Ichikawa Danjuro II

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  • Born: 1688/10/11
  • Died: 1758/9/24
  • Other Names: Ichikawa Kuzô I, Ichikawa Ebizô II
  • Poetry Names: 才牛 (Saigyû), 白煙 (Hakuen), 三升 (Sanshou)
  • Japanese: 二代目市川團十郎 (nidaime Ichikawa Danjuurou)

Ichikawa Danjûrô II was a prominent kabuki actor of the Genroku period, son and heir to kabuki pioneer Ichikawa Danjûrô I.

He was regarded as the greatest tachiyaku actor (specialist in heroic/protagonist male characters) of his time, and is credited with contributing to the creation of a number of the plays later included in the Kabuki Jûhachiban, a collection of the greatest plays or pieces performed by the Ichikawa family. Those pioneered by Danjûrô II include Uirô Uri, Ya no ne, Kenuki, Oshimodoshi, Nanatsu men, Kagekiyo, and Kan'u. Along with Sawamura Sôjûrô I, Bandô Hikosaburô I and Ôtani Hiroji I, he was also known as one of the "Shitennô," the Great Four Actors, of his time.


Like most kabuki actors, and many artists, of his time, Danjûrô had a number of names. He was the second to be called Ichikawa Danjûrô. His yagô was Naritaya. Other names he used on stage include Ichikawa Ebizô II and Ichikawa Kuzô I. In poetry circles, he often used the names Saigyû, Sanshô, and Hakuen.


Danjûrô was the son of the first Ichikawa Danjûrô. He had a son who, in turn, followed him as Ichikawa Danjûrô III, as well as an adopted son who later became Ichikawa Danjûrô IV. Through them, Danjûrô II had numerous descendants who were also actors on the kabuki stage, alongside his numerous disciples.

Life and Career

The boy who would later become Danjûrô II was born in Edo on 1688/10/11, after his father prayed to Fudô Myôô, god of Narita-san Shinshô-ji, for a son.

He made his first appearance onstage in 1697/5, at the Nakamura-za, taking the name Ichikawa Kuzô I. Three years later, he and his father began performing more exclusively at the Nakamura-za; Kuzô delivered his first lines onstage in a performance in 1700/11. Father and son moved to the Morita-za in 1702/11, and then to the Ichimura-za in 1703/11.

He was 16 years old on 1704/2/19, when his father was killed onstage by Ikushima Hanroku, possibly before young Kuzô's eyes. At the suggestion of friends and family, he adopted his father's name at a ceremony at the Yamamura-za in 1704/7, becoming Danjûrô II and establishing the name Ichikawa Danjûrô as a hereditary name held by the top actor in the community. He famously gave an extemporaneous memorial speech several days later which included a discussion of famous historical swords in which, through the use of wordplay, he named his father's killer.

For a number of years after his father's death, up through 1709, Danjûrô suffered a slump in his career, as enemies of his father with influence among the theatre managers denied him major roles and shut him out from playing any prominent part in the kabuki world.

Danjûrô returned to prominence circa 1709, and the following year performed the lead role in Narukami (a role pioneered by his father) for the first time.[1] Three years later, in 1713/3, played the lead role in the debut of the first Sukeroku play, Hana Yakata Aigo Zakura. Over the course of his career, Danjûrô moved between the major Edo theatres, performing in many different plays, including, on occasion, prominent premieres. The first month of 1719 marked the kabuki debut of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's Sonezaki Shinju, in which Danjûrô played the lead role. In 1727/11, Danjûrô performed in a production in which a trap door (seri) was used for the first time for actors' entrances. This production also marked the stage debut of Danjûrô's adopted son, then known as Ichikawa Masugorô, who would later become Danjûrô III. Just over a year later, in 1729/1, Danjûrô starred in the premiere of the play Ya no ne.

On key anniversaries of his father's death, Danjûrô led public performances and private ceremonies in memory of his father. As was typical, guests to these private family affairs would donate "incense money" to help support the costs of the gatherings, and the family would prepare small gifts in return. The woodblock-printed volume Chichi no on was produced in 1730 as one such gift, setting a precedent for memorial albums for kabuki actors. For the 50th anniversary of his father's death, Danjûrô and his son Matsumoto Kôshirô II commissioned a memorial stone to be erected at the entrance to Kôya-san, the mountain temple where the first Danjûrô had been buried.

Danjûrô took on the name Ichikawa Ebizô II in 1735/11, passing on the name of Ichikawa Danjûrô to his adopted son. In 1741/8, Ebizô performed in Edo for the final time, before departing for Osaka in the 10th month and beginning to take part in performances there; it is said he was paid the enormous sum of 2,000 ryô to make the move. Just four months later, in 1742/2, his adoptive son, Danjûrô III, died in Edo; Ebizô returned there from Osaka in the 11th month of that year, and resumed performing there.

In 1747/5, 1748/5, and 1749/6, Danjûrô performed in the premieres of Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura, and Kanadehon Chûshingura, respectively, which have since become widely regarded as the three most famous, or most popular, plays in the kabuki repertoire.

After numerous periods of illness and convalescence, Ebizô performed onstage for the final time in 1758/3, in the role of Soga Gorô, in a production of Ya no ne at the Ichimura-za; shortly afterwards, he fell ill once more, and died roughly six months later at his home in Meguro, a village near Narita-san, his family's patron temple. He was buried at Jôshô-in, a temple in the Shiba district of Edo.


  • "Ichikawa Ebizô II." Kabuki21.com. Accessed 19 Feb 2013.
  • Roger Keyes, Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan, New York Public Library (2006), 72-74.
  1. Keyes, 70.