Invitation to Kabuki - Guidance for Kabuki appreciation
Kabuki repertoire
Introduction of work
"Kanjincho," a Matsubamemono work based on the Noh play "Ataka," depicts the questioning and responses when Minamoto Yoshitsune, Benkei and their party, escaping to Oshu Hiraizumi, are passing through Ataka no seki (the checkpoint barrier at Ataka).
This play has many highlights such as the breath-taking 'Yamabushi mondo' (questions and responses concerning the lives of mountain warrior-priests) by Benkei and Togashi Saemon, the sekimori (chief barrier guard), the 'Tsumeyori' (confrontation) between Togashi and Benkei, while Benkei holds back the shitenno (Yoshitsune's 4 armed retainers), Benkei's 'Ennen no mai' dance, and 'Tobiroppo' (leaping exit on the Hanamichi).
The actor playing Benkei must show a heroic, stirring, yet thoughtful character. The role of Benkei is very difficult to perform because it demands both oratorical skill and accomplishment in Buyo (dance). Togashi, playing against Benkei, needs to be sufficiently sympathetic to let these people pass through the Ataka no seki even though he realizes they are actually Minamoto Yoshitsune and his party. The role of Yoshitsune also demands that the actor show nobility as a prince of Genji (the Minamoto clan), while making very few movements.
 'Tsumeyori' between Benkei and Togashi. Benkei played by Matsumoto Koshiro 9th and Togashi by Ichikawa Somegoro 7th, "Kanjincho" December 2004
"Kanjincho" was performed for the first time in 1840 by Ichikawa Danjuro 7th [Ichikawa Ebizo 5th at that time] as one of the Kabuki-juhachiban (18 famous plays, specialties of the Ichikawa family), selected mainly from the art of Aragoto which were the specialty of each Danjuro generation. Its Nagauta accompaniment is an excellent piece of music, and the dramatics have been refined by many great actors, so "Kanjincho" is highly popular and is regularly performed even now.
See content here for story and related information.
Culture Digital Library: Work explanation "Kanjincho"
Distinctive expressions
"Roppo" movements symbolically express walking or running by exaggerated movements of hands and feet, so the expression "roppo o fumu" (perform roppo steps) is used. Roppo is mainly done when an actor playing an Aragoto role exits on the Hanamichi.
Tobiroppo at the Makugire (ending) of "Kanjincho" symbolically expresses the mental state of Benkei, who has succeeded in having Yoshitsune and his party to escape in advance, and is running after them. This is one of the highlights of the Benkei role. A dramatic exit technique such as Tobiroppo used by an important character who leaves the stage via the Hanamichi after the Makugire (when the final curtain has been pulled at the end of the play), is called "Makusoto no hikkomi" (an outside-the-curtain exit).