Shibai-jaya (A tea room located in a theater) (芝居茶屋)

Scene of the second floor of a high class shibai-jaya (ooyaja). You can see that it was very close to the theater which was over the road.

Shibai-jaya were tea rooms located in theaters in the Edo period, which served food and beverages to the customers, or what we would now call theater restaurants.

Some kabuki actors who later came to have significant family names in Kabuki were born into the families who were managers or employees of these tea rooms.

There were a number of theater towns in the three main cities of the Edo Period, Tokyo (then called Edo), Kyoto and Osaka, and the nucleus of these were the shibai-goya (theaters) and their accompanying tea-houses.

The meals served in the theater tea rooms were part of the attraction of watching the theater and on these days people from all walks of life from commoners to feudal lords dined lavishly, enjoying the specialty cuisine of each tea room.

A number of diaries and letters describing sketches of these tea rooms as well as the menus served remain to remind us of the scenes of the past.

Types and scale
While we refer to them all as shibai-jaya, there were a large variety of tea rooms of all sizes.
At Edo's three licensed kabuki theaters, these were classified by scale and rank as follows:

Oojaya (large tea rooms)

Oojaya were located in a corner of the theater, or adjacent or opposite the theater, and had a seating area and furnishings, and entertained feudal lords and wealthy people. They were similar to today's fancy Japanese style restaurants and were high class eating establishments.

Kojaya (small tea room)

These were located close to the theaters and were simpler constructions which served ordinary people. They were similar to today's smallest eateries or teishoku (set menu) restaurants, and were classified as middle level or ordinary eating establishments.

Dekata (ushers)

Some kojaya (small tea rooms) specialized as take-aways and did not have any seating for customers, and these tea rooms used dekata (ushers) to deliver food to customers. Dekata (ushers) showed customers to their seats and brought them food, lunchboxes or snacks made in the tea rooms.

According to records from 1764-1771, at the theater district around Edo's three licensed theaters in Sakai-cho and Fukiya-cho, the Nakamura-za theater was surrounded by 16 oojaya (large tea rooms) and 15 kojaya (smaller tea rooms), the Ichimura-za theater had 10 oojaya and 15 kojaya and Morita-za theater had 7 oojaya and they all did roaring trade.

Emergence of kabuki actors
The theater tea rooms and their ushers all had a very close relationship with the theaters to which they were attached. As a result, naturally the children of the tea rooms had access to the theaters and it wasn't unusual for these children to learn the art and become actors themselves. The list of kabuki stage family names chosen by these actors indicates that they often used the names of their family's tea room or the shop name of the usher.

Later on, for a variety of reasons, there were also examples of the reverse happening as distinguished kabuki acting families had their children adopted by the tea rooms.

Among family names created in this way, there are many significant family names that have been passed down in an unbroken line to the present day.

Following are representative kabuki actors with some connection with the tea rooms and ushers.

Tea room name: Kikuya
Stage family name: Kikuya
Background: He was born as the third son of Zenbe Kikuya of the Kikuya tea room in Edo's Ichimura theater. He inherited the proprietorship of the Ichimura-za theater because his mother was an elder sister of Uzaemon ICHIMURA, and he later became an actor and adopted the name Uzaemon ICHIMURA (VIII). As well as borrowing the shop name of the tea room, he also changed the characters he used to write the name Uzaemon to those used in his uncle's name.

Tea room name: Izumiya
Stage family name: Naritaya
Background: He was born to the tea room of Kanjuro IZUMIYA attached to Edo's Nakamura-za theater, although it was said that he was really the son of Danjuro ICHIKAWA (II). He subsequently was adopted by Koshiro MATSUMOTO (I) and took the name Koshiro MATSUMOTO (II). He then was adopted by Danjuro ICHIKAWA (II) and took the name Danjuro ICHIKAWA (IV).

Kikugoro ONOE (I)
Tea room name: Otowaya (usher)
Stage family name: Otowaya
Background: He was born to Hanpei OTOWAYA who was an usher at the Miyako Mandayu-za theater tea room in Kyoto. He subsequently made a name for himself as an actor of female roles in Kyoto, and took the name Kikugoro ONOE (I). The stage family name that he chose, Otowaya, was borrowed from the name of his tea room.

Tea room name: Izumiya
Stage family name: Naritaya
Background: He was the child of Danjuro ICHIKAWA (V) however as he was illegitimate, he was adopted for a while by his father's cousin Kanjuro of the Izumiya tea room affiliated with the Nakamura-za theater, and then later on was adopted by Danjuro ICHIKAWA (V) and succeeded to the Ichikawa lineage.

Tea room name: Izumiya
Stage family name: Kinokuniya (kabuki)
Background: He was born to Chokichi HAMAZAKI, an usher at the tea room called Izumiya which was attached to the Ichimura-za theater. He polished his art as a student of Sojuro SAWAMURA and later succeeded to the lineage and took the name Sojuro SAWAMURA (V).

Tea room name: Kawachiya
Stage family name: Kawachiya
Background: He was born as the son of a carpenter in Osaka and was adopted by Shobei of the Kawachiya tea house when he was three years old. He later became a student of Gakujuro JITSUKAWA and then was highly valued and adopted by Kikugoro ONOE (IV) to take the name Baiko ONOE, and was regarded as successor to the Otowaya stage family name. However, after the death of his adopted father, he was thrust out of the ONOE family and returned to Osaka where he took the name Enjaku which was the pen name of his teacher Gakujuro, and became Enjaku Jitsukawa (I). At this time, rather than using the stage family name of his teacher which was 'Izutsuya,' he used the family name 'Kawachiya' from his home.

Tea room name: Tsuruya
Stage family name: