Gando gaeshi (強盗返)

Gando gaeshi (to pivot one large piece of scenery onto its side so as to reveal a different one) is a stage term used in Kabuki and means one of 'Idokoro-gawari' (place change) methods for scene changes or a device which uses Gando-gaeshi. In general it is used for a scene change which is made in a short time.


Gando gaeshi is used for changing scenes in a small amount of time without impeding the progress of a performance or a play, and in Kabuki it is sometimes called 'donden gaeshi' after the sound of an odaiko (large drum) which is like 'Donden-Donden'. Gando gaeshi' is expressed in several different combinations of Chinese characters and okurigana (kana added to a Chinese character to show its pronounciation).

Many of performing facilities shield the inside from external light in order to allow freedom in producing the theatrical space-time, and in general provide stage lighting by means of internal lighting operation. This makes it possible to produce total blackness by turning off the stage lighting for a quick moment, and enables the players to change costumes and to move to the next performing positions, and, by applying a Gando-gaeshi mechanism to the stage setting, scenes such as places and seasons can be changed in the darkness without dropping and raising the curtain in front of the audience over a short amount of time.

Being derived from these, 'donden gaeshi' has become a kind of idiom and is used as an expression for instantaneous reversal, and is applied as 'donden gaeshi de maku-ni-naru' (to finish with a surprise ending) which is a peripeteia coming as a surprise to the audience, as 'donden gaeshi no ketsumatsu' (surprise ending) in novels, as 'donden gaeshi no gyakuten-three-run' (turning defeat into victory with a come-from-behind three-run homer) in a baseball game, and as others.


There are two explanations regarding the origin of gando gaeshi, one of which is that it was invented by Shozo NAMIKI (1730-73), a Kabuki Kyogen (comic drama) writer of Osaka in the mid Edo period, and another of which is that it was invented by Haruzo TAKEDA, a playwright of Kabuki play in 1726.


The origin of the word 'gando gaeshi' comes from the device included in 'gando chochin' which is a portable lighting apparatus.

The device included in the portable lighting apparatus called 'Gando' is made up of nonflammable materials--in general, a cylindrical trapezoid chassis produced by rolling a metal plate such as copper or tin, and a candle holder and a reflecting mirror both of which are placed inside the chassis. The candle holder does not fall in the chassis as it is fixed to one of two freely rotatable rings perpendicular to each other, which is a mechanism similar to that of a gyroscope which can always keep the direction of the axis of spin unchanged, so that the light comes out only in a single direction. The name 'Gando-gaeshi' is derived from the way in which the candle can freely rotate in the 'gando chochin' (lantern).

The side view of gando gaeshi looks like the letter L as the the floor and wall planes are connected into one unit and many of floor fixtures and fittings are bonded to the floor plane which is the bottom of the unit. In a Kabuki play, by tipping back the unified floor and wall planes togrther with fixtures, the hidden back of the floor plane now appears as a wall plane in front of the theater audience.
At this moment in the Kabuki play, the large drum mentioned above beats 'Donden-donden.'

As stage settings for Kabuki plays became larger, mawari-butai (revolving stages) which rotate horizontally with large props and actors on them appeared in Horeki period (1751-1763). Applying a similar method for changing scenes instantaneously, the revolving stage is a device for changing a scene to a different one drawn on the back of a setting to be hidden from the audience till its use, by providing rollers under its base and by rotating 180 degrees horizontally the set of stage articles whose weight can be lifted by human power. This method of changing scenes are used also in plays other than Kabuki.

The scene change by rotatinal move is called 'bonmawashi' (tray rotation) when to distingush from 'gando gaeshi.'


The following is a Kabuki play in which gando gaeshi is used as staging.

Aotozoshi hana no nishikie (Picture of flower of Aorozoshi)

[Original Japanese]