国際交流基金 The Japan Foundation Performing Arts Network Japan

Artist Interview アーティストインタビュー

Nov. 4, 2021
Kazutaro Nakamura

新型コロナをきっかけに映像作品「ART歌舞伎」を発表
伝統芸能の未来を拓く中村壱太郎

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Kazutaro Nakamura, opening new horizons for traditional arts,
exemplified by his first film work ART Kabuki prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic

In the 400-year history of the traditional art of Kabuki, it has evolved in two distinctly different styles, that of Edo (Tokyo) and that of Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka). Kazutaro Nakamura (born: 1990) is a young heir of the Kamigata style who specializes in onnagata (actors performing female roles, also oyama). He was raised in a family of Kabuki and traditional dance artists, his grandfather being Tojuro Sakata (1931 – 2020), designated an Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) by the Japanese government, his father Ganjiro Nakamura IV and his mother, Tokuho Azuma II of the 3rd generation of the Azuma school of traditional dance. As an actor, Kazutaro has also ventured into new fields, such as acting in a contemporary play in 2016 directed by the Singapore-native stage director, Ong Keng Sen. Particularly of note is the project that Nakamura planned and executed in July of 2020, a multimedia work to be performed on stage and broadcast online under the title ART Kabuki, which drew much attention at a time when the entire theater world was suffering the overwhelming effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. And then in May of 2021, a filmed-performance version with English subtitles was released for showing in movie theaters, which has gradually been introduced in theaters throughout Japan. The film showings were also well received at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada. In this interview, we explore the ideas behind the innovative creative projects of this young star, Kazutaro Nakamura, in his efforts to open up new frontiers for the future of the traditional arts, and we also had him speak about the inspiration behind “Art Kabuki.”
Interviewer: Fumiko Kawazoe

ART Kabuki
This work was broadcast online in July of 2020 as for-pay content. The production was planned and created by a group centered around Kabuki actor Kazutaro Nakamura along with Kabuki actor Ukon Onoe, Japanese traditional dance artists Genkuro Hanayagi, Ryotaro Fujima and others, as well as traditional Japanese instrument musicians Tomoya Nakai (25-stringed koto), Sho Asano (the Tsugaru-shamisen), Suiho Tosha (the traditional flautist) and Taishi Yamabe (Taiko drum) and Satsuma Biwa performer Kakushin Tomoyoshi. The performance consisted of four part, including dances of the Shijin Korin (dance of the Gods of the Four Directions), Gokoku houjo (Prayer for abundant harvests), Kibou Saiji (Festive prayer for good fortune) and Hana no Kokoro (Satsuma Biwa narrative with biwa accompaniment), all of which were filmed and broadcast online as a single stage production. The performance was also later edited with 5.1ch sound and English subtitle for showings in movie theaters around Japan and abroad.
https://artkabuki.com

In the spring of 2020, the dire effects of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency in Japan that led to the cancellations or postponement of many performances in theaters. When the state of emergency was lifted on May 25th, the theater world began moving forward cautiously again, and I am sure that the Kabuki actors approached this prospect with a variety of feelings. At such a time when the future was full of uncertainties, you started from scratch to plan and prepare implementation of a new work titled ART Kabuki, in which you sought to combine “traditional performance art, modern cinematic technology and art. Considering the fact that the use of digital technology had been rare in the traditional performing arts, I was surprised by the speed of the work you produced and its high level of artistic quality, which drew a lot of attention. Would you begin by looking back over the past year and tell us about the things that led up to the start of this project?
At that time, Kabuki stage performances were being cancelled one after another, and when the state of emergency was declared (for seven metropolises and prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka) on April 7th, I was doing a radio program in Osaka. With travel restrictions set in, it suddenly became hard to move around, so I didn’t go back to Tokyo right away and decided to stay in the house in Osaka. It was in the two weeks I stayed there that I began to think in depth about what I wanted to do going forward.

The months of March and April had been full of frustration and sadness, and as life in Japan basically came to a stop under the state of emergency, I began to seriously worry whether I would be able to continue to be a Kabuki actor in the future. I felt that I was standing on very unstable ground. Entering April, we began to see various efforts in the theater world to broadcast performances online, and I started to think about whether this was perhaps an area where I could do something during the shutdown. I thought about what needed to be done in order to keep Kabuki alive as a form of entertainment, and what kind of role I could play toward that end. As I talked online and by other remote means to a variety of people, one of them who emerged as willing to work with me on ideas from the planning stage was “Waka-Danna” (Shinji Nira, a member of the reggae group Shonan no Kaze), who I had been working with for a while.

