Sakata Tōjūrō I

Sakata Tōjūrō I

Infobox actor
name= Sakata Tōjūrō I
birthname =
birthdate = 1646
birthplace = Kyoto, Japan
deathdate = 1 November, 1709
deathplace = Kyoto, Japan
restingplace =
restingplacecoordinates =
othername = Sakata Izaemon, Yamashiroya
occupation = "zamoto" (theatre manager)
yearsactive = 1676-1708

nihongo|Sakata Tōjūrō I|初代坂田藤十郎|shodai Sakata Tōjūrō (1646-1 November 1709) was an early kabuki actor of the Genroku period in Japan, a pioneer of the "wagoto" style, and of Kamigata kabuki more generally. He remains today one of the most famous of all kabuki actors and is considered one of the most influential.


Unlike his Edo counterpart, Ichikawa Danjūrō I, Tōjūrō's line lasted a very few generations and died out less than a century after his death. His sons Sakata Tōkurō and Sakata Heishichirō were active in the kabuki world, but neither succeeded to the Tōjūrō name. Rather, Sakata Tōjūrō II was an unrelated disciple of the first Tōjūrō; his successor in turn, Sakata Tōjūrō III, was a distant relative of the first Tōjūrō, and was adopted by Tōjūrō II.

Following the death of Tōjūrō III in 1774, no one held the name of Sakata Tōjūrō for over 230 years, until in 2005, the third Nakamura Ganjirō revived the name, becoming Sakata Tōjūrō IV.

Life and career

Tōjūrō was born in Kyoto in 1646; his father, Sakata Ichiemon, was a theatre owner. At the age of 30, he became "zamoto" (theatre head) at the Miyako Mandayū theatre in Kyoto, and began performing there as well as undertaking management duties.

Two years later, in February 1678, Tōjūrō organized and performed in a play called "Yūgiri Nagori no Shōgatsu" which centered upon Osaka's famous and popular courtesan Yūgiri, who had died the previous month. It was in this play that Tōjūrō first pioneered the "wagoto" style of restrained, emotional, and realistic or naturalistic acting. This play would set the precedent not only for on-stage acting styles in Kamigata kabuki, but also for plot elements and structure. "Kuruwa Bunshō", a play heavily based on "Yūgiri Nagori no Shōgatsu", and first performed in 1808, remains today one of the core pieces in the Kamigata repertoire.

After a number of years in Osaka, Tōjūrō returned to Kyoto, where he continued performing regularly. The year 1693 saw the premiere, at the Miyako Mandayū theatre, of "Butsumo Mayasan Kaichō", the first of a number of plays written by the great bunraku playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon specifically for Tōjūrō. As "zamoto", Tōjūrō not only performed regularly, but oversaw the production of plays along with the management and upkeep of the theatre. In addition to performing at his own Miyako Mandayū theatre, he performed at Kyoto theatres owned by Hayagumo Chōdayū, Kameya Kumenojō, and Hoteiya Umenojō, the last of which was managed by his son, Sakata Heishichirō.

He is particularly famous for performing alongside Yoshizawa Ayame I, the chief pioneer "onnagata", specializing in playing only female roles. Tōjūrō is also known for his friendship with Edo actor Nakamura Shichisaburō I, whom he met when the latter was on tour in Kamigata in 1698. Along with Ayame, Tōjūrō features prominently in the "Actor's Analects", a collection of Genroku era (1688-1704) writings on kabuki, containing primarily insights into the lives of kabuki actors, their insights and advice on acting.

Over the course of his career, Tōjūrō played a great many roles, perhaps most frequently that of Fujiya Izaemon, the male lead and Yūjiri's lover in the various versions of "Yūgiri Nagori no Shōgatsu" which were written and produced over the years. It was in this role that he made his "wagoto" debut in the 1678 production of "Yūgiri Nagori no Shōgatsu", and in which he made his final stage appearance, in an October 1708 production by the same name.


* [ Sakata Tōjūrō I at] . Accessed 27 January 2008.

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