D06 Ichikawa Danjyuro the eighth
"Kudo Shiro Betto hajime Suketsune"
Artist: Toyokuni the third Oban, Color print, Diptych
Performance: 13 January, 1851(Kaei 4) Ichimura-za theatre in Edo
Ritsumeikan Art Research Centre (shiUY0224,0225)
Ichikawa Danjyuro the eighth was born in 1823(Bunsei 6) and died in 1854(Kaei 7). His stage name was changed three times along with his rapid promotion, his first stage was Ichikawa Shinnosuke the second until 1825(Bunsei 8), and he succeeded to the great predecessor's name Ichikawa Ebizo the sixth when he was only three years old, and he inherited the great name Ichikawa Danjyuro the eighth in 1832(Tenpo 3) when he was only 10 years old, at the opportunity his father Ichikawa Danjyuro the seventh changed his stage name into Ichikawa Ebizo.
When his promotion into Ichikawa Danjyuro the eighth was announced, his father and his predecessor Ichikawa Danjyuro the seventh addressed "while it is said that a child who doesn't look like his father is a changeling, I hope he will be the changeling not to inherit my poorness. My wish is that he will eventually gain patronages and be ranked among numerous great actors. I humbly beg your supports." After this announcement, he gained huge popularity in actual because of his variety of acting techniques and his good-looking.
However, he also had hard time when he had to take all the organization of Ichikawa family in 1842(Tenpo 13) when he was still a young actor in his twenty years old. This was because his father Ichikawa Danjyuro the seventh was forced to exile from Edo because he was punished for his extravagant lifestyle.
He was famous also for his filial piety for his father so that Tokugawa shogunate praised for it. In 1849(Kaei 2) when he acted as a great warrior priest Benkei in "Kanjincho" at Kawaeazaki-za theatre as , he mentioned his caring about his parents. Even after his father returned from the journey of exile, he acted as Togashi in "Kanjincho" with his father who decided his retirement. And because of his father's favor, he stood on the stage in Nagoya in July 1855(Ansei 2) and in Osaka in the next month. But at the opening day of the performance, he committed suicide when he was still in the beginning of his 30s at the height of his popularity. It is regarded that he was suffered from depression because of his huge responsibility for his father, his position as a head of Ichikawa family, and his performance as a successor of his great ancestors.
In the picture displayed here, he acted as a weighty role for the first class actors which is named Kudo Suketsune in the scene of "Taimen no ba" in the tale of Soga. What he is holding in this picture is a picture roll depicting Ichikawa Danjyuro the fifth who was good at acting this character, so it can be said that Danjyuro the eighth performance intended to remind the audiences of his predecessors' acting.
His unexpected death was so regrettable for Edo people that more than 300 numbers of Shini-e which was wood-print for commemoration of a famous actor or a writer when he passed away and some books were published.