It was Waka-Danna’s idea that we contact hair and makeup artists, costume designers and ornament/decoration artists active in the movie and fashion worlds and ask them to work with us. That was the start of everything. Normally, the production process would begin with the writing of a script or screenplay and then begin with working on the [visual] stage art, costumes and such to fit the storyline. But in the case of this work (ART Kabuki), we created new visuals for staging a Kabuki work while talking with these creators from each field. So, in this sense the progression of the creative process was reversed, in that we didn’t start writing the storyline until after these outside, or “peripheral,” art aspects had been decided on.
I would like to ask you about the people who performed in ART Kabuki with you. Especially with the accompanists, they were not the people you usually perform with in Kabuki but emerging performers of traditional Japanese instruments that you had done collaborations with as composers or as performers working in other genres of music.
Concerning the performers, I first consulted with (the fellow Kabuki actor) Ukon Onoe-san, who I had been keeping in contact with at that time about the current status of things. Then I invited the classical Japanese dancers Genkuro Hanayagi-san and Ryotato Fujima-san, whom I had wanted to do collaborations with for some time.

As for the accompanists, including Tomoya Nakai-san (25-stringed koto) (*1), Sho Asano-san (Tsugaru shamisen) (*2), Suiho Tosha-san (Japanese flute) (*3) and Taishi Yamabe-san (taiko, Japanese drum) (*4), as I looked back through the calling cards of accompanists I had worked with in the past, thinking about who I wanted to work with and what I wanted to do with them, I took the liberty of personally contacting directly the ones whose performances had stayed in my mind as being especially appealing. Kakushin Tomoyoshi-san (the Satsuma Biwa) (*5) was one introduced to me by Ukon-san. Although I didn’t know what roles I would have them all playing, I am full of gratitude for the fact that they all came onboard this project so willingly.
So, decisions on the participating members where made simultaneously with the writing of the script and the composition of the performance?
Yes, all the work proceeded simultaneously, and with speed, because I thought that would be the life of the work. By the end of the Golden Week holiday in early May, the project had been planned, the performers were decided on, and we all got together for the first time on June 15th. Then on the 1st of July, we did our first filming and simultaneous audio recording. All of this made it a very fast production pace that was really unprecedented. If we were going to do it, I wanted to take action right away, even for a traditional performance art, and what’s more, I wanted to make it a work of uncompromising artistic quality. This was all possible because I had opportunities and previous experience—skill notwithstanding—in writing scripts, doing stage directing and having a wide range of music composed for me on the spot. To be honest, until I found myself in this situation, I don’t think that I would have been able to put together the ideas and taken action on such a short timetable.
From the age of 19, you participate in the productions of Syuko no Hana (*6), along with its main members, including Kanjuro Fujima-san (b. 1980) of the Soke Fujima school of traditional Japanese dance (Nihon Buyo) that does choreography for Kabuki productions, and Kikunojo Onoe-san (b. 1976), the head of the Onoe school, as well as your senior Kabuki actor Koshiro Matsumoto-san (b. 1973, at the time Somegoro). This is a young group that has also done Nagauta (classical Japanese song recitation) and original Soke school Kabuki works (by Kanjuro) performed without traditional Kabuki makeup, among other things that were normally outside the genre of traditional Kabuki. In the Syuko no Hana productions staged every summer for seven years, you also took on the responsibility of writing scripts and directing. Those various experiences surely helped you this time, didn’t they?
Yes, I believe they did. Writing scripts and directing are things we can’t experience in our normal role as actors. In the summer of 2019, we did a “Kabuki School for Children – Terakoya(*7), and we created a play with the students titled Yon Yushi (Four Heroes), and that was something I was able to experience thanks to my seniors in Syuko no Hana. With ART Kabuki, I feel it was these past experiences and my strong desire to experiment with such an endeavor that enabled me to do it with such speed.
ART Kabuki was filmed using a Noh stage build at a shrine in Tokyo. Seven cameras were used to film the single one-take performance of it. On July 12th it was broadcast online as for-pay content, and after the set period of time, it became archived for release as for-pay content. The performance was divided into four parts (acts), with the first three parts being original dance and the fourth part being an original dance to a narrative recitation with biwa (Japanese traditional harp) accompaniment. The subject for Part 1 was the traditional holy animals of the four directions, Azure Dragon of the East, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Tortoise of the North. It consisted of four solo dances to different musicians’ performances with your dancing the Azure Dragon part to music performed by Nakai-san, and then Genkuro-san appearing as the Vermilion Bird to music performed by Tosha-san, etc. Part 2 was a musical part with a folk song singing of the lives of an agrarian people accompanied by a vigorous rolling of Tsugaru shamisen refrains and drums like a rumbling of thunder. Part 3 expresses the Sanbaso (the traditional “third dancer” to appear in a Kabuki play) (*8), which was performed as a group dance to drum accompaniment by Yamabe-san with a ringing of bells and a stomping on the earth as in Shinto shrine rituals of prayer for abundant harvests. Then in Part 4, you dance the part of a woman who has lost her husband and child in war, while Ukon-san performs the role of a man injured in battle, along with Tomoyoshi-san’s narrative of Hana no Kokoro to Satsuma Biwa accompaniment. When I saw the movie version with English subtitles, I was impressed anew at what an innovative experiment it was in presenting the heart of traditional Japanese performance arts in imaginative new ways.
I had a general overall image involving things like wanting to introduce all the performers in the opening part. However, finding whose dance fit best with which musician’s music was something I couldn’t do until we actually tried things out on stage. I left the music mostly up to each of the musicians to create, and the fine details were worked out through discussions with everyone in the rehearsals. As the rehearsals progressed, we came to see the strengths of each of the performers and were then able to exchange opinions about things like which parts to emphasize and develop further, for example.

