Stage names:

Nakamura Kanzabur˘ I In Japanese
Saruwaka Kanzabur˘ In Japanese

Line number: SHODAI (I)

Existence: 1598 ~ 9th day of the 6th lunar month of 1658 [1]


Master: Saruwaka Hikosaku

Sons: Nakamura Kankur˘ I, Nakamura Kanzabur˘ II, Nakamura Kanzabur˘ III

Grandsons: Nakamura Denkur˘ I, Nakamura Kanzabur˘ V, Nakamura Kanzabur˘ VI, Nakamura Akashi II, Nakamura Denshichi

Great-grandsons: Nakamura Kanzabur˘ VII, Nakamura Kanzabur˘ VIII, Nakamura Sh˘ch˘, Nakamura Seizabur˘ II, Nakamura Niemon, Nakamura Jűsuke I

Great-great-grandsons: Nakamura Kanzabur˘ XI, Nakamura Shichiji

Great-great-great-grandsons: Nakamura Kanzabur˘ IX, Nakamura Kanzabur˘ XII, Nakamura Katsujűr˘ II, Nakamura Shichisabur˘ IV

Great-great-great-great-Grandsons: Nakamura Kanzabur˘ XIII, Nakamura Jusabur˘ II

Great-great-great-great-Great-grandson: Nakamura Akashi V (Nakamura Kanzabur˘ XV)

Great-great-great-great-Great-great-granddaughter: Nakamura Fujiko (Nakamura Kanzabur˘ XVI)


1598 ~ 1622: born in Ky˘to in a great family. His father, Nakamura Kanpei, was the younger brother of Nakamura Hikoemon, a daimy˘ in the province of Suruga. His eldest brother, Nakamura Kanjir˘, was a Ky˘gen actor, a member of the ďkura school (ďkura-ryű). His youngest brother, Nakamura Kangor˘, was a talented shamisen player. Kanzabur˘ was trained by Kanjir˘ as both an actor and a dancer.

1622: Kanzabur˘ settled in Edo and became disciple of Saruwaka Hikosaku.

15th day of the 2nd lunar month of 1624 [2]: Kanzabur˘ received a license from the authorities to open a theater in Edo. "while Kanzabur˘ waited for his application to erect a theatre to be granted, he dreamed that a white crane with a branch of ich˘, the tree with fan-shaped leaves, in its mouth, entered his house from the summit of Mt. Fuji. This was a lucky dream indeed; and proceeding forthwith to a diviner for explanation, he was told it was a good omen, and that his request would be granted. Accordingly, after the theatre was constructed, he had placed on the curtain hung around the drum tower over the entrance a design of a crane, which came to be associated with Edo theatres for many years afterwards. Also, on the curtains hung at the entrance and within the theatre, he used the design of an ich˘ leaf" (ZoŰ Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan"). The theater was built in the district of Nakabashi, at the current site of the famous Maruzen building in Nihonbashi.

3rd lunar month of 1624: first performance at the Saruwakaza; he performed under the name of Saruwaka Kanzabur˘. The name Saruwaka (literally "monkey-young") was given to the comic actors acting with Okuni, the legendary woman who created Kabuki in 1603.

4th lunar month of 1632: Kanzabur˘ was given orders by the authorities to move his theater to the district of Negi-ch˘ (grosso modo the current district of Ningy˘-ch˘ in T˘ky˘).

1633: "when the Sh˘gun's pleasure boat Atakamaru entered Edo Bay from Shimoda in Izu Province, Kanzabur˘ was summoned and ordered to stand at the bow of the vessel and to sing a sailor's song. By way of reward he was presented with a sum of money, a coat used in battle, and other military gifts. While it was common at the time to refer to actors as "riverside beggars", the treatment accorded to Kanzabur˘ was a special honour to his profession, and was remembered long after when the playfolks were regarded as social pariah" (ZoŰ Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan").

1636: Kanzabur˘ received a warning from the authorities because of the excessive luxury of the costums used in his theater.

29th day of the 1st lunar month of 1641 [3]: the Nakamuraza was burnt to ashes in a big fire.

Spring 1651: Kanzabur˘ was invited to perform within the Edo Castle.

5th lunar month of 1651: Kanzabur˘ was given orders by the authorities to move his theater to the district of Sakai-ch˘.

18th day of the 1st lunar month of 1657 [4]: a fire broke out in the Honmy˘ji temple in the district of Hong˘ and devastated Edo. All the Kabuki theaters were destroyed by the flames, including the Nakamuraza. Kanzabur˘ took it as an opportunity to travel with his son to his native city of Ky˘to. It was said that he was invited to perform his drama "Saruwaka" before the Imperial Court.

9th lunar month of 1657: Kanzabur˘ went back to Edo and rebuilt his theater.

Spring 1658: Kanzabur˘ suddenly fell ill.

9th day of the 6th lunar month of 1658 [1]: Kanzabur˘ died in Edo.


Nakamura Kanzabur˘ I was the founder of the Nakamuraza, the most prestigious theater in Edo. He was born in Ky˘to but had a brilliant idea which led him to Edo to device the first successful business plan in Kabuki history: "Ky˘to was the home of refinement and culture, but the political centre had shifted to Edo, and was swarming with r˘nin, or independent samurai who were not attached to any particular feudal lord. They all drifted to Edo to seek their fortunes, and Kanzabur˘ saw a chance of utilising these wandering spirits. The reasons which led to his establishment of a theatre are given in a book he wrote called "Temae Miso", which being interpreted means: "My own bean soup"--in other words, "talking shop" about his profession. In this he says that as the r˘nin from different parts of Japan assembled in Edo after the fall of ďsaka Castle, when Hideyori, the son of Hideyoshi, perished in the flames, and Ieyasu became the ruler of feudal Japan, there were many soldiers of fortune who had been deprived of their living and were so reduced that they were obliged to beg for food from door to door, reciting utai, or choruses of the , to the accompaniment of the tsuzumi, or small drum of the stage. He planned to employ these strollers by starting a theatre and giving them an opportunity to make use of their training. " (ZoŰ Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan").

Nakamura Kanzabur˘ I was also the author of the farce "Saruwaka", inspired by the eponymous ky˘gen: "this play "Saruwaka" concerns the adventures of a retainer who goes on a journey to Ise without his master's permission, and returning, to avoid punishment, assumes a disguise, and so cleverly entertains him with stories of his travels that the daimy˘ forgets to take him to task" (ZoŰ Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan").

[1] The 9th day of the 6th lunar month of the 4th year of the Meireki era was the 9th of July 1658 in the western calendar.

[2] The 15th day of the 2nd lunar month of the 10th year of the Genna era was the 2nd of April 1624 in the western calendar.

[3] The 29th day of the 1st lunar month of the 18th year of the Kan'ei era was the 16th of July 1641 in the western calendar.

[4] The 18th day of the 1st lunar month of the 3rd year of the Meireki era was the 2nd of March 1657 in the western calendar.

Nakamura Kanzabur˘ I

The Nakamura Kanzabur˘ line of actors and theater managers

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