Danjuro VIII (1823-54) was the son of Danjuro VII and made his debut in the year of his birth in the kaomise (‘face-showing’) performance that opened the season at the Ichimura theatre. Two years later he became Ichikawa Ebizo, a name he kept until he was nine, when his father passed to him the Danjuro name, and assumed the name Ebizo for himself. He became a leader of company (zagashira) six years later in 1838.
Like his father, Danjuro VIII excelled in the aragoto (‘rough-stuff’) roles for which the Ichikawa lineage was famous. But as well as audacious young heroes, he was also extremely successful in the various roles of young lover (nimaime). Together with his good looks, this made him especially popular with female fans. When he played Sukeroku, in which he had to immerse himself in a barrel of water, the water was subsequently sold at exorbitant cost to avid admirers. Even when he had to appear as Yosaburo with a scarred face, pastry shops sold beanpaste buns with cracked outer skins called ‘Yosaburo buns, which were devoured by the actor’s fans. Despite his success, or even because of it, he was plagued by personal problems, perhaps exacerbated by his early achievements and the jealousy this caused among older actors. In 1854, during a tour of performances in Osaka with his father, he was found in his inn with his wrists slashed. He was suffering from massive debts, caused by his lifestyle, which emulated the excesses of his father.
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