In creative sessions like these, the most important thing is to sharpen our senses so that we can find solutions to things on the spot and make quick decisions about what to adopt. Things don’t go well if you adopt a creative process based on saying, “Let’s think about that until tomorrow.” Of course, there are times when things don’t go well from the start and we have to go back and rethink them completely from the beginning. Also, it goes without saying that these were all exceptional artists working on the front line of their specific artistic areas, so they all have the ability to absorb and adapt to the work at hand. I think that the reason for this production’s success was the willingness of all the participants to actively make suggestions for new alternatives and possibilities for the issues that arose. It was by no means something that I directed by myself, so in the credits we listed four names for the directing and choreography.
In Part 3, the Sanbaso, you and Ukon-san covered your whole bodies in the traditional Japanese straw rainwear, which was a very unique costuming that really surprised me. In what is known as a very rare festival, the Kasedori festival, which is held in the so-called “Little New Year” (around the 15th of January) in the city of Kaminoyama in Yamagata Prefecture to pray for abundant harvests and other blessings in the coming year. In it, the Kasedori wears a straw rainwear and walks through the town. Was that the image you had?
Yes, it was. I found the image in the French photographer Charles Fréger’s photograph collection YOKAI NO SHIMADisguises of the gods found in all things in Japanese festivals that the hair and makeup artist Noboru Tomizawa-san showed me. In that collection there was a photograph taken at that festival in northern Japan, and it was so fascinating the way the whole body of the Kasedori was covered in straw, from the head down. I worked some variations into that, but it was just one of the examples of the innovative ideas that came from our participants in the area of visuals as well.
Also, the actors’ makeup and hair styling were very boldly conceived, and your makeup and costume for Hana no Kokoro of Part 4 made an especially powerful impact. Your makeup had a red circle applied by air brush to your white-washed face makeup, and your headpiece created by edenworks (flower webshop, Emi Shinozaki) using dried flowers had the appearance of a veritable art object in itself. And your total outfit for the role of a woman who had lost her husband and child in war had a very abstract aspect.
I feel this is a case where they proposed something that I never would have conceived. That said, I don’t feel it was something that completely overturned the Kabuki aesthetics. So I had no qualms about performing in that outfit. Conversely, it gave me a new sense of thinking about how I could give expression to the new ideas they had proposed, and that turned out to be a very enjoyable experience.
In addition, in Hana no Kokoro, Tomokichi-san’s Satsuma Biwa (a recitation (storytelling) form with biwa accompaniment that developed in Satsuma Domain (present-day Kagoshima, Kyushu) during the Warring States period (1467- 1615) to inspire samurai with tales of heroic deeds) was performed with great strength that was also innovative and inspiring.
When I initiated the ART Kabuki project, I thought that dedicated efforts to tell stories must be an important part of it. As I was writing the script for Hana no Kokoro, I got the feeling that it should use some kind of music that had punch and made a strong impact. At first, I thought that it might best be performed by a Gidayu (an artist specialized in powerful story recitation), but Ukon-san brought in Tomokichi-san to join us. And as we talked, he told me about the Kanginshu ballads (16th century Japanese songs and ballads) (*9). From that, I got hints for words that we would use. Since I learned from them that there are certain words that are easier for the recitation performers to use, I asked Tomokichi to help rewrite the script to add such words. So, that recitation script became a collaboration with Tomokichi-san.

