Kabuki patriarch Danjuro dies at 66


Leading kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro XII died late Sunday of pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital. He was 66.

He had been recuperating from pneumonia, but his condition became critical in mid-January, according to his son, Ichikawa Ebizo, who is also a kabuki actor.

Speaking to reporters outside his father’s home in Tokyo on Monday morning, Ebizo described Danjuro as a man “who cared about people around him before caring about himself. He was a person of great love.”

Danjuro, whose real name was Natsuo Horikoshi, was born in Tokyo, the first son of Ichikawa Danjuro XI. He made his debut in 1953 at age 7 as Ichikawa Natsuo and became Ichikawa Shinnosuke VI in 1958.

Losing his father at age 19, Danjuro studied under his uncle and kabuki actor Onoe Shoroku II before becoming Ichikawa Ebizo V in 1969. In April 1985 in a name-succession ceremony known as “shumei,” he became Ichikawa Danjuro XII.

Danjuro is a stage name taken on by kabuki actors of the Ichikawa family, and is considered the most prestigious of the kabuki stage names. Most members of the family have been blood relatives, although some were adopted.

Recognized for his outstanding theatrical skills, Danjuro won fame for his performances as a “tachiyaku” male actor together with “onnagata” female impersonator Bando Tamasaburo.

Danjuro also contributed to boosting the popularity of kabuki by giving grand name-succession celebrations, including a series of performances at the Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo that ran for three months, an unusually long period for such celebrations. He is also the only kabuki actor to have given shumei performances abroad, staging them in such U.S. cities as New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

He was popular for his grand and expansive style of acting and successful performance of a number of roles that the line of Danjuro specializes in

After being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in May 2004, Danjuro temporarily left the stage between 2004 and 2005 to receive treatment. He made a comeback in May 2006.