Gosannen Oshu Gunki

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Gosannen Ôshû Gunki was a kabuki play specially written by Kawatake Mokuami specifically for former US President Ulysses S. Grant, who visited Japan in 1879. Performed at the Shintomi-za on July 16, 1879, as part of a special gala night, with Grant as the guest of honor, it was the first kabuki play to be seen by a foreign head of state, sitting or former. The Shintomi-za, the only Western-style theater in Japan at the time, was adorned with American flags for the occasion.

The play was meant to relate events in the life of General Grant, including elements of the American Civil War, metaphorically represented by a tale of the historical Gosannen War of the 1080s, with Minamoto no Yoshiie standing in for Gen. Grant, and Kiyohara no Takehira for Robert E. Lee.

Ichikawa Danjûrô IX starred as Minamoto no Yoshiie, while Nakamura Sôjûrô played Kiyohara no Takehira. The program also featured Iwai Hanshirô VIII, Ichikawa Sadanji I, Nakamura Nakazô III, Bandô Kakitsu I and Ichikawa Kodanji V.

A dance-drama featuring Onoe Kikugorô V, Ichikawa Sadanji I, and Bandô Kakitsu I concluded the evening, after which Grant formally presented Morita Kanya XII, zamoto of the theater, with a stage curtain[1], bringing considerable prestige to the institution.


  1. Chang, Richard. "General Grant's 1879 Visit to Japan." Monumenta Nipponica 24:4 (1969). pp388.