As with Kouta ballads, in the ballads of the Kanginshu collection, when people of old sung of their wishes for the afterlife, they used the word yume (dream). And that started me thinking about what it means to live in the present. What does it mean to “live” in the time of the coronavirus pandemic? Questions like that came to mind one after another, and it made me think: “People are born, and they die. But in some way the heart, the spirit does go on.” That led me to think that this is what naturally led to the birth of the concept we call Rinne Tensho, the concept of all things being in flux through the endless circle of birth, death and rebirth; the circle of transmigration. So, in my mind I got the idea that rather than trying to directly convey a single message, wouldn’t it be good to convey things that started associations deep in the minds of the audience and set their imaginations to work.
You filmed ART Kabuki on a Noh stage in a shrine grounds, and on the day of the filming (July 1, 2020) I understand that the weather was unpredictable, which caused some difficulties, didn’t it?
That was the only day when all of the performers were free to come together, and we didn’t have any second day reserved in case something went wrong. Since the start of the online broadcast had been set for July 12th, if the whole thing couldn’t be filmed on this day (July 1st), there would not be enough time to edit the film by the 12th. So, we had to film it on this day, but a drizzling rain continued until night, and the moment we started filming, it turned into an unbelievable downpour. But, when I started dancing the Azure Dragon part in the Shijin Korin (dance of the gods of the four directions) the rain was falling, and when Ukon-san started dancing the Black Tortoise part the wind started blowing, and those sudden happenings actually turned out making the performances even more exciting (laughs).

