Danjuro IX (1839-1903) was the son of Danjuro VII by one of his concubines. He was adopted by the Kawarazaki Gonnosuke VI, the actor-manager of the Kawarazaki theatre, whose wife ensured that the young boy had an extraordinary education, training him in acting, dancing, classical Japanese art and learning, and Chinese literature, painting and calligraphy. He made his debut at the age of seven under the name Kawarazaki Chojuro I, changing to Kawarazaki Gonjuro I in 1852. Two years later the suicide of two elder brothers, including Danjuro VIII, left him as the only remaining son of Danjuro VII, pushed him prematurely into the limelight.
Initially his poor health led to insulting nicknames such as ‘pale-faced weakling’ (aobyotan), and his problems were exacerbated when his adopted family’s theatre the Kawarazaki was destroyed in the earthquake of 1865. In the final years of the Edo period, his skill and reputation as a male-lead (tachiyaku) and female-role (onnagata) grew. He succeeded to the name of his adoptive father, becoming Kawarazaki VIII in 1869, and on the death of Danjuro VII later that year he became Danjuro IX and succeeded his natural father as leader of company (zagashira) at the Ichimura theatre.
Danjuro IX went on to become one of the key figures in the moves to modernise Kabuki in the Meiji era (1868-1911).
Organised for Japan 2001
The Fitzwilliam Museum is especially grateful to John Carpenter, Tim Clark, Paul M. Griffith, Hideyuki Iwata and Ellis Tinios for their generous help during the preparation of this exhibition.
Funded by Japan 2001