Maholo Terajima Becomes 1st Official Dual-national Kabuki Actor

Maholo Terajima attends a press conference at the French Embassy in Tokyo on Feb.7.

TOKYO (AFP-Jiji) — Maholo Terajima has performed kabuki — a type of Japanese theater that dates back to the 17th century — several times on stage since he was four.

But his May performance at Tokyo’s Kabuki-za theatre will be his formal debut under the stage name Onoe Maholo. “I’ve always loved kabuki, since I was little,” he said in French and Japanese at a press conference, adding that he hopes to one day perform in France.

“I’ll practice hard so that our audience will enjoy the show,” said Terajima, who wore a black kimono and grey hakama trousers for the Feb. 7 event at the French Embassy.

Kabuki shows are all-male affairs combining dance, drama and music, with men playing female roles. The actors — scions of families of kabuki performers who usually begin training in childhood — don ornate costumes, wigs and heavy makeup for performances on elaborate sets.

Terajima’s mother is actress Shinobu Terajima, the daughter of kabuki star Onoe Kikugoro VII, who was awarded “national treasure” status from the government for his work. His father is a French art director.

It is the first time a dual national has officially become a kabuki actor, although Ichimura Uzaemon who was adopted into a kabuki family in 1878 is said to have had a French-American father. Terajima’s mother, whose younger brother is also a kabuki actor, was not eligible because of her gender.

On Feb. 7, she said that although she and her husband are not kabuki actors, her son “has support from my father and brother.” Terajima once wanted to be a football player, but he said that was “no longer” his dream. “I want to be a comic actor, like my grandpa,” he said.

Maholo Terajima, center, poses in Tokyo on Feb. 7 with, from left, his parents Laurent Ghnassia and Shinobu Terajima, entertainment production company Shochiku President Junichi Sakomoto, French Ambassador Philippe Setton, his uncle Onoe Kikunosuke V and his grandfather Onoe Kikugoro VII.