Even though the musical instruments are vulnerable to water, the musicians kept playing, and although there was fear that the filming equipment and cameras would get wet, they kept filming until the job was done without stopping. And, for example, even though this was going to be an edited film presentation, I definitely believed that if the whole thing was filmed live and in one take, it would still give the viewers the feeling of being present, like with a live stage performance. So, that was one thing I wanted to accomplish without compromise. So, as I was performing, I remember a feeling of gratitude for so many things and everyone’s efforts.
Since the company KSR Corp. that you worked with on this production is a music-related production company, the camera work and lighting they brought to the stage was also refreshing, with an aspect something like a live (outdoor) concert. We hear that one of the cinematographers was a foreigner.
Since I was determined to do all the filming as first takes, with no reshooting, we had seven cameras doing the filming simultaneously. Indeed, one of the cinematographers was a foreigner, and our filming director had told him that he was free to film as he wished, relying on his own sensibilities. The result was that he filmed in a way that I felt was refreshingly straight-forward and beautiful to the eye. In the Satsuma Biwa scene of Part 4, the close-up shots of the performers’ fingers as they played their instruments were shot by him. It surprised me to see what he chose to focus on, and it was a wonderful revelation for we. I definitely learned something new from his work.
Prior to the start of the online broadcast of ART Kabuki you began publicizing it on your YouTube channel, Nakamura Kazutaro (Kabuki Creation), and you used that as a platform to share with your viewers things like information about the making of the production.
I asked for opinions from the filming team and the production team and got valuable input about pre-broadcast advertising methods such as showing scenes from the making of the production prior to the start of broadcasts. During that process I also had thoughts about whether there might be other publicity tools than just using YouTube alone. Since I wanted to know what the reaction was among people who had been following me on my YouTube channel, and since I didn’t know what kinds of people would show an interest in ART Kabuki, my first strategy was to ask around for opinions from everyone I could think of. And since there had already been indications as we were talking about this first production that people wanted to follow it up with a second production and maybe more, I thought that I also wanted to build a foundation that could be used for future projects.
In addition to being a new attempt for you in the artistic field of film, it was also an effort to expand the audience for the traditional performance art of Kabuki. While of course being an attempt by young Kabuki actors to create a new type of stage production, you were also undertaking new attempts to use contemporary methods such as advertising on Instagram. This year’s version of the annual “March Hanagata Kabuki” at the Minamiza Theater saw a performance by four young actors under the age of 30, including yourself, Ukon-san, Yonekichi Nakamura-san and Hashinosuke Nakamura-san. And one thing that was so revolutionary for a Kabuki performance was the fact that afterwards, before the sweat had dried on your brows, all of you could be heard talking about how you all were doing live updates on Instagram on a daily basis, telling people about your thoughts concerning Kabuki.
This kind of publicity was undoubtedly one of the things I learned from the ART Kabuki experience. When we were all talking about continuing communication with the audience during the performances, the theater side also offered their cooperation. Since, with online broadcasts, we don’t know what kinds of people make up our audience and where they are, I believe that the important thing is not for us, as young performers, to decide what are the highlights for the audience to see and try to convince them of that. Rather, I thought it was best for us to try to get out as much information as possible on a broader basis. If we begin by narrowing down the points of access, it becomes more likely that people will feel that what we are doing is too hard to understand, or too distant because it is the old classical form. We don’t really know what is attracting the audience to what we do, but I believe that, by its nature, Kabuki is an art that can be rather easy for people to get into if we simply provide them with the opportunity. Of course, there are other hurdles to clear, such as the high price of tickets to (theater) performances, but I believe that what we must continue to do is to create more opportunities for people to see Kabuki in more venues. And if we create those opportunities for people but they still aren’t attracted enough to come see it, then that means we have to start rethinking what we are doing (laughs).
I felt that the way you programed things to have different members of your performer team appearing at the opening on different days to give the audience explanations of what they would see was a very considerate way to introduce the performances from the standpoint of audience that was new to Kabuki. I also felt that having the different performers talk about the appeal of Kabuki in their own words seemed to help communicate things more directly to the audience.
Yes, it is very important that the performers speak in their own words. If we begin by having our young performers speak to the audience in contemporary language like normal young people, I believe it adds an extra measure of fascination when the audience then sees them come out on stage in full Kabuki costume with the white-washed face makeup and all.
Are there any things that you are especially careful to point out when you are explaining to new audience or to foreigners what Kabuki is all about?
Explained in simple terms, Kabuki is performance in three forms: music (uta), dance (mai) and performance (ki, or the character-acting craft of Kabuki). Also, you can explain that Kabuki is a form of theater with a long history that is performed only by men. But I feel that it is also extremely important to help get people to understand the position that Kabuki has held in Japanese history and culture.
I would also like to ask you about your role as a practitioner of traditional Japanese dance (Nihon Buyo). In 2014, you were given the name Tokuyo Azuma in your succession to the position as the 7th head of the Azuma school of Nihon Buyo. We are told that that the proposal for you to succeed as head of the Azuma school was made by your mother, Tokuho Azuma II, who herself succeeded to the position as head of the Azuma school at the young age of 20. Compared to the past, when Nihon Buyo was primarily something that families had their young girls learn, today the environment surrounding Nihon Buyo has changed significantly.
One of the big appeals of Nihon Buyo is that, unlike Kabuki, people from the general public can study and experience performing in it. But as you say, this is no longer the era when it was primarily something families had their girls learn as a credential to prove their status as good marriage candidates. So, I believe that in order for Nihon Buyo to survive in today’s environment, the dancers will have to earn the status of dance artists and entertainers that others aspire to be like. For that reason, we have to increase the number of people who want to study Nihon Buyo of their own will (rather than on the decision of their parents). I believe that in order to keep the art from going into decline, the issue for the future will be how to open it up to the general public, rather than having it remain a gathering of the inner circle of members of the various schools of Nihon Buyo.

