On May 1, the 26-year-old kabuki superstar Ichikawa Shinnosuke officially became Ichikawa Ebizo XI. The ceremonial succession was a monumental event because, for the first time since 1843, two generations of Ichikawas bearing the names Ebizo and Danjuro will play on the same stage at once.
Danjuro is Ebizo’s father, but he was once Ebizo himself, which, of course, means that Ebizo will take on the name Danjuro when his father dies. The Ichikawas are considered the trunk of the kabuki tree, with all other families, including the extremely popular Nakamura clan, being branches. Some kabuki enthusiasts even claim that the Ichikawas invented kabuki.
In kabuki terminology, the coming year will include many shumei hiro, which are special performances to mark the succession, including both father and son at Ginza’s Kabuki-za in May performing the Ichikawas’ juhachiban (trademark plays). Ebizo will also go to Paris in the fall to perform.
On Monday, Nippon TV’s weekly documentary program “Super TV” (10 p.m.) will offer a portrait of Ebizo that covers both his professional life and his personal life. The program presents rare glimpses into the kabuki rien (theater world) with all the customs and ceremonies that make up that world.
Then on Friday, TV Tokyo’s art-variety program, “Takeshi Daredemo Picasso” (Takeshi’s Anyone Can Be Picasso; 10 p.m. ), will welcome Ebizo as a guest. The kabuki star will discuss his new position and his career with host Beat Takeshi and actor Shinichi Tsutsumi, who costarred with Ebizo in last year’s NHK Taiga Drama “Miyamoto Musashi.” The special costume that Ebizo will wear for the ju hachiban performance will be displayed, and the actor will talk about how kabuki will adjust to the realities of the new century.
Rei Nakanishi began his career as one of Japan’s most beloved lyric writers for pop love songs, but since then he has become even more popular as a novelist-memoirist.
On May 5 and 6, TV Tokyo will present a dramatization of one of Nakanishi’s most popular novels, “Akai Tsuki” (Red Moon; 8:54 p.m. Wednesday, 9 p.m. Thursday), which is mainly about his mother.
In the 1930s, the Morita family moves to Manchuria with almost nothing and starts a sake-brewing business that becomes very successful. However, the family’s new wealth cannot protect it from the political upheavals brought about by the war in China. Much of the drama takes place following the Russian invasion that occurred just prior to the Japanese surrender. While Yutaro Morita is out of town on business, his wife, Namiko (Reiko Takahashi), is forced to flee rioting Chinese with her two young children. She heads for Harbin and along the way experiences one horror after another.