Kabuki Performance: Kanjinchō
14-minute video featuring 35-year old Kabuki Super Star, Ebizo…………………….
Last week, I saw an outstanding Kabuki performance by ICHIKAWA Ebizo, a 35-year old, 11th generation super star Kabuki actor. The same performance was earlier captured on Youtube, which I include here.
The story, which is a modified version of a Noh play, takes place in the late 1100’s, and is taken from the great heroic epic tale of MINAMOTO Yoshitsune, one of the greatest warriors of all time. (Incidentally, he actually grew up at Kurama Temple, located just up the road from my house.)
The gist of the story: Yoshitsune (pulled up blue kimono, yellow hakama trousers) is traveling incognito with his loyal men, who are disguised as ascetic mountain monks. Ebizo plays the part of Benkei (black coat, plaid kimono and white hakama trousers), one of the most beloved figures in Japanese history. The group tries to cross a bridge and are stopped by local officials who are on the lookout for Yoshitsune, so the group pretends to be seeking donations for a temple in Nara. The head official (in a light blue kimono and tall black hat) asks them to show their list of donors to prove their identity as priests, so Benkei produces a blank piece of paper and pretends to read it. Benkei had actually been trained as a mountain monk so was able to be act convincingly. Though the official sees that the paper is blank, he so admires Benkei’s daring and skill that he lets the group pass after asking him a number of challenging questions about Buddhism, which he is able to answer.
When they are just about to escape, a guard notices that one of the men looks like Yoshitsune. Benkei acts as if Yoshitsune is a mere servant and starts to beat him for causing them trouble. Later, Yoshitsune thanks Benkei for saving them all so skillfully, but Benkei bursts into tears for having had to beat his master.
The play ends with a grand celebratory dance by Benkei.