I also feel that we have to think deeply about how to bring out the different characters and strengths of the art as it is practiced in the different schools of Nihon Buyo. Just as there are different types of delicious dishes in Japanese, Chinese, French and Italian cuisine, for example, if we don’t think about what makes them each delicious—what we call the umami in Japanese—we won’t be able to give them real individuality that is appealing. In this sense, I think we are no longer in a time when it is enough to just practice traditional Nihon Buyo as before.
The Azuma school of Nihon Buyo came to an end once in the Edo Period (17th to mid-19th centuries) but was revived again in the Showa Period of the 20th century by a new founder, your great-grandmother, the 1st Tokuho Azuma (1909-1998). And we are told that the original founder of the Azuma school was an oyama (or Onnagata male actor of female roles in Kabuki) of the Ichimura-za theater. As you yourself are an oyama actor in Kabuki, your presence as head of a Nihon Buyo school may very well lead to interesting new developments.
You can say that the dance works of the Azuma school are characterized by strongly dramatic movement, and although there are also body movements that are smooth and delicate, in general, the use of the body maintains a solidly based core of strength. Of course, it varies with individual pieces, but as a woman, the style that my great-grandmother developed contains many works that reflect that kind of strength of movement, so I have to think carefully about how I express that with my male body. Of course, at the same time, this is a question that is linked to the basic job of an oyama (Onnagata) actor of women’s roles in Kabuki.
In the 1950s, the 1st Tokuho Azuma traveled to Europe to perform what was then called “Azuma Kabuki” in some ten countries, and we have records saying that one of those who liked the performances in Paris was none other than Jean Cocteau. In that sense, your great-grandmother showed herself to be an artist who engaged in very progressive projects.
I believe that the “Azuma Kabuki” that was performed overseas was presented in the style of a revue, with a strong “show” type orientation. In that sense, I feel that Nihon Buyo still has the kind of expressive language that can excite and please people around the world.
When we think of a revue style, it also brings to mind the “Koma Kabuki” revue (held for a decade or so from around 1965 at the West and East Koma theaters with your grandfather Tojuro Sakata, who at the time was Senjaku Nakamura II, as the main performer whose dance was very well received). The rapid progression of the dance in the first half of ART Kabuki is close to a revue style in some sense, I felt.
As time has progressed, the things my grandfather was doing in his younger days have been re-evaluated as containing elements that were quite novel and fresh for their day. Presenting recent original dance pieces in a revue-like fashion is one of the things that I have hoped to do eventually. And I feel that the strength of group dance pieces is something that can be attractive and appreciated in the contemporary vein.
You have performed overseas on projects with the Japan Foundation. What were your main criteria for choosing the works you performed overseas?
It depends partly on the character of the region we go to, but with dance, it is not the case that it will always be best to choose dances that are pleasing to the eye and extravagant; because we are often told that it is best if it is dance that includes dramatic storytelling as well. This is something I experienced very clearly myself in Europe when I performed the dance Sagi Musume (The Heron Maiden, a dance portraying the unrequited love of a heron). In such a case, it is not the immediate applause that the audience gives at the sight of techniques like hikinuki (the Kabuki technique of instantaneous on-stage costume changes), but the applause that comes the moment the curtain falls at the end of the performance. That is applause that tells you this is an audience that is applauding the overall dramatic impact of the performance. The Japan Foundation has given me opportunities to perform in the South Korea, Switzerland, Hungary and Poland, and all of these have been very valuable experiences for me.
We are still dealing with the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but the difficulties of these times can also open up new opportunities for the future. Could you tell us about any developments or issues that you have in mind going forward?
Although as a young artist my most important task is to work on the scope and depth of my art, at the same time I have to make efforts to learn about the venues through which we can spread the reach of our art. And if we don’t do that, in the end we will lose our place in the world of performing arts. It is very difficult to translate the effect of what we have now done with ART Kabuki into a message that actually attracts people to come to see Kabuki performances in the theaters. But it remains our mission to open up multiple venues and routes through which people can become interested in Kabuki. I believe that it is important for us to sow the seeds in numerous places and provide numerous steps in the growing process. But it takes time to sow the seeds and water them until they blossom and bear fruit. And I don’t even know if we will be able to harvest the fruits of these efforts in my generation, or if that may be left to the next generation. But I don’t want to think about harvesting that fruit yet. I want to view things in the long-term perspective with the conviction to work toward that eventual harvest.

