Kabuki star Danjuro’s celebratory performances kick off in Tokyo

© Shochiku
Ichikawa Danjuro XIII, Hakuen poses while displaying the “nirami,” the Ichikawa family’s trademark glare, at the Kabukiza Theatre in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, on Monday.

Kabuki performances to commemorate Ichikawa Danjuro Hakuen as the 13th person in the line of actors to take the famed stage name Danjuro began Monday at a sold-out Kabukiza Theatre in Tokyo.

The opening matinee show marked the de facto start of an about two-year nationwide tour of performances to announce the name succession of the 44-year-old kabuki star, formerly known as Ichikawa Ebizo XI.

During the evening show, the formal stage announcement commemorating the name succession saw Danjuro joined onstage by Matsumoto Hakuo II, 80, and other veteran kabuki actors.

“I am far from the league of my predecessors,” Danjuro said in a speech, “but I’d like to make the utmost efforts and commit myself.”

He followed this with the “nirami” glare, a trademark technique of the Ichikawa family that has been passed down through the generations. He thrilled the audience by striking a pose with the defiant cross-eyed glare.

The November program at the theater in Chuo Ward consists of matinees and evening shows in which Danjuro appears. He plays the leads in “Kanjincho” (“The Subscription Scroll”) and “Sukeroku Yukari no Edo Zakura” (“Sukeroku, the Flower of Edo”), both part of the Kabuki Juhachiban, 18 plays associated with the Danjuro line of actors.

Also Monday, Danjuro’s 9-year-old son, who had previously appeared onstage under his real name Kangen Horikoshi, made his debut using the stage name Ichikawa Shinnosuke VIII. Shinnosuke earned a raucous applause in “Uiro Uri” (“The Medicine Peddler”) as he confidently delivered lengthy lines that required about three minutes to finish.