By Denys Lionel Page

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By 1964, Japan had so impressed the world by its postwar regeneration that it was allowed to host the Olympics, something in which it took enormous pride. Kabuki offered special programs designed to bring its artistry to the thousands of foreigners flooding Tokyo for the Olympics and looking for exciting ways to spend their evenings. Japanese products, including automobiles, were gradually gaining foreign acceptance for their high quality in the 1950s, a departure from Japan’s reputation for producing cheap goods.

Kabuki was dominated by a hierarchy based on the age and prestige of its top veterans, and in 1946, the actor who would have played it was Ebizō’s father, Matsumoto Kōshirō VII (1870–1949). But an American kabuki expert named Faubion Bowers (1917–1999), who also 1 The formal title is Sukeroku Yukari no Edo Zakura (Sukeroku: Flower of Edo). 22 chapter two Fig.  Ichikawa Ebizō IX (left) as Sukeroku and Onoe Baikō as Agemaki, Kabuki-za, January 1953. (Photo: Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum) happened to be an official theatre censor for the Occupation, loved to meddle in kabuki’s affairs and insisted that Ebizō—until then a promising but unexceptionable actor on the rise—play the part.

Thus the same actor may be referred to in one chapter as, for example, Ichikawa Ebizō, and in another as Ichikawa Danjūrō; the narrative and context will hopefully make clear which actor is meant. 10 chapter one traditional name-taking and memorial ceremonies for stars of yesteryear. Economic conditions also sparked potent rivalries between theatre companies, theatre genres, and famous actors, all of which served, sporadically, to stimulate audience interest. Traditional group loyalties were disrupted by the new democratic tendencies, and many actors began to exercise greater autonomy over their careers than had been the case in the prewar days.

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