drama celebrating the exploits of Kondō Isami (1834‑1868), fervent supporter of the Tokugawa regime and leader of the famous Shinsengumi 新撰組, a group of young die‑hards who fought to defend the Shogunate.

Nogi shōgun 乃木将軍

65A drama devoted to General Nogi Maresuke 乃木希典 (1849‑1912), hero of the Russo‑Japanese War, who went down in history for committing ritual suicide following the death of Emperor Meiji. This may be the first section of a play by Mayama Seika, staged in 1929 by the Shinkokugeki troupe, whose work Tsutsui knew and appreciated. Mayama later added a second and third section, staged as new‑kabuki dramas by Sadanji at the Meiji‑za in 1932.

Kaijōmae no Ōishi 開場前の大石

66An extract from Chūshingura 忠臣蔵 (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers) centring on Ōishi Kuranosuke 大石内蔵之助, leader of the valiant avengers.

Utsu mono to utaruru mono 討つ者と討たるる者 (Those Who Attack and Those Who Are Attacked)

67No information on this play exists; however, given the title, one can suppose it was a kengeki drama.

Public and critical reception

  • 44 The painter Fujita Tsuguharu (1886-1968) arrived in France in 1913. He lived in Paris until the ea (...)
  • 45 Iwata Toyo’o 岩田豊雄 (1893‑1969), a well-known playwright and novelist, studied in Paris (1922‑1925) (...)

68Just like the Kawakamis before him, Tsutsui’s work was given a frosty reception by certain Japanese spectators, who protested that it was a “disgrace to the nation”! Although he counted a few prestigious supporters among expatriate Japanese artists like Fujita Tsuguharu 藤田嗣治, who presented Tsutsui’s shows in Paris, and Kikou Yamata,44 who wrote a positive review in the Figaro on 4 May 1930, the vast majority of Japanese, particularly those studying theatre in Europe, were highly contemptuous. The playwright Iwata Toyo’o (1893‑1969), for example, took issue with French stage directors who admired Tsutsui’s work, while Senda Koreya (1904‑1994),45 residing in Berlin at the time, described Tsutsui’s troupe as low‑class showmen and expressed indignation at the admiration shown by Edwin Piscator, who described the performances as the highlight of the season! It is amusing to see these ardent proponents of modern theatre, who in Japan were fighting against tradition, rush to defend it when its orthodoxy was tarnished. No doubt at work was the same arrogant elitism that led them, in the name of their progressive ambitions, to disparage the small itinerant troupes performing taishū engeki (popular theatre).

  • 46 Rumpf, Yamato (1930: 251‑253), quoted by Tanaka “Tsutsui Tokujirō no kaigai kōen to Seiyō engekiji (...)

69This contemptuous attitude was more or less shared by certain Westerners proud of their knowledge of the Far East, the so-called Old Japan Hands. These individuals were quick to caution against mixing the wheat with the chaff and pointed out that Tsutsui was not presenting “authentic kabuki,” though they were less radical in their criticism. Fritz Rumpft,46 for example, a long-term resident of Tokyo highly knowledgeable on traditional theatre, described Tsutsui as a “sword-fighting specialist performing at the Kinryūkan in Asakusa Park” (which was not strictly speaking true), and deemed his shows to be Japanisches Theater, aber kein Kabuki.

70The public did not share such reserves and warmly welcomed Tsutsui’s troupe. Press reviews were positive, though the reasons for this varied. While some critics expressed nostalgia for Sadayakko, others were particularly interested in the traditional aspects of the performances:

In any case, it is precisely the “traditional” themes and techniques, the legacies of the past, in short, the “style,” that I found delightful and fascinating in this extraordinary show.

  • 47 André Levinson, “Compte-rendu du spectacle de Tsutsui,” [Review of Tsutsui’s Show] in Comœdia, 22  (...)

These noble virtues, for me the most precious contribution of our Japanese guests, are most visible in the dances, but also in the musical ceremonies and, above all, in the splendidly gripping combats.47

71Most articles based their summaries on the programmes, focusing in particular on two dramatic plays—Kanjinchō and Kage no chikara—, not unreasonably seeing Koi no yozakura and Kyō no ningyō as charming but ultimately trifling little things, mere animated prints. As usual, however, it was the actors’ performances that most impressed—their technical prowess and ability to switch from dazed despair to wild rage; from innocent smiles to the utmost ferocity.

  • 48 Pierre Brisson, “Spectacle japonais au Théâtre Pigalle,” [Japanese Show at Théâtre Pigalle] in Le (...)

72The actors’ art seeks to attain the most intense expression. The contrast [with the beauty of the costumes, scenery and accessories] creates a striking effect. Behind these performances is a meticulous copy of reality. Through long-pursued study, the resemblance ultimately loses all trace of realism. What remains is the residue of an analysis, a series of deconstructed imitative gestures in which each variation in appearance is imbued with tremendous reflective power. The actor’s model is no longer a living being but rather an image that has already been interpreted, studied and determined with precision.48

73Although flowery language marked by Japonism continued to predominate, more modern, technical commentary also appeared that freed itself from the exotic seduction of the geisha-dolls embodied by Sadayakko and Hanako, charming curios tragically destroyed by the savagery of merciless samurais.

  • 49 André Rouveyre, “Compte-rendu du spectacle de Tsutsui,” in Le Mercure de France, 1 June 1930, 383‑ (...)

