• Japanese Culture Group

December 12, 2010

Presentation at the Kabuki Academic Society 2010 Autumn Meeting

The Kabuki Academic Society 2010 Autumn Meeting was held at Japan Women’s University on December 11th and 12th. Hidenori Ōnishi gave a presentation entitled “Nipponophone’s Records of Kikugorō VI.”


Presentation abstract:

While gramophone records of kabuki performances existed even in the Meiji period, it was not until the early 1920s that record production began to gain momentum. The number of kabuki recordings of both programs and actors skyrocketed at this time, as record labels such as Tokyo Chikuonki, the well-established Nipponophone (Nihon Chikuonki Shōkai), and Nittō Records (Nittō Chikuonki), then an emerging label from Osaka, competed for profits in an increasingly expanding market.  

Nittō released four titles (totaling twelve discs) featuring Onoe Kikugorō VI during this kabuki recording boom: “Oya yuzuri gosho no Gorozō” and “Kami no megumi wagō no torikumi” in August 1922; “Benten musume meo no shiranami” in January the following year; and “Tsuyu kosode mukashi hachijō” in March. Kikugorō VI was well known for his dislike of recordings, so the fact that he was persuaded to make his first record for a hefty check gathered considerable attention.  

It is generally assumed that, aside from these records, there were only six other titles featuring Kikugorō VI, all produced by Victor during the years from1930 to 1932. In actuality, both Nittō and Nipponophone released records as well, although only the second disc of the two-disc set “Kamiyui shinza” can be confirmed at present. Nittō and Nipponophone were fierce rivals, and Kikugorō VI would have had an exclusive contract with the former. And yet why is it that the voice of Kikugorō VI was preserved by Nipponophone as well as by Nittō? In this presentation, I will let you hear the sound of that legendary voice and include some observations on the state of kabuki recording at the time.



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