A banzuke from the Ichimura-za, September 1881

Here is a lovely little play programme (see all the pages below) that would have been bought by someone who went to see a kabuki performance in 1881. I think it’s amazing that something produced so cheaply and with such a short useful life would have been kept for so long and have survived for over 140 years!

You can see the name of the theatre (Ichimura-za, 市村座) visible on the lower left of the front cover and we can see the date that this production opened on was 13th September 1881, visible on the lower-left panel of the last page (明治十四年九月十三日, Meiji14 year 9th month 13th day).  

Cross checking against other sources

〇九月十三日初日、市村座、四の替、一ばんめ 「關原東西軍記」 (新作)。二ばんめ「搗春狐葛葉」。登り璃寛の御目見得。大切「ひ信田嫁入」。清元、竹本。

Opening on September 13th at the Ichimura theater will be four performances. The first performance is a new production of “Sekigahara Tōzai Gunki.” The second performance is “Tsukimizuki Kitsune Kuzunoha.” The appearance of Tozakura Hikaru is eagerly awaited. The last performance is “Hishinda Yomeiri.” It is performed by Seigen and Takemoto. [ChatGPT]

Kabuki Nenpyō (Kabuki Chronology), chapter 1881

The above quote from the Kabuki Chronology contains several useful fragments which agree with the banzuke. Firstly we can see that the run definitely started on 13th September 1881 at the Ichimura-za and that it lists a couple of plays which also agree with the titles on page 1:

原東西軍記 (セキガハラ トウザイ グンキ) =”Sekigahara Tōzai Gunki“: this was the main item on the billing. I can’t find much about this play but here is a print by Chikashige that accompanied this performance of this play showing the actors Suketakaya Takasuke IV (助高屋高助), Nakamura Shikan IV (中村芝翫), Sawamura Yoshijirō II (沢村由次郎) & Arashi Rikan IV (嵐璃寛):

(click to see the data at the Tokyo Metropolitan Library)

搗春狐葛葉 (ツキミズキ キツネ クズノハ) = “Tsukimizuki Kitsune Kuzunoha“: this was the second item on the billing. This seems to be a variant on the classic tale of Fox Kuzunoha, the fox spirit that turns into a woman who ends up marrying the man who saved her life but who later turns back into the fox. In the image Kuzunoha is beginning to turn back into the fox and so as she holds their child in her arms (who it turns out shares her magical powers) she uses her mouth to write a poem to her husband on the paper scree, before running off into the woods. Here is a print by Chikanobu to accompany this performance of this play showing Arashi Rikan IV twice (嵐璃寛) & Suketakaya Takasuke IV (助高屋高助): 

(click to see the data at the Tokyo Metropolitan Library)

Here are the pages

I have scanned and listed the pages in the order they would have been read, which as it’s Japanese, means “back to front”. You can see that pages have been loosely bound together with some green thread. Page 1 seems to contain a summary of the production and the main plays; then page 2 lists the actors; then pages 3 to 6 show selected scenes from each of the plays; pages 7 to 9 seem to show more detail about the actors and production information. 

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