Stage names:

Sawamura Tanosuke III In Japanese
Sawamura Yoshijir˘ I In Japanese

Guild: Kinokuniya

Line number: SANDAIME (III)

Poetry name: Shozan

Existence: 8th day of the 2nd lunar month of 1845 [1] ~ 7 July 1878


Father: Sawamura S˘jűr˘ V

Brother: Suketakaya Takasuke IV

Son: Sawamura Yoshijir˘ II

Adopted sons: Sawamura Tanosuke IV, Sawamura Shozan I

Disciples: Sawamura Shozan II, Sawamura Chidori


7th lunar month of 1849: he made his first appearance on stage, at the Nakamuraza, where he received the name of Sawamura Yoshijir˘ I and played the roles of Gihei's son Yoshimatsu and Tonase's daughter Konami in the drama "Kanadehon Chűshingura"; the roles of Amakawaya Gihei and Tonase were played by Ichikawa Kuz˘ II and Sawamura Ch˘jűr˘ V.

9th lunar month of 1851: Yoshijir˘ played at the Kawarasakiza the role of Sankichi in the drama "Shigenoi Kowakare"; the role of Sankichi's mother Shigenoi was played by Yoshijir˘'s father Sawamura Ch˘jűr˘ V.

15th day of the 11th lunar month of 1853 [2]: his father Suketakaya Takasuke III died.

3rd lunar month of 1854: premiere at the Kawarasakiza of Kawatake Shinshichi II's drama "Miyakodori Nagare no Shiranami"; Yoshijir˘ played the role of Yoshida Umewakamaru [casting].

1st lunar month of 1859: Sawamura Yoshijir˘ I took the name of Sawamura Tanosuke III at the Nakamuraza, playing two roles in the drama "Hatsud˘chű Sugoroku Soga".

1st lunar month of 1860: the 1762 puppet drama "Kishi no Himematsu Kutsuwa Kagami" (commonly called "Kishi Hime") was adapted for the first time to Kabuki, in Edo at the Moritaza; it was integrated within the new year sogamono drama "Momo Chidori Nigiwai Soga" and Tanosuke played the roles of Yomosaku's musume Osoyo and Princess Yosooi [casting]. He became tateonnagata at the Moritaza.

4th lunar month of 1864: premiere at the Moritaza of Kawatake Shinshichi II's drama "Wakaba no Ume Ukina no Yokogushi" (commonly called "Kirare Otomi", in English 'Scarface Otomi'); Tanosuke played the role of Otomi [casting].

1865: Tanosuke fell seriously ill because of a foot wound gone gangrenous; Doctor Hepburn, the surgeon of the Yokohama foreign community, had to remove his two feet in order to save Tanosuke's life. The call of the stage was stronger than anything else and Tanosuke did his best to overcome his handicap.

2nd lunar month of 1867: premiere at the Ichimuraza of Kawatake Shinshichi II's new year sogamono "Keisei Soga Kuruwa Kagami", in which was premiered the drama "Oshizu Reiza"; Tanosuke played the roles of the courtesan ďiso no Tora (Jűr˘'s lover), the geisha Oyuki, the Miuraya keisei Iwafuji and Oshizu [more details].

1872: Tanosuke retired and opened the Kinokuniya, a chaya located in the heart of Saruwaka-ch˘, the theater district.

August 1873: Tanosuke became zamoto and tateonnagata at the Satsumaza, a theater located in the district of Ky˘bashi Minami-Shiode.

November 1874: the Satsumaza was renamed Sawamuraza; the classic "Kanadehon Chűshingura" was produced but it was commercial failure and the theater had to close.

1875 ~ 1876: Tanosuke went on tour in Kamigata. This tour ended in a financial fiasco.

1878: Tanosuke lost his reason and fell seriously ill.

7 July 1878: Tanosuke died.


"An actor of the first ability was Sawamura Tanosuke, the second son of Sawamura S˘jűr˘, the fifth. In the first year of Meiji, he was playing at the three chief theatres in Saruwaka-ch˘. At the age of 16, he began to act in leading onnagata r˘les, and was a genius in the delineation of women's characters. A tragic fate overtook him, and his loss to the T˘ky˘ stage was very great. Suffering an injury to his feet, gangrene set in. Everything was done to save him, and he was taken to Yokohama, where an American medical missionary was consulted. Both feet, however, were amputated in the third year of Meiji. In spite of this great physical disability, Tanosuke continued to appear on the stage, supported by several black-robed property-men, and so great was his popularity that the people crowded to see him. His wife was unfaithful to him, and was on intimate terms with one of his pupils, and this added to his hopeless condition, filling the remaining days of this unfortunate onnagata star with unhappiness. The young actors who followed afterwards in Tanosuke's specialty were deprived of the stimulus and high standard he had set, and a lack of good onnagata was characteristic of the greater part of the long Meiji era." (ZoŰ Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan")

[1] The 8th day of the 2nd lunar month of the 2nd year of the K˘ka era was the 15th of March 1845 in the western calendar.

[2] The 15th day of the 11th lunar month of the 6th year of the Kaei era was the 15th of December 1853 in the western calendar.

Sawamura Tanosuke III in a print made by Utagawa Toyokuni III (1861)

Prints & Illustrations

Print made by Meirind˘ Kakushijo in 1862

Print made by Utagawa Kunisada in 1864

Print made by Toyohara Kunichika in 1870

Print made by Toyohara Kunichika in 1873

Print made by Chikuy˘d˘

The Sawamura Yoshijir˘ line of actors

The Sawamura Tanosuke line of actors

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