Ichikawa Sadanji I

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A bronze bust of Sadanji at the Kabuki-za
  • Born: 1842/10/28
  • Died: 1904/8/7
  • Japanese: 初代目市川左團次 (shodaime Ichikawa Sadanji)

Ichikawa Sadanji I was among the leading kabuki actors of the Meiji period, alongside Ichikawa Danjûrô IX and Onoe Kikugorô V. He revived the name "Sadanji," which had previously been held by an 18th century actor about which little is known.


Like most kabuki actors, and many artists, of his time, Sadanji had a number of names. His first stage name was Ichikawa Tatsuzô, and he later passed through the names Ichikawa Shôjaku I and Ichikawa Koyone I before being given the name Sadanji in 1864. He was also known by the poetry-name Ichikawa Shôchô, a name he passed on to his daughter, and then to his son-in-law. His yagô was Takashimaya.


Sadanji was the son of Nakamura Seikichi, a theater hair-dresser. Two of his brothers had careers as kabuki actors as well: Nakamura Jusaburô III and Ichikawa Arajirô I.

Sadanji was adopted into the Ichikawa family by Ichikawa Kodanji IV, and had several children who were successful kabuki actors as well. His daughter took the name Ichikawa Shôchô and started a women's kabuki troupe; she married one of Sadanji's disciples, who then also took on the name Shôchô. Sadanji's other son also followed in his footsteps, becoming Ichikawa Sadanji II.

Life and Career

Sadanji was born in Osaka, the son of a theater hairdresser. He had his stage debut at age 6, at the Kado no Shibai in Osaka, and became a disciple of Ichikawa Kodanji IV three years later.

He was adopted by Kodanji in 1864, at the age of 12, and given the name Sadanji. The two then relocated to Edo, where Kodanji died the following year. Sadanji continued on, however, taking part in a number of significant events of the kabuki world of the early years of the Meiji period. In 1870/10, he starred as Marubashi Chûya in the debut of the play Keian Taiheiki, and two years later took part in the opening ceremonies of the Shintomi-za theater. On July 16, 1879, he performed alongside Ichikawa Danjûrô IX, Onoe Kikugorô V, and a number of other prominent actors of the time in a special kabuki performance for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Eight years later, Sadanji, Danjûrô, and Kikugorô had the incredible honor of performing kabuki before an Emperor for the first time in history; this took place in a private engagement at the home of Foreign Minister Inoue Kaoru, in April 1887.

Over the years, Sadanji took part in the premieres of many now-classic plays, including Tsuchigumo in 1881, Funa Benkei in 1885, and Momijigari in 1887. In 1892, he became the head (zagashira) of the rebuilt Ichimura-za, and the following year organized the rebuilding of the Meiji-za, where he became the manager.

Sadanji appeared onstage for the last time in May 1904, at the Meiji-za. He died that August, and is buried alongside a number of other kabuki actors at Ikegami Honmonji.