|YOSHIZAWA AYAME I|
Other name: Tachibanaya Gonshichi
Line number: SHODAI (I)
Poetry name: Shunsui
Existence: 1673 ~ 15th day of the 7th lunar month of 1729
Great-grandson: Yoshizawa Iroha II
Disciples: Yoshizawa Tamazuma, Yoshizawa Sengiku, Yoshizawa Takegorô
Family map: the Yoshizawa Clan
1675 ~ 1690: born in Kyôto. His career started in the world of male prostitution. A man named Tachibana Gorozaemon spotted him and helped him to move to the theater world. He became a disciple of Mizushima Shirobê and learn the art of acting in the company of Arashi San'emon I.
1696: he went back to Kamigata and took back the name of Yoshizawa Ayame I.
1st lunar month of 1698: premiere at Hayagumo Chôdayû's theater of the drama "Keisei Asama-ga-Dake", which was produced by Yamashita Hanzaemon; Ayame played the role of the courtesan Miura [casting]. Ayame's stage partner was the Edo actor Nakamura Shichisaburô I, the author of this play, which became a great success and a long run. The play was about the apparition of a courtesan's ghost to her unfaithful lover and became both a milestone in Kabuki history and a classic theme. Ayame's rank in the Kyôto hyôbanki, wakaonnagata section, was jô-jô-kichi (superior - superior - excellent).
11th lunar month of 1698: Ayame played the role of Takane no Mae in the drama "Kantô Koroku Imayô Sugata", which was staged at Hayagumo Chôdayû's theater.
1st lunar month of 1703: Ayame settled in Ôsaka and achieved a great success by playing the role of the courtesan Ôiso no Tora in the drama "Soga Kuhon no Matsu", which was produced by the zamoto Matsumoto Nazaemon III.
11th lunar month of 1710: Ayame went to Kyôto and played the role of Ofuku in the drama "Inari Chôja Yotsugimaru", which was produced by Yamashita Karumo at Ebisuya Kichirôbê's theater.
1st lunar month of 1712: Ayame became zamoto and produced the drama "Onna Wankyû" at Ebisuya Kichirôbê's theater. The roles of Wankyû and the courtesan Matsuyama were played by Yamashita Kyôemon I and Uemura Kichiya III.
11th lunar month of 1713: third stay in Edo; Ayame played two roles at the Nakamuraza in the drama "Onna Kusunoki Tenka Taiheiki".
Fall 1716: First Kabuki adaptation of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's masterpiece "Kokusen'ya Gassen", which was produced by the zamoto Sakakiyama Shirotarô I in Kyôto at Miyako Mandayû's theater and starred the actors Sakakiyama Koshirô I (Watônai), Shibazaki Rinzaemon I (Kanki), Yamamoto Kamon (Kinshôjo), Murayama Heijûrô (Rôikkan), Ayame (Watônai's mother), Kikukawa Kiyotarô I (Watônai's wife Komutsu), Mihogi Gizaemon I (Ritôten) and Kikuta Zen'emon (Kairokuô).
1st lunar month of 1721: Ayame achieved a great success in the same theater, playing a female role and a male role in the drama "Keisei Ôhara Sanemori".
11th lunar month of 1721: Yoshizawa Ayame became tachiyaku and took the name of Yoshizawa Gonshichi, playing the role of Sakuragi Ôinosuke in Yoshida Jûrobê's drama "Yamato Uta Denju No Tomigura", which was produced by Arashi Sanjûrô I.
1st lunar month of 1723: he switched back to wakaonnagata roles and took back the name of Yoshizawa Ayame I, playing in Kyôto at Daikokuya Takenojô's theater the role of the Tatewaki goke Okura in the new year drama "Keisei Hitomaruzuka" which was produced by Otowa Jirosaburô I.
Spring 1728: Ayame appeared on stage for the last time, in Ôsaka at the Kado no Shibai; he played the role of Akashi no Tsubone in the drama "Ato Meron Keizu no Hakozaki", which was produced by Arashi Sanjûrô II.
"Yoshizawa Ayame I was regarded as the greatest onnagata or female impersonator of his time and was an artist of ability, who developed the unique technique which was to be a model for the actors of the future. His ideas and secrets were written down in a book called "Ayamegusa", which was afterwards regarded as the Bible of the female impersonator" (A. C. Scott in "The Kabuki Theatre of Japan")
"Ayame s'était prostitué très jeune après la mort prématurée de son père : on se rappelle que la carrière des onnagata commençait souvent, aux dix-septième et dix-huitième siècle dans les établissements spécialisés. De fait, c'est là qu'il eut l'occasion de rencontrer un protecteur fort versé dans les choses du théâtre, qui l'engagea à étudier la technique de l'onnagata en s'efforçant de donner de la femme l'illusion la plus complète possible : en ce sens, Ayame qui, bien que de vingt-cinq ans le cadet de Tôjûrô, eut l'occasion de jouer à ses côtés, fut conduit à appliquer à son domaine les mêmes principes réalistes qui avaient inspiré le jeu de son partenaire. Puisque le monde du Kabuki était désormais interdit aux femmes, il fallait, par un entraînement intensif, s'efforcer de les remplacer avec le maximum de vraisemblance, et Ayame élabora dans ce but une curieuse théorie du jeu de l'acteur, qui mêlait indissolublement la vie à l'art : si l'onnagata, disait-il, ne vit pas quotidiennement comme s'il était une femme, il ne pourra prétendre devenir un bon comédien. Et pendant plus de deux siècles, la scène devint ainsi le simple prolongement de l'existence d'onnagata qui, hors du théâtre même, s'habillaient en femme, se maquillaient, portaient perruque, allant même jusqu'à utiliser la partie des bains réservée à l'usage féminin" (Michel Wasserman in "Théâtre classique du Japon")
Yoshizawa Ayame I in an illustration from the book "Amayo no Sanbai Kigen" (1693)
The Yoshizawa Ayame line of actors
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