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Nakamura Tamashichi I [中村玉七] greeting the audience, with memorial portrait of Nakamura Utaemon IV [中村歌右衛門]

Identifier: 1860 Hirosada actors kyoka

This print functions on two levels: an actor performing in the play Fūryū Rokkasen and a memorial print or shini-e (死絵). The Museum of Fine Arts curatorial notes say: "After the death of Utaemon IV, who had played all five of the male poets, Tamashichi took over his roles in the play."


These actors, one live and one probably deceased, are posed in this print in position used during the kōjō (口上) or prologue.

Clyde Haberman wrote in the New York Times on July 7, 1985:

As grand ceremonies go, the Kojo is not spectacular. Mostly, it involves 20 minutes of praise for the principal actor from his fellow performers, speeches delivered in the familiar, exaggerated manner of Japanese Kabuki, with voices ranging from low-range rumbles to supersonic screeches. When they have finished and he himself has spoken, the principal actor rises from a deep bow. Half-standing, half-sitting, he thrusts out his right leg, holds aloft a small lectern and scroll and, from that uncomfortable position, glares at the audience. That is all. He just glares, a defiant gaze, if slightly cross-eyed.

Of course, that was the description of the kōjō for one specific performance. It should not be viewed as a template for all of other examples.

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