74In part, this evolution reflected the quality of Tsutsui’s shows, which were indisputably more consequential and closer to kabuki than those of his predecessors, but also the passing of time. Indeed, with three decades having passed since the Kawakamis’ tour, Tsutsui encountered better informed critics who were intrigued by the originality and inventiveness of the theatrical approaches on display. This is visible in critical responses to the musical accompaniment. While in 1900, the Japanese sonorities were roundly criticised, even by a Sadayakko fan like Judith Gautier, the critics of 1930 proved to be more capable of appreciation. André Rouveyre, for example, gave the following description:49

Stylised imitation of the sounds of nature or terse, high‑pitched and subtle accompaniment of some intense psychological aspect. Sounds mainly appear when emotions or passions are at their height. At times a gentle, plaintive bitterness provides a foreboding contrast during an otherwise cheerful passage; at times the joyful trill of a nightingale pierces a scene of the most intense and intimate pain. A thin, reedy chirping accompanies a master armourer as he longingly examines the calibre and quality of a blade… The sounds are invariably surprising and quintuple whatever emotion is being portrayed… All the women play the shamisen, a long, lightweight instrument with three fairly loose strings on which the hand nonchalantly strums a widely flaring plectrum. The neck, stretching out from a fragile body, terminates in a head bearing three pegs that resemble in miniature the decorative combs seen in the hair. The notes and chords of this instrument quiver in a moving, plaintive sound in which one can perceive the slow flight of birds amongst the whirring of insects and the buzzing of bees.

The reaction of Western theatre people

  • 50 Iwata, quoted by Tanaka, in “Tsutsui Tokujirō no kaigai kōen”, 99.

75European specialists were fascinated by this foreign theatrical art that proposed novel or forgotten techniques potentially applicable to their own theatrical practices. They cared little whether Tsutsui’s work represented the grand tradition or whether it was authentic kabuki. What mattered was the artistic stimulus it provided, the possibilities these new techniques held. Accordingly, when Iwata criticised Copeau and Dullin for their enthusiasm for Tsutsui’s troupe, declaring that “These are village festival shows—fit only for workers who have emigrated to the United States. This isn’t kabuki, it’s nothing at all!” Charles Dullin retorted curtly that: “The troupe’s performance was an incomparable revelation. Whether or not it is real kabuki is not my problem! I simply admire their superb and powerful performance.” 50

  • 51 Charles Dullin, “Acteurs japonais” [Japanese Actors] in Souvenirs et notes de travail d’un acteur (...)

76What drew their attention was first and foremost was the actors’ performances, their technical skill and perfect control of their bodies. As Dullin pointed out:51

The way the actors use their body, voice and gestures should be a lesson to us… For them, stylisation is direct, eloquent, and more expressive than reality itself.

Each gesture is accentuated by an incisive trait that gives it its full force. If an actor kicks someone, he does not touch his opponent and yet the very execution of the movement is so accurate that it creates an impression of brutality that is even more powerful than reality… The Japanese actor’s body is not only as supple as that of the most skilful dancer; it seems to have been shaped by the theatre, for the theatre… While we have witnessed the triumph of naturalism onstage, for the Japanese actor, the main aim is technical perfection. More than an intellectual, he is first and foremost an instrument whose workings must be constantly perfected… They owe much to puppets and masks. This elevated form of the theatrical art has profoundly marked them and no doubt taught them to use their bodies as a means of expression that is often more eloquent than the face.

  • 52 Rudolf Amendt (1895‑1987) was a German actor who later moved to Hollywood and enjoyed a successful (...)
  • 53 Quoted in Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō no kaigai kōen”, 112.

77Rudolf Amendt52 also highlighted the Japanese actors’ expressive gestural technique and ability to pass instantly from emotional outbursts to leaden silences; from immobility to movement and vice versa. He described a scene characteristic of this technique (from Nikkō no Enzō) in a lengthy review published in a Berlin newspaper:53

Then the actor leaves, stumbling as he walks. He has bumped his leg. Staggering, he falls back, crouches on the floor and grabs his painful leg… His rage has vanished; he has forgotten his fiancée’s abduction, as if all his emotion had been absorbed by the pain in his leg… Finally, he stands up and hobbles towards the place where he had stumbled… By rights there should be nothing there. So what is this thing he sees? He checks. It is his father, all huddled over! Astounded, he asks him what he is doing there. There is no reply… His face betrays the first signs of the terror that grips him. He drags his father to a well‑lit area, examines him carefully, then lets go. The father collapses like a sack, dead. Kunisada stands up, remains frozen to the spot, immobile. His flat face is completely expressionless, his dark eyes like empty windows, black holes; he stares ahead. He seethes with anger, as if unable to believe it. Then he collapses in tears; his pain is infinite, bottomless, without bounds.

As luck would have it, his older comrade-in-arms appears and helps him gather his wits. Otherwise his lamentations might never have ended. He loads his father’s corpse onto his back and slowly crosses the stage, staggering, bent double under the weight. As he walks, he slowly and gently places his white-powdered face close to that of the deceased.

  • 54 Vsevolod Meyerhold, Écrits sur le théâtre [Writings on Theatre] (Lausanne‑Paris: L’Âge d’homme, 19 (...)

78In February 1931, when Meyerhold staged The Last Decisive at the GOSTIM, written by Vsevolod Vishnevsky (1900‑1951), he used kabuki, and specifically this very scene, to explain to his actors what he expected of them.54

Throughout the play we must feel a hint of irony, simplicity and naivety. This is easy for a skilled actor, but very difficult for one who does not have a great technical base.

The only troupe in the world to possess this technique in a highly refined, highly sophisticated art is the kabuki theatre troupe. This is the only troupe that has assimilated this technique in such an astonishing manner and possesses it perfectly. When I saw the kabuki troupe in Paris, I found myself thinking it presented an art that I had never seen before that day. I had a theoretical knowledge of kabuki from books and images; I was familiar with its techniques. But when I finally saw a performance, it appeared to me that I had read nothing, knew nothing about it at all.

What is fundamental in kabuki actors’ technique is that they approach each event with absolute naivety, whether the situation is highly dramatic, tragic or comic. Above all, the actor adopts an attitude or expression that can be understood by any spectator, even the most naïve and least versed in these kinds of niceties. This is this same technique that Chaplin possesses. He too chooses the simplest, most naive and most familiar theatrical effects. He rejects anything that is not accessible to everyone.

