‘Now that his life-long dream of having the stage name of Sakata Tojuro has come true, I think Tojuro aspires to revitalize the style of kabuki acting unique to the Kamigata (Kansai) region,” says Shoichi Yamada, the former executive director in charge of bunraku puppet theater at the National Theater. Having followed Tojuro’s career since 1949, Yamada attributes Tojuro’s theatrical success to the invaluable training he received in his 20s in Japan’s traditional performing arts. Still, Yamada says, “Even Tetsuji Takechi, who helped the young Senjaku 60 years ago because he thought he was so promising, would not have dreamt that his protege would make such a remarkable career as a Kabuki actor.”
The Kamigata style that Tojuro practices — called wagoto, and gentler in contrast to the boisterous Kanto aragato style — has been at a low ebb since the deaths of Kataoka Nizaemon XIII (1904-94) and Tojuro’s father, Nakamura Ganjiro II (1902-83). In learning the basics of kabuki acting techniques, Tojuro was guided by Takechi (1912-88), a renowned kabuki critic and director, who helped him master elocution, timing and movement with stars of bunraku and noh. Even Inoue Yachiyo, a famous kyomai (Kyoto-style) dancer, taught him how to imitate the motions of a woman.