Others names: Kawatake Kisui, Furukawa Mokuami
Real Name: Yoshimura Yoshisabur˘
Poetry name: Kisui
Existence: 3rd day of the 2nd lunar month of 1816  ~ 22 January 1893
Master: Tsuruya Nanboku V
Adopted son: Kawatake Shigetoshi
1st day of the 3rd lunar month of 1816: born in Edo in the district of Nihonbashi; he was the son of a merchant family.
1834: he became disciple of Tsuruya Magotar˘ IV and received the name of Katsu Genz˘ I.
9th lunar month of 1856: premiere at the Ichimuraza of Shinshichi's 9-act drama "Tsuta Momiji Utsunoya T˘ge"; the 2 leading stars were Ichikawa Kodanji IV (the blind masseur Bun'ya and the thief Niza) and Band˘ Kamez˘ I (Itamiya Jűbŕ).
3rd lunar month of 1858: premiere at the Ichimuraza of Shinshichi's drama "Edo Zakura Kiyomizu Seigen"; the nibanme of this drama is now entitled "Kurotegumi Kuruwa no Tatehiki" in the Kabuki repertoire (commonly called "Kurotegumi Sukeroku") [more details].
9th lunar month of 1859: premiere at the Ichimuraza of Shinshichi's Kiyomoto-based dance "Jitsugetsusei Chűya no Oriwake", commonly called "Ryűsei"; the leading roles were played by Kawarasaki Gonjűr˘ I, Iwai Kumesabur˘ III and Ichikawa Kodanji IV.
8th lunar month of 1862: premiere at the Moritaza of Shinshichi's drama "Kanzen Ch˘aku Nozoki Garakuri" [casting]. Revival in the same theater of the drama "Miyajima no Danmari", with a new script written by Shinshichi and starring Ichikawa Kodanji IV in the leading roles of the courtesan Ukifune and the thief Kesatar˘.
9th lunar month of 1869: premiere at the Ichimuraza of Shinshichi's drama "Momoyama Monogatari", commonly called "Jishin Kat˘" ("Earthquake Kat˘"); Kawarasaki Gonnosuke VII played the leading role of Kat˘ Kiyomasa. This drama was a first experiment, which foreshadowed the katsureki plays.
3rd lunar month of 1870: premiere at the Moritaza of Shinshichi's drama "Keian Taiheiki"; the leading role of Marubashi Chűya was played by Ichikawa Sadanji I. Premiere at the Nakamuraza of "Ume Goyomi Tatsumi no Sono", an adaptation to Kabuki by Shinshichi and Segawa Jok˘ III of Tamenaga Shunsui's 1833 novel "Shunshoku Ume Goyomi" [casting].
September 1879: the zamoto Morita Kan'ya XII produced at the Shintomiza an original play "Hy˘ryű Kidan Seiy˘ Kabuki" ("A strange story about drifters and Western Kabuki"!), written by Shinshichi and staged with some Western actors. The plot was about the adventures of a group of Japanese in Europe and in the USA. The play included several Italian-style operettas, which disconcerted the audience. This original performance was a complete commercial failure.
June 1881: premiere at the Shintomiza of Shinshichi's jidaimono "Youchi Soga Kariba no Akebono" [casting]. Premiere at the Shintomiza of Shinshichi's dance-drama "Tsuchi Gumo", which was staged to commemorate the 32nd anniversary (33rd memorial service) of late Onoe Kikugor˘ III [casting].
November 1881: Kawatake Shinshichi II took the name of Kawatake Mokuami  (to retire) for the premiere at the Shintomiza of his zangirimono drama "Shima Chidori Tsuki no Shiranami"; this was supposed to be his isse ichidai drama [casting].
November 1885: premiere at the Chitoseza of Mokuami's drama "Shisen Ry˘ Koban no Ume-no-Ha"  [more details]. Premiere at the Shintomiza of Mokuami's Nagauta-based matsubamemono "Funa Benkei"  [casting].
22 January 1893: Mokuami died in T˘ky˘.
Kawatake Mokuami was a versatile and prolific Japanese playwright, the last great Kabuki playwright of the Edo period.