The musical component of ART Kabuki was very well received, and with those musicians we have started an ART Kabuki MUSIC LIVE (*10) project. I am also thinking about a second version of ART Kabuki, and in this way, I want to value the possibilities of one project leading on to more, so I will continue to explore ways that variations can be added to continue these efforts going forward.
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Kazutaro Nakamura
Born in 1990 in Tokyo as the eldest son of Ganjiro Nakamura. His grandfather is Tojuro Sakata IV, and his mother is Tokuho Azuma. November 1991, at the Minami-za theater in Kyoto, he made his first appearance on the Kabuki stage under the name Kazutaro Hayashi in the play Kuruwa Bunsho (Love Letters from the Pleasure Quarters) as Fuji-Ya’s Tedai (salesclerk). In January 1995, at the Naka-za theater in Osaka, he gave his debut performance on the Kabuki stage under the name Kazutaro Nakamura in the play Komochi Yamanba (Mountain Ogress with a Child) playing the role of Kintoki (the first child Kintoki). In 2007, at the age of 16, he became the youngest actor ever to perform the masterpiece dance of Kagami Jishi (The Mirror Lion), and in 2010 he played the important role of Ohatsu in the Kabuki classic Sonezaki Shinju (First great love suicide drama) at the same age of 19 as the character Ohatsu. In 2014, Kazutaro was given the name Tokuyo Azuma in his succession to the position as the 7th head of the Azuma school of Nihon Buyo traditional Japanese dance. In 2016, he won the Encouragement Award of the Osaka Culture Festival Awards. In April of the same year, he performed in the play Sandaime Richard (Richard III) written by Hideki Noda and directed by Ong Keng Sen. In March of 2019, he was awarded the Newcomer Award of the Matsuo Performing Arts Awards in the theater category for his performances in plays including Taki no Shiraito (The white threads of a waterfall) and Osome no Nanayaku (Seven Roles of Osome). In 2016, Kazutaro created the shrine maiden’s ceremonial dance performed by the heroine Miyamizu Mitsuha and her sister Yotsuha in the animated film Kimi no Na ha (Your Name) directed by Makoto Shinkai. In 2020, Kazutaro produced and performed in the original online-distribution work ART Kabuki. In June of 2021 he starred in the contemporary play Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome (Night is short, walk on girl). In these ways he has continued to expand his scope of activities to include not only Kabuki but also contemporary theater, and the radio and television media.

*1 Tomoya Nakai (Koto, 25-stringed koto),
Born at Tsu city in Mie prefecture, Nakai is a Japanese koto harp, Sangen (three-string) and 25-stringed koto performer and composer. He graduated from the traditional Japanese music course of the Faculty of Music of Tokyo University of the Arts. He started to play koto from the age of 6 and Sangen from the age of 12, devoting himself to these studies of classical koto as well as Jiuta shamisen. By mastering the 25-stringed koto, with its broader range of sound, he continued to pursue the possibilities and artistic range of the koto. Nakai has also ventured into composing and arrangement and pursued a style that blends the classical with modern music. He has created a wide range of works that draw on Japanese traditional literature and Noh as well as mythology from around the world. Abroad, he has engaged in international exchanges under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japan’s Embassies, and in 2018, he participated in programs celebrating the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Sweden.
https://tomoyanakai.com/

*2 Sho Asano (the Tsugaru shamisen)
Born 1990 in Sendai, Asano is a Tsugaru shamisen performer. At the encouragement of his grandfather, be began playing the Wadaiko (Japanese drum) at the age of 3 and the Tsugaru shamisen at the age of 5, studying under Tokuo Odashima, the 2nd master of the Sangen Odashima-ryu school. At the age of 7 he became the youngest participant ever in the Tsugaru Shamisen National Convention (Hirosaki). From the following year he began a string of records as youngest-ever class winner. In 2004, at the age of 14 he the youngest winner ever in Class A of the Tsugaru Shamisen National Convention. He continued to win the Class A competition for three straight times until 2006 and was nominated for membership in the Convention’s Hall of Fame. At the age of 17 he made his major debut, and in 2008, he gave a live solo performance in Washington D.C. He went on to a performance tour of Canada in April and May of that year, and in September of 2011, he participated in a “Sho Asano & Ensemble” Tour in Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) presented by the Japan Foundation.
http://www.j-s.co.jp/asano/

