Kabuki World Mourns

Ichikawa Danjuro

The world of kabuki has recently lost not just one but two of its major stars. The death on Monday of Ichikawa Danjuro XII (photo left) at the age of 66 follows the loss of Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII at 57 in December. Both men died after prolonged illness. Ichikawa had been battling leukemia since 2004 but was able to continue his career until last December, when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. He was among the performers who brought kabuki to the stage of the Paris Opera House for the first time in 2007. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide praised the late actor as a “pillar of the kabuki world” who deserved much of the credit for bringing Japan’s traditional theater to international audiences. That accolade must be shared with Nakamura, who also worked hard to bring kabuki to younger and overseas fans. Among his innovations was a collaboration with alternative rock musician Shiina Ringo. He died of respiratory failure in early December and, like his contemporary, he had battled cancer for some time. Both actors are survived by sons who have continued the family tradition and become major kabuki stars in their own right.

One sad aspect to the recent deaths is that neither actor will see the much anticipated re-opening in April of the Kabukiza theater in Tokyo.