"Kawatake was one of the most prolific of all dramatists. Of his more than 360 plays, about 130 are domestic plays, 90 are historical plays, and 140 are dance dramas. His plays are still performed frequently and constitute almost half of those currently in the Kabuki repertoire. They are especially notable for powerful lyrical passages recited to a musical accompaniment, which serves to intensify the mood of the dramatic situation. The plays also draw appeal from their exact and realistic portrayals of characters from the lower social classes and from their explicit love scenes." (EncyclopŠdia Britannica)
"Kawataki Mokuami was not only the representative playwright of Meiji, he was the last of the Kabuki sakusha. After him theatre conditions changed rapidly, the good relations between sakusha and yakusha that had so long endured were destroyed, and peace and harmony between them have not yet been restored. To such an extent does the modern stage owe allegiance to Mokuami that there is hardly a month that does not see a production of one of his plays in T˘ky˘, and as he wrote some three hundred plays, there seems no danger that the supply will run out for some time to come.
He was essentially a edokko, for he came of five generations of a Edo family which lived in Nihonbashi, the centre of the metropolis, and the headquarters of the national domestic trade. His plays show wide familiarity with the lower and middle classes of Edo, and are a mirror of his times. He was a precocious youth, and early started to indulge in dissipation. As he seemed disinclined to stop his irregular life, his father disinherited him--a younger brother succeeding as head of the family. Mokuami had little education, and began to associate early with the people of shibai, becoming an apprentice to drama at the age of 20, and dying in the middle of the Meiji period at 78.
When the seventh Danjűr˘ returned to Edo after his long exile,
Mokuami wrote the piece played by this member of the Ichikawa family as a sign of
his thankfulness that he had been able to return to the Edo stage.
For Danjűr˘, the ninth, Mokuami also wrote some of his best plays.
He saw Edo change to T˘ky˘; composed realistic Edo plays for Kodanji,
who was active in the early years of Meiji; and in his old age collaborated with
Fukuchi in the writing of "Botan D˘r˘", or The Peony Lantern, one of Kabuki's best
ghost plays. So repeatedly did Mokuami choose highwaymen and thieves for the characters
of his plays that he was sometimes called the dorobo, or robber, playwright.
He was also fond of priests, and the scenes of his plays pass from robbers' dens,
reminiscent of Oliver Twist, to temples and lonely graveyards. Through the whole
series runs the contrast between the richly clad priest and the sinister robber.
The night side of T˘ky˘ life was often his theme, but frequently he portrayed
the lower classes in their struggle against injustice and oppression.
His zangirimono, or cropped-hair plays, are a study of the disordered times
when the impact of the West upon Japan caused the two swords as well as the queue
to be discarded, and show the comic as well as tragic side of life in this
transitional period. Among his numerous works may be mentioned "K˘chiyama",
a play dealing with an historical personage, the daimy˘ of Matsue,
who was noted in his day for his profligacy. It is interesting to know that the
loyal retainer of this feudal lord, who committed harakiri because his master
would not listen to his advice and mend his ways, was the grandfather of the widow of
Lafcadio Hearn. Some seventy years ago, this dramatic happening was written
for the stage, but the daimy˘ of Matsue stopped its production by paying a
large sum of money. Danjűr˘, Kikugor˘, and Sadanji
acted together in this play, and it has been revived many times."
 The 3rd day of the 2nd lunar month of the 13th year of the Bunka era was the 1st of March 1816 in the western calendar.
 "Sensing the winds of change, Mokuami announced his retirement, and in 1881, at the age of sixty-five, completed what he believed would be his last play. In it, characteristically, all of the main characters were criminals. He gave the name of Kawatake Shinshichi to his leading disciple and took the name Mokuami. This name has a special significance. It comes from the expression moto no Mokuami (ôback to the old Mokuamiö) and refers to a humble person who, like the original Mokuami, a blindman forced by circumstances to impersonate a feudal lord, returns voluntarily to his former state. But it was not possible for a writer of Mokuamiĺs stature and ability to retire completely. Theater owners and actors persuaded him to continue writing." (from "The Love of Izayoi & Seishin: A Kabuki Play by Kawatake Mokuami")
The Katsu Genz˘ line of playwrights
The Kawatake Shinshichi line of playwrights
|Contact | Main | Top | Updates | Actors | Plays | Playwrights | Programs | Links | FAQ | Glossary | Chronology | Illustrations | Prints | Characters | Derivatives | Theaters | Coming soon | News|