Danjūrō’s Girls: Women on the Kabuki Stage by Loren Edelson (auth.)

By Loren Edelson (auth.)

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Yet, now he distinguished between kabuki and the new, emerging genres of theatre. ”58 It is true that Sanshō later noted that Danjūrō had “murmured” something about “having all the ladies in waiting (koshimoto) played by women,” and that he was still trying to understand how a “woman’s figure could harmonize with kabuki,” but there is little doubt that Danjūrō’s views on women in kabuki had changed from the time he had accepted Kumehachi as his disciple. Théo showed him that there were many more possibilities for a woman than to play the conventional onnagata.

38 28 Danjūrō’s Girls In light of his support for women to play female roles, Danjūrō’s choice to have his daughters play the butterflies might have been strategic. It was unlikely to upset opponents since the butterflies have no explicit gender. The butterflies do not speak, and the fact that the girls appeared with their father for the majority of their onstage time might have mollified even the most obstinate critic. Only the most stubborn spectator would not have been moved by Danjūrō’s new spin on the old tradition of a father performing with his offspring, the older generation appearing with the upand-coming one.

Clearly, Kunisada believed that it was important to depict the great master and his female disciple together, whether or not an actual production ever occurred. Credit, however, should be given to Kumehachi for the role she played in the promulgation of an 1890 Tokyo Metropolitan Police edict concerning actresses. Several scholars and critics have interpreted this proclamation 24 Danjūrō’s Girls as overturning the Tokugawa ban on female actors and officially allowing women to perform on the stage.

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