Iwai Hanshiro VI

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Memorial portrait of Iwai Hanshirô VI by Utagawa Kunisada. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Born: 1799
  • Died: 1836/4/8
  • Other Names: 二代目岩井粂三郎 (nidaime Iwai Kumesaburou), 初代目岩井久二郎 (shodaime Iwai Hisajirou)
  • Japanese: 六代目岩井半四郎 (rokudaime Iwai Hanshirou)

Iwai Hanshirô VI was a prominent onnagata of the early 19th century. He was particularly known for playing multiple roles in a single performance. He fell ill and died during one such performance, in which he was playing 15 roles in one play.


Like most kabuki actors, and many artists, of his time, Hanshirô had a number of names over the course of his career. He was the sixth actor to hold the name Hanshirô. Prior to that, he was the first Iwai Hisajirô, and the second Iwai Kumesaburô. He was also known by the nickname Kumesa Hanshirô.

Hanshirô's yagô (guild name) was Yamatoya. In poetry circles, he used the names Baiga and Shûka.


Hanshirô VI was the son of the fifth Iwai Hanshirô, and grandson of Iwai Hanshirô IV. His maternal grandfather was Sawamura Sôjûrô III, who in turn was the son of Sawamura Sôjûrô II.

Hanshirô's brother followed him in taking that name, becoming Iwai Hanshirô VII.

Life and Career

Hanshirô made his stage debut at the age of 5 in 1804/11, at the Nakamura-za, under the name Iwai Hisajirô I. He took the name Kumesaburô II in 1812/11, at the Ichimura-za.

By the 1822-1823 season, he had earned the position of lead onnagata in the troupe. Three years later, he performed in the debut of Tsuruya Nanboku IV's Tôkaidô Yotsuya Kaidan.

Kumesaburô took the name Hanshirô in 1832/11, in a grand shûmei where his father and nephew, among others, also took new names.

He fell ill during the month of 1836/2, during a run at the Morita-za of the play Sugawara-ryû Kanagaki Soga. The play combined the worlds of Kanadehon Chûshingura, Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, and Soga Monogatari; in it, Hanshirô played fifteen roles. This was to be his final stage appearance. He died two months later, on 1836/4/8, and was buried at the temple Jôshin-ji in Edo's Fukagawa district.