*3 Suiho Tosha (traditional Japanese flute performer)
Born 1979 in Tokyo, Tosha is flute performer of the Shinobue Japanese transverse bamboo flute. He studied under his grandfather, Shuho Tosha, his uncle, Meisho Tosha, and his father, Yoshio Nakagawa. He went on to complete the graduate course at the Tokyo University of the Arts. He is recipient of the Jokan Award, the Doseikai New Artist of the Year Award, the Acanthus Music Award. In 2004, he was given the artist name Tosha Suiho, the former name of his uncle. In 2011, Tosha was recommended for the National Theater of Japan’s Emerging Artist Award in Traditional Japanese Dance and Music. He has performed throughout Japan and abroad, and his activities include performances in the Ryoma Quartet of violin and traditional Japanese instrument performers.
https://m.facebook.com/toshasuiho/

*4 Taishi Yamabe (Taiko)
Born 1988 in Okayama Prefecture. He became familiar with drums from the age of 3 and first performed on stage at the age of 6. At the age of 16 he won the highest award at youngest age ever in the Tokyo International Japanese Drum Competition / Big Drums Division. Yamabe has pursued a wide range of collaborations with entertainers such as Japanese Enka singers, the internet character Kyary Pamyu Pamyu as well as Japanese Pop and Rock musicians, and he has also expanded his activities as a professional musician overseas. He has also participated in the Japanese concert WA! Of the large-scale international entertainment series FUERZA BRUTA, which has attracted total audience of more than 5 million in 30 countries and regions around the world.
https://www.yamabe-taishi.com/

*5 Kakushin Tomoyoshi (Satsuma Biwa)
Born 1965 in Tokyo. Tomoyoshi began taking lessons from an early age in a range of traditional Japanese arts, and with the encouragement of his father he began to study the art of Satsuma Biwa under Kinshi Tsuruta. In addition to performances of the traditional repertory, he has also continued to perform in collaboration with musicians from other genres both in Japan and abroad. Recently, he has also performed biwa music for the video game Monster Hunter. Tomoyoshi has also worked as a consultant on traditional performing arts for some long-running TV dramas on NHK (Japan’s National Broadcasting Corporation) and is a regular on NHK Radio programs.
http://biwagaku.com

*6 “Shuko no Hana”
With main members including the Kabuki actor Somegoro Ichikawa VII (now Koshiro Matsumoto, head of the Matsumoto school of Nihon Buyo), the Nihon Buyo artist Kanjuro Fujima (head of the Sōke Fujima school) and Kikunojo Onoe (head of the Onoe school of Nihon Buyo), this group was active from 2008 to 2014 giving performances that that went beyond classical Kabuki to present programs representing a varied range of interests. As one of the young Kabuki actors participating, Kazutaro used the name Shunko to write and direct productions including Wakagi Kurabe Naniwa no Hishiori (2013).

*7 Kabuki Academy “Kabuki School for Children – Terakoya”
This was a school (workshop) organized by the Shochiku Company with instructors actually involved in Kabuki for the purpose of teaching children such those involved in Nihon Buyo dance and child actors acting in Kabuki such skills required for movement (such as control of the hem) and proper etiquette when wearing traditional Japanese costume. In the summer of 2019, the students of this school performed in a production of the play Yon-Yushi (Four Heroes). Kazutaro wrote, directed and choreographed and arranged the music for the production.

*8 Sanbaso
Rooted in the Noh play Okina, which combines a ceremony of holy music praying for peace in the realm, the Sanbaso dance is said to be a celebration of an abundant harvest and is characterized by a rigorous beating of time with the feet to firm up the ground for farming, while the ringing of bells represents the sowing of seeds, which suggests the wish for abundant harvests to come. And elements of it can be seen in Kabuki and Ningyo Joruri (Japanese puppet theater with narrative recitation and dialog accompanied by a shamisen) and also the various folk arts and puppet plays that remain in regions around Japan.

*9 Kanginshu
The Kanginshu is an early 16th century collection of 311 Japanese songs and ballads that was popular in the Muromachi Period.

*10 Art Kabuki Music Live
This project is a spin-off from ART Kabuki in which the main traditional instrument performers from that production, namely Sho Asano (Tsugaru shamisen), Suiho Tosha (traditional Japanese flute), Tomoya Nakai (25-stringed koto) and Taishi Yamabe (Taiko drum) perform concerts. Also participating in the concerts will be Kazutaro and other dancers.