Kabuki adopts this same approach. However, it adds moments of theatrical rites and rituals when the actors must present masks or characters. They enter the stage and present themselves as participants in the performance… During their theatrical ritual, kabuki actors use solemn actorly gestures, specific rhythmic movements, turn their backs to the audience or show their profile, then when the performance begins, they abandon this technique and begin to act. Furthermore, certain actors are responsible for playing the scenes that move the spectators to tears, others for playing those that make them laugh. When one is familiar with these procedures, one notices that the actors propose to elicit tears and laughter using naive and simple techniques, based on everyday traits that are familiar to the spectator… Just observe how kabuki actors treat such simple subjects. The more naive and simple the subject, the more it must be presented forcefully, inventing myriad little effects. What does Chaplin do? When Chaplin presents an accident, he acts with economy, in an expressive manner; he acts with great tension, gives himself entirely, uses his full technical range. This is how kabuki performers act. Let us take an example. An actor, whose friend has just been killed, arrives and sees the head of his friend poking out of a bush. He is dead. What does the kabuki actor do? One supposes that he says to the audience:

“Look! Theatrical moment! I was very attached to this friend; he has been killed and his death pains me. Look! I’m going to perform this scene for you!” And then he performs it.

  • 55 Quoted (in German) in Antony Tatlow, The Mask of Evil. Brecht’s Response to the Poetry, Theatre an (...)

79In addition to the physical control they wanted their actors to achieve, Western directors were also fascinated by the techniques employed in Japanese theatre and wondered how they could be adapted to their own work. Brecht set out the issue clearly in a short text, no doubt written shortly after Tsutsui visited Berlin:55

We should try to examine certain elements of foreign performance art for their usefulness. This experiment will be carried out within the very specific situation of our own theatre, where our theatre is not able to fulfil certain tasks (tasks of a new kind)… Now, the above-mentioned foreign technique has long since been in the position to fulfil similar tasks—similar, but not the same ones. The techniques must be separated from those highly essential pre-requisites, transported and subjugated to quite other conditions. In order to begin such an experiment, one must take the viewpoint that there is a kind of technical standard in art, something which is not individual, not already developed, but something one can build on, something transportable. This statement should suffice to show that we are convinced of this. Anyway, this technique cannot be considered to be that “form”… which is only valid in as much as it is the form of its own “content”. Japanese performance technique… can naturally only mean something to us if it is able to recognise our problems. The “Japanese” in it, moreover, its whole “character” or “individual worth” etc., is irrelevant to this discussion.

  • 56 Two versions of this play exist: one written in 1925, one revised in 1938 after the triumph of Naz (...)

80While Brecht by no means sought to imitate kabuki, he discovered in Japanese actors a stylised acting technique based on a system of precise gestures and set poses that flow on from one another, varying in tempo until the actor freezes in one of the highly theatrical poses known as mie. In certain respects, elements of the gestures and diction used in kabuki could indeed be adapted to Brecht’s own epic theatre and alienation techniques (Verfremdungseffekt). Thus, when it came to revising his play Mann ist Mann (Man Equals Man) in 1931, Brecht borrowed the onstage costume change employed by Tsutsui in his version of Kanjinchō to portray the transformation of Galy Gay, the docker forcibly enlisted in the army, providing a visual illustration of his metamorphosis from civilian to soldier.56

  • 57 André Levinson, Les Visages de la danse [The Faces of Dance] (Paris: Grasset, 1933), 252.

81It seems clear that the shows presented by Tsutsui fascinated theatre directors through the quality of the acting and the theatrical techniques employed. The most daring of these individuals did not hesitate to take inspiration and attempt, with varying degrees of success, to adapt them to dramatic compositions with entirely different objectives, such as in the work of Meyerhold and Brecht. In this sense, Tsutsui’s tour was instrumental in the process of exchange and reciprocal influences that was taking place at that time, a process that tends to blur the boundaries in what Levinson defined as a conflict between European and Asian theatre techniques:57

The conflict between the artificial, autonomous and self‑sufficient “theatrical theatre” and the interpretive theatre that imitates life; between form and content, between the human hyper‑marionette that developed from real puppets in Asian theatre and the actor inspired by a great text, between obligation and freedom. This eternal debate, which just half a century earlier still contrasted the decorative, conventional art of the Far East with Western realism, entered a paradoxical period in which the two became blurred; the former softened and tended towards European methods, while the latter, at least in the work of certain theatre directors, aspired to the oriental principal of transposing and completely reconstructing life using the techniques of the acting trade.

Conclusion

82In reality, the four tours organised between 1900 and 1930 can scarcely be compared, for they took place under different circumstances and with very different objectives in mind. In terms of introducing new audiences to traditional Japanese theatre, only the first and final tours truly played an important role.

83Although the Kawakamis presented simplified plays, these nonetheless retained links to kabuki and were performed by an experienced troupe capable of showcasing the remarkable dancing and acting talents of Sadayakko and the sword-fighting skills of Otojirō. The couple’s flamboyant personalities, which captivated the press, high society, artistic circles and the world of fashion, enabled their shows to tap into the still-thriving Japonism and embody an emblematic moment in the theatrical life of the period. Nevertheless, one can reasonably suppose that Tsutsui’s work, which went beyond mere exoticism, played a greater role in introducing foreign audiences to kabuki. But to what extent was his work faithful to the original art form and how much did it deviate?

84With his simplified versions of the classics, his repertoire clearly retained the spirit of kabuki, though sometimes with a heavy focus on kengeki. Furthermore, by systematically including shosagoto, with all their musical and choreographic elements, Tsutsui drew attention to one of the core, and historically founding, aspects of kabuki.

  • 58 Quoted in Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza kaigai jungyō,” 246.

85In contrast to the Kawakamis, who were driven to represent tradition by circumstances rather than desire, Tsutsui set out on his endeavour with the specific aim of presenting kabuki, albeit in a form adapted to Western audiences. With this in mind, he greatly simplified the plots, focused on gestures rather than text, and presented a series of scenes in the style of a revue, alternating dance and combats before the inevitable hara-kiri. He also added—irregardless of the plot—visually attractive scenes featuring parades of geisha in all their finery, as well as sketches mimed by colourful characters. Examples include a blind masseur lashing out at an imaginary dog, a fortune-teller, and a drunk performing an act. However, it must be remembered that all these techniques—blending of genres, combining of excerpts from different plays, inserting of elements purely for entertainment purposes, et cetera—existed in Edo‑period kabuki. In fact, this liberal, free-handed approach to kabuki focusing on its “revue‑style” dimensions, in contrast to the tendency in modern times to remain rigidly bound to a more or less authentic tradition, was also championed by Kobayashi Ichizō 小林一三, founder of the famous all-female Takarazuka theatre troupe, and in particular by his artistic director Tsubouchi Shikō, who told Tsutsui that:58

Even if you give Shizuka’s dance less prominence during the Shizuka‑Tadanobu scene or remove it entirely in order to showcase the dance of Tadanobu the fox, or if you replace the guards pursuing them with young girls, I think it would be effective and achieve its goal. It would also be fine if, in Mitsuhide, you start by introducing the entire family and replace the recitative (jōruri 浄瑠璃) with dialogues spoken in everyday language.

  • 59 Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō kaigai jungyō no hyōka to Takarazuka ni okeru kokumingeki kōsō” 筒井徳二郎海外巡 (...)

86He believed that this was the only way to attract both Western audiences and a Japanese youth ignorant of tradition, adding that this approach was necessary for the creation of a truly modern national theatre. In fact, a few years later in 1937, when plans for a Western tour by the kabuki star Onoe Kikugorō VI had just fallen through, Shikō insisted that such a plan had been nonsensical and contrasted it with Tsutsui’s endeavour, in his eyes exemplary. This stance, developed in various articles, mirrored the views of Kobayashi, who sent his all‑girl troupe on a tour of Europe (1938) and the United States (1939).59 Ultimately, the success of the post‑war tours presenting traditional kabuki proved Shikō’s analysis to be incorrect, yet in the context of the 1930s, it was not entirely unjustified.

87Nonetheless, it was above all onstage, and in particular in the realm of performance techniques, that Tsutsui made an important contribution. Few details are known about the stage design itself; however, the troupe would clearly have had to make do with the standard equipment and facilities provided by Western theatres, with neither hanamachi nor revolving stage, and with different proportions to the great kabuki stages. Still, this undoubtedly posed no problem to a travelling troupe like Tsutsui’s, accustomed to performing in small, poorly equipped venues or even makeshift theatres.

  • 60 The original quotes hail respectively from Levinson, Les Visages de la danse, 252, and Dullin “Act (...)

88Incidentally, a curious misunderstanding exists concerning the sets used during Tsutsui’s tour, particularly in the writings of the highly respected dance specialist Levinson and Dullin:60

It is highly regrettable that the Japanese actors did not perform with a traditional Japanese theatre set. Was it to please the Americans? Was it through fear of disconcerting French audiences? I could not help but notice during the full‑dress rehearsal that those around me took the greatest delight in the scenery, which would not have looked out of place at the pre-war Châtelet theatre.

In reality, the contrast between the actors’ remarkable performances and these painted canvasses was disastrous. Whereas the performances demonstrated the actors’ many resources, the scenery seemed designed to illustrate just how anti‑theatrical naturalism is and was marred by the total absence of the very virtue it sought to portray: truth.

89Just what did Dullin mean by “a traditional set”? The austere stages of noh? Perhaps, but in any case, such backdrops had long been standard in kabuki. Even painted in trompe‑l'œil, their aim was clearly not to be realist. Instead they flaunted their artifice and brash colours for the visual delight of the audience.

90Tsutsui seems to have retained many of kabuki’s musical elements, with the musicians seated either in the wings or onstage, in full view of the audience (particularly for the shosagoto). The use of clappers (hyōshigi 拍子木 and tsuke 付け) to announce dramatic moments was also mentioned in certain articles; however, the troupe does not appear to have employed a narrator (tayū 太夫), who would usually accompany plays from the puppet theatre repertoire. This absence is understandable given that the use of texts was intentionally kept to a strict minimum.

91Unanimously praised for their skill, the actors were, if not stars, experienced professionals, and their leader, Tsutsui Tokujirō, reputed to be a versatile artist capable of adapting to any performance style. According to one actor who worked with him in Manchuria and was trained in traditional kabuki, he was also sufficiently well versed in this theatrical art to stage a perfectly respectable Kanjinchō. Technically speaking, Tsutsui’s troupe performed in a style derived from Kansai-style kabuki and which gave a fairly good idea of the kabuki actor’s art (except for pure aragoto in the Edo tradition). As for the emphasis on kengeki, this decision seems to have paid dividends, for the press was full of praise for the fight scenes:

  • 61 Jean‑Pierre Liansu, “Compte rendu du spectacle de Tsutsui” [Review of Tsutsui’s Show], Comœdia, 2  (...)

The sword‑fighting scenes are remarkably and finely tuned. The Japanese actors show truly acrobatic dexterity as they shout, strike blows and leap around. These fearsome swordsmen never cease to fight even as they roll on the floor, gasping for breath. The fight scenes alone are worth seeing.61

  • 62 Fortunat Strowski, “La Troupe japonaise” [The Japanese Troupe], Paris-Midi, 2 May 1930.

92The major break with tradition of course was the presence of actresses, which in the realm of shinpa and taishūgeki no longer shocked people by this point in time. In any case, the programme had been devised accordingly using plays devoid of major onnagata roles. In fact, any female roles were minor and the troupe’s young women (who were dancers rather than actresses) performed essentially in shosagoto. From this point of view, Tsutsui’s shows contrasted starkly with those of Sadayakko and Hanako, centred entirely on their skills as tragediennes. Critics thus contented themselves with commenting that “these actresses are charming but their roles remain somewhat secondary,”62 and reserved their most effusive praise for the actors.

93It is difficult to evaluate Tsutsui’s work based on a handful of photographs, programmes, press cuttings and subjective accounts. His approach, while not exactly kabuki, hailed from a popular theatre derived directly from it, and was in its own way authentic, having retained the fundamental aspects of this performing art. The introduction of one of the major forms of traditional Japanese theatre—the two others, noh and bunraku, did not venture onto foreign stages until the 1950s—was, during this same period, accompanied by the publication of two remarkable works written by theatre connoisseurs who were familiar with Japan from having frequented its theatre halls and rubbed shoulders with its actors: Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan by Zoe Kinkaid (1925) and Le Théâtre japonais, le Kabuki by Serge Elisséeff (1933). Conversely, in contrast to noh, few translations of the kabuki‑jōruri repertoire have been made, particularly into French, though a collection of Chikamatsu plays (translated from English) was published.

94Nevertheless, when combined with the translations, general reference books and specialist studies published in English and German, Tsutsui Tokujirō’s tour gave a relatively accurate idea of traditional Japanese theatre during the interwar period. While amateur theatre enthusiasts were able to broaden their horizons, the most innovative professionals of the day went even further by using their discovery of Japanese theatre to inspire stimulating reflections on their own work. Despite the concessions made to the supposed tastes of Western spectators and the clearly commercial motivations of his endeavour, Tsutsui Tokujirō’s tour was nonetheless instrumental in improving Westerners’ knowledge of Japanese theatre.

95To conclude, I would like to pay tribute to the courageous actors and actresses dragged endlessly from one foreign capital to another by their impresarios. From Kawakami to Tsutsui, it is ultimately thanks to the adventurousness of these unconventional showmen and women, prepared to travel for months through unknown lands to play before foreign audiences, that Western spectators were able to gain a true sense of the theatre that had so intrigued the first visitors to Japan.

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Notes

1 See for example Siegfried Wichmann, Japonisme (Paris: Éditions du Chêne, 1982); Lionel Lambourne, Japonisme : échanges culturels entre le Japon et l’Occident [Japonism: Cultural Exchange between Japan and the West] (Paris : Phaïdon, 2007); or the catalogue for the exhibition Le Japonisme, held at the Centre Pompidou in 1988.

2 For more on this subject, see Ury Eppstein, “The Stage Observed. Western Attitudes Toward Japanese Theatre,” in Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 48, no. 2, (1993): 147‑166; Erika Fischer‑Lichte, “The Reception of Japanese Theatre by the European Avant‑Garde (1900‑1930),” in Japanese Theatre & the International Stage, ed. S. Scholz‑Cionca & S. Leiter (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 27‑42; Jean‑Jacques Tschudin, « La Découverte du théâtre par les voyageurs français dans le Japon de Meiji » [The Discovery of Japanese Theatre by French Visitors to Meiji Japan] in Théâtre/Public (special issue: Scènes françaises, scènes japonaises : aller‑retour), no. 198 ( 2010): 23‑26.

3 For a general presentation of this tradition in French, see Jean‑Jacques Tschudin, Histoire du théâtre classique japonais [The History of Traditional Japanese Theatre] (Toulouse: Anacharsis, 2011).

4 See in particular Nicola Savarese, “La peripezia emblematica di Sada Yacco,” Sipario, no. 406 (1980): 6‑13, and Teatro e spettacolo fra Oriente e Occidente (Roma‑Bari: Laterza, 1992); Chiba Yoko, “Sada Yacco and Kawakami: Performers of Japonism,” Modern Drama, vol. 35, no. 1 (1992): 35‑53; Sophie Jacotot, “Sada Yacco à l’Exposition universelle de 1900 : l’entrée en scène du corps japonais en Occident,” [Sada Yacco at the Exposition Universelle of 1900: The Japanese Body Enters the Western Stage], La Revue du Musée d’Orsay, no. 20 (2005): 18‑25; Shionoya Kei, Cyrano et les samuraï [Cyrano and the Samurai] (Paris: Publications orientalistes de France, 1986). On the Kamakamis’ entire career, see Jonah Salz, “Intercultural Pioneers: Otojiro Kawakami and Sada Yakko,” Journal of Intercultural Studies, no. 20 (1993): 25‑74. In Japanese, see for example Egashira Kou 江頭光, Hakata Kawakami Otojirō 博多川上音二郎 [Kawakami Otojirō from Hakata] (Fukuoka: Nishi Nihon shinbun-sha 西日本新聞社, 1996), which includes a good bibliography of previously published works. See also the Kawakamis’ own impressions of their trip in Kawakami Otojirō 川上音二郎, Kawakami Otojirō-Sadayakko man’yūki 川上音二郎・貞奴漫遊記 [The Travel Diary of Kawakami Otojirō and Sadayakko] (Osaka: Kaneo bun’en-dō 金尾文淵堂, 1901), and “Pari miyage” 巴里土産 [Paris Souvenirs], Engei gahō 演芸画法 [Theatre Illustrated], August-September-December issues, 1908.

5 Western chroniclers generally write her name “Sada Yacco.”

6 On Fuller’s career, see Loïe Fuller, Quinze ans de ma vie [Fifteen Years of My Life] (Paris: Librairie Félix Juven, 1908); Rhonda K. Garelick, “Electric Salomé: Loie Fuller at the Exposition Universelle of 1900,” in Imperialism and Theatre, ed. Ellen Gainor (London: Routledge, 1995), 85‑104; Loïe Fuller, danseuse de l’art nouveau [Loie Fuller: the Art Nouveau dancer] (Paris: Éditions de la réunion des musées nationaux, 2002).

7 See the Rondel collection (Richelieu Library, Bibliothèque Nationale de France) which includes all of these documents. A selection of these articles can be found in the works cited in note 4. A detailed presentation of the Kamakamis’ tours and the reactions they generated (in particular American) can be found in Joseph Anderson, Enter a Samurai: Kawakami Otojirō and Japanese Theatre in the West (Tucson, Arizona: Wheatmark, 2 vol., 2011), and for German‑speaking countries, Peter Pantzer (ed.), Japanischer Theaterhimmel über Europas Bühnen, Kawakami Otojirō, Sadayakko und ihre Truppe auf Tournee durch Mittel- und Osteuropa 1901‑1902 (Munich: Iudicium Verlag, 2005).

8 These documents were found in the 1990s. The first was presented in 1995 by the Japanese public broadcaster NHK; the second was released in CD format by Toshiba as Yomigaeru Oppekepē: 1900‑nen Pari banpaku no Kawakami Otojirō ichiza 甦るオッペケペー1900 年パリ万博の川上音二郎一座 (Oppekepē Revived: the Kawakami Theatre Troupe at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900), 1997. For the history of these documents, see J. Scott, “Dispossessed Melodies: Recordings of the Kawakami Theater Troupe,” Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 53, no. 2 (1998): 225‑235.

9 For more information on this issue, see Miyaoka Kenji 宮岡謙二, Ikoku henro tabigeinin shimatsusho 異国遍路旅芸人始末書 [Overseas Pilgrimage: a report on itinerant performers] (Tokyo: Chūō kōron, 1971); or Kurata Yoshihiro 倉田善弘, Kaigai kōen kotohajime 海外公演事始 [Early Overseas Shows] (Tokyo: Tōsho sensho 東書選書, 1994).

10 For more information on Hanako, see the special feature devoted to her in Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 5, no. 1 (autumn 1988) and “Hanako,” a text by Donald Keene, published in his Appreciations of Japanese Culture (Tokyo: Kōdansha International, 1971). The biography written by her adopted grandson, Sawada Suketarō 澤田助太郎, Chiisai Hanako 小さい花子 (Nagoya: Chūnichi shuppan-sha 中日出版社, 1983), was published in English (translator unknown) as Little Hanako (Nagoya: Chūnichi shuppan-sha, 1984). See also Savarese, Teatro e spettacolo fra Oriente e Occidente, and Shionoya, Cyrano et les Samuraï.

11 On Hanako’s ties to Rodin, see Sawada Suketarō, Rodan to Hanako ロダンと花 子 [Rodin and Hanako] (Nagoya: Chūnichi shuppan-sha 中日出版社, 1996); Mori Ōgai, “Hanako” 花子, translated into French by Emmanuel Lozerand in La Nouvelle Revue française, no. 599‑600 (2012): 146‑155. On Rodin’s interest in oriental art see Claudie Judrin (ed.), Rodin et l’Extrême-Orient [Rodin and the Far East] (Paris: Éditions du Musée Rodin, 1979).

12 For more information on this tour, see Kitamura Yukiko & Dany Savelli, “L’Exotisme justifié ou la Venue du kabuki en Union soviétique en 1928,” [Justified Exoticism or the Arrival of Kabuki in the Soviet Union in 1928] in Slavica Occitania 33 – Le Japon en Russie : imaginaire, savoir, conflits et voyages, ed. Dany Savelli (Toulouse: Association Slavica Occitania, 2011), 215‑252. In Japanese, see Ōsumi Toshio 大隅俊雄 (ed.), Ichikawa Sadanji Kabuki kikō 市川左団次歌舞伎紀行 [The Kabuki Travel Journal of Ichikawa Sadanji] (Tokyo: Heibon-sha 平凡社, 1929), and Matsui Tōru 松居桃樓, Ichikawa Sadanji 市川左団次 (Tokyo: Musashi-shobō 武蔵書房, 1941).

13 Ichikawa Danjūrō 市川団十郎 IX (1838‑1903), Onoe Kikugorō 尾上菊五郎 V (1844‑1903), Ichikawa Sadanji 市川左団次 I (1842‑1904); see Tschudin, Le Kabuki devant la modernité [Kabuki Confronts Modernity] (Lausanne-Paris: L’Âge d’homme, 1995).

14 Although kabuki and shinpa troupes had toured Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria and Northern China, these regions were directly or indirectly under Japanese control at that time and the performances were specifically put on for the occupiers. Some troupes also performed in Hawaii and California, but once again, only for Japanese immigrants. Such tours can in no way be seen as kabuki leaving the Japanese cultural sphere to brave overseas audiences.

15 This difficult-to-define term refers to the kabuki dramas influenced by Western theatre and written between 1890 and 1950.

16 This play was translated into French by René Sieffert in Le Mythe des quarante-sept rōnin [The Myth of the 47 Rōnin] (Paris: Publications Orientalistes de France, 1981); see also Osaragi Jirō’s novel, Les 47 rōnins, trans. Jacques Lalloz (Arles: Picquier, 2007), which presents the same story (no English translation exists).

17 Text by Tsu’uchi Hanjūrō 津打半十郎, staged in Osaka in 1742 based on a libretto composed by Danjūrō I in 1684. It features in James Brandon (trans.), Kabuki: Five Classic Plays (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1975).

18 Banchō sarayashiki 番長皿屋敷 [The Dish Mansion at Banchō], Toribeyama shinjū 鳥辺山心中 [Double Suicide on Mount Toribe], and Shuzenji monogatari 修禅寺物語 [The History of Shuzenji]. The latter two plays can be found, in French, in Okamoto Kidō, Drames d’amour [Love Dramas], trans. by E. Steinhilber‑Oberlin and Kuni Matsuo (Paris: Stock, 1929); Shuzenji monogatari had previously been staged by Firmin Gémier, entitled Masque [Mask], as part of the Festival international d'art dramatique et lyrique [International Festival of Lyric and Dramatic Art] held in Paris in 1927.

19 See Georges Banu, “Eisenstein, le Japon et quelques techniques de montage” [Eisenstein, Japan and a Few Montage Techniques] in Collage et Montage au théâtre et dans les autres arts (Lausanne: L’Âge d’Homme, 1978), 135‑143; for the filmmaker’s texts, see Sergei Eisenstein, Le Film : sa forme/son sens (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1976), published in English as two books, Film Form and The Film Sense (San Diego: Harcourt, 1969).

20 Literally meaning “sword theatre,” kengeki is the stage equivalent of the samurai film or chanbara eiga ちゃんばら映画.

21 Ōe Michiko 大江美智子, Onna no hanamichi 女の花道 [Women on Stage] (Tokyo: Kōdansha 講談社, 1982).

22 Mukai Sōya 向井爽也, Nippon minshū engeki shi 日本民衆演劇史 [History of Japanese Popular Theatre] (Tokyo: NHK, 1977), 239.

23 The scholar in question is Tanaka Tokuichi 田中徳一, who since the early 2000s has regularly published articles on this tour, particularly in Studies in International Relations, the journal published by his university, Nihon Daigaku. For a full list of his articles, see his page on the Nihon Daigaku website: http://kenkyu-web.cin.nihon-u.ac.jp/Profiles/38/0003786/prof_e.html.

24 Troupe founded in 1917, performing a mixture of shingeki, shinpa, kabuki and kengeki. See Brian Powell, “Le Shinkokugeki: un théâtre populaire un demi‑pas en avant,” [ Shinkokugeki: a popular theatre half a step ahead] in La Modernité à l’horizon, ed. J.‑J. Tschudin, C. Hamon (Arles: Philippe Picquier, 2004), 151‑168.

25 For more information on the American tour, see Tanaka Tokuichi, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza no Ōbei jungyō ryotei” 筒井徳二郎一座の欧米巡業旅程 [Itinerary of the Tsutsui Tokujirō Troupe’s European and American Tour] in Kokusai kankei kenkyū 国際関係研究 [Research in International Relations], vol. 20, no. 2 (1999): 17‑39; “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza no Beikoku e no shōhei to sono keii” 筒井徳二郎一座の 米国への招聘とその経緯 [Background to the Invitation of Tsutsui Tokujirō’s Troupe to the United States], in Kokusai kankei kenkyū, vol. 23, no. 3 (2002): 155‑193.

26 This was the largest theatre in New York at the time with a capacity of 6,000. Opened in 1927 and located close to Times Square, it presented films and music-hall shows featuring its 200 chorus girls, the famous Roxyettes. The theatre was closed and then demolished in 1960.

27 For more information on the entire tour, see Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza no Ōbei jungyō ryotei.”

28 Founded by Baron Henri de Rothschild, the Théâtre Pigalle was initially under the artistic direction of André Antoine, then Gaston Baty, with Gabriel Astruc as manager. This large, modern theatre with a capacity of 1,100 opened on 20 June 1929 with a play by Sacha Guitry. In addition to Tsutsui Tokujirō, it staged many foreign productions, notably by Reinhardt, Meyerhold and the Kamerny Theatre founded by Alexander Tairov. It closed its doors in 1948.

29 The Parisian programme is ambiguous in its use of this name: does it refer to the association organising the production or to the name of the troupe? I have found no other references to the activities of this “Nihon Geki Kyōkai” and the name features neither on the posters I examined (Paris, Berlin, London, New York) nor in the reviews of the day.

30 To view the programmes, press cuttings and other documents on the Parisian performances, see the Auguste Rondel collection at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (ref. Re 2407).

31 Founded in 1906, this 970‑seat theatre adopted this name in 1919 before being renamed the Gielgud Theatre after the rebuilding of Shakespeare’s Globe in 1994.

32 For more information on this third stage of the tour, see Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza Ōbei jungyō no keiro to nittei – Baruto engan – Tōō shokoku o chūshin to shite” 筒井徳二郎一座欧米巡業の経路と日程バルト沿岸・東欧諸国を中心として [Programme and Itinerary of the American and European Tour of the Tsutsui Tokujirō Troupe, Essentially in the Baltic Countries and Eastern Europe], in Kokusai kankei kenkyū, vol. 26, no. 2 (2005): 201‑219.

33 This is the name that appeared on the Parisian programme, but the normal pronunciation of her given name is Seisuke.

34 Itō Michio (1892‑1961) studied song and dance in Europe, notably at the Institut Jaques‑Dalcroze in Hellerau, Germany. Then in London, in April 1916, he performed in and helped stage At the Hawk’s Well, a play written by W. B. Yeats under the influence of noh theatre, recently discovered by Yeats thanks to Ezra Pound. Itō next moved to the United States where he enjoyed a successful career as a dancer and choreographer whose work blended oriental and Western arts. He was deported by the Americans during the Pacific War. He was the brother of the renowned theatre‑set designer Itō Kisaku 伊藤熹朔 and Senda Koreya 千田是也, one of the main leaders of the shingeki movement during the Shōwa era.

35 Tsubouchi Shikō (1887‑1986) was the nephew and adopted son of Tsubouchi Shōyō 坪内逍遥. After studying English literature, he undertook a lengthy stay in England and the United States. In addition to being a well‑known actor, playwright and author of books on theatre, he enjoyed an active career as an artistic director, working, among others, for the Takarazuka Kagekidan 宝塚歌劇団 and for the drama section of the Tōhō Company 東宝. For more information, see the paper by Claude Michel‑Lesne in this issue of Cipango in English.

36 For more information on this repertoire, see Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza kaigai jungyō no repātorī ni tsuite” 筒井徳二郎一座海外巡業のレパートリーについて [On the Repertoire of the Tsutsui Tokujirō Troupe’s International Tour], in Kokusai kankei kenkyū, vol. 21, no. 4 (2001), 223‑248.

37 Translation/adaptation available in J. Brandon, T. Niwa, Kabuki Plays: ‘Kanjinchō’ and ‘The Zen Substitute’ (New York: Samuel French, 1966). The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (Tora no o fumu otokotachi, 虎の尾を踏む男達, 1945), a film by Kurosawa Akira 黒澤明, was partly based on this play.

38 This was already a popular theme in the 18th century, for example Jean‑Philippe Rameau’s Pygmalion (1748) and J.‑J. Rousseau’s work of the same name (1771); other examples include E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Sandman (Der Sandmann) and Léo Delibes’ ballet Coppélia, ou la Fille aux yeux d’émail (1870, English title: Coppélia: The Girl with the Enamel Eyes), not to mention George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, staged in 1914.

39 The play was thus a gimin-mono 義民物, a story in which the hero sacrifices himself for the collective good—usually his village—by denouncing the abuses committed by a cruel administrator directly to the local lord. The hero’s request may be favourably received but is paid for with the complainant’s life for having broken the law imposing respect for the hierarchy.

40 Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza kaigai jungyō,” 233-235.

41 Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza kaigai jungyō,” 242‑243.

42 A kabuki version of the ritual dances performed by Okina, presented on special occasions; many variations exist, most of them centred on the comic character Sanbasō, and often adapted for onnagata.

43 See the English-language translation by Stanleigh Jones, Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).

44 The painter Fujita Tsuguharu (1886-1968) arrived in France in 1913. He lived in Paris until the early 1930s and quickly became a great success. Having returned to Japan during the war, he moved to France permanently in 1950, converting to Catholicism and taking the name Léonard. Kikou Yamata (1897‑1975) was born in Lyon to a French mother and a Japanese diplomat father who worked with the French art collector Emile Guimet. Perfectly bilingual, she was seen in French high society and literary circles as the elegant “Parisian Japanese woman.” She published many texts (novels, essays and poems) and translations, including a partial translation of the Genji Monogatari. Her article is included in the Rondel collection (Re 2407).

45 Iwata Toyo’o 岩田豊雄 (1893‑1969), a well-known playwright and novelist, studied in Paris (1922‑1925) and regularly visited the Théâtre du Vieux Colombier. Senda Koreya (1904‑1994), an actor who trained with the theatre company Tsukiji Shōgekijō 築地小劇場, lived in Berlin (1927‑1931) and worked with several agitprop troupes. He introduced Brecht’s work to Japan and founded the Haiyū‑za 俳優座, a leading post-war shingeki troupe.

46 Rumpf, Yamato (1930: 251‑253), quoted by Tanaka “Tsutsui Tokujirō no kaigai kōen to Seiyō engekijin no hannō” 筒井徳二郎の海外公演と西洋演劇人の反応 [The Reactions of Western Theatre People to the Overseas Performances of Tsutsui Tokujirō], in Engeki gakuron shū 演劇学論集 kiyō 紀要 [Theatre Studies], no. 42 (Tokyo: Nihon engeki gakkai 日本演劇学会 [Japanese Society of Theatre Studies], 2004), 90.

47 André Levinson, “Compte-rendu du spectacle de Tsutsui,” [Review of Tsutsui’s Show] in Comœdia, 22 May 1930.

48 Pierre Brisson, “Spectacle japonais au Théâtre Pigalle,” [Japanese Show at Théâtre Pigalle] in Le Temps, 5 May 1930.

49 André Rouveyre, “Compte-rendu du spectacle de Tsutsui,” in Le Mercure de France, 1 June 1930, 383‑384.

50 Iwata, quoted by Tanaka, in “Tsutsui Tokujirō no kaigai kōen”, 99.

51 Charles Dullin, “Acteurs japonais” [Japanese Actors] in Souvenirs et notes de travail d’un acteur [Memories and Notes on an Actor’s Work] (Paris: Odette Lieuthier, 1946), 60‑61.

52 Rudolf Amendt (1895‑1987) was a German actor who later moved to Hollywood and enjoyed a successful career (adopting the American stage name Robert Davis during the war), appearing, among others, in Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.

53 Quoted in Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō no kaigai kōen”, 112.

54 Vsevolod Meyerhold, Écrits sur le théâtre [Writings on Theatre] (Lausanne‑Paris: L’Âge d’homme, 1992), vol. 4, 98‑104.

55 Quoted (in German) in Antony Tatlow, The Mask of Evil. Brecht’s Response to the Poetry, Theatre and Thought of China and Japan (Bern: Peter Lang, 1977), 231. Translation taken from Jean‑Jacques Tschudin, “The French Discovery of Traditional Japanese Theatre,” in Japanese Theatre and the International Stage, ed. Stanca Scholz‑Cionca and Samuel L. Leiter (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2000), 42.

56 Two versions of this play exist: one written in 1925, one revised in 1938 after the triumph of Nazism.

57 André Levinson, Les Visages de la danse [The Faces of Dance] (Paris: Grasset, 1933), 252.

58 Quoted in Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō ichiza kaigai jungyō,” 246.

59 Tanaka, “Tsutsui Tokujirō kaigai jungyō no hyōka to Takarazuka ni okeru kokumingeki kōsō” 筒井徳二郎海外巡業の評価と宝塚における国民劇構想 [Evaluation of the Overseas Tour of Tokujirō and the Takarazuka Concept of “Popular Theatre”], Kokusai kankei kenkyū, vol. 27, no 2 (2006): 110‑139.

60 The original quotes hail respectively from Levinson, Les Visages de la danse, 252, and Dullin “Acteurs japonais,” 59.

61 Jean‑Pierre Liansu, “Compte rendu du spectacle de Tsutsui” [Review of Tsutsui’s Show], Comœdia, 2 May 1930.

62 Fortunat Strowski, “La Troupe japonaise” [The Japanese Troupe], Paris-Midi, 2 May 1930.

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References

Electronic reference

Jean‑Jacques Tschudin, « Kabuki’s Early Ventures onto Western Stages (1900‑1930):
Tsutsui Tokujirō in the footsteps of Kawakami and Hanako », Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies [Online], 5 | 2016, Online since 15 July 2019, connection on 23 April 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/1168 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cjs.1168

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About the author

Jean‑Jacques Tschudin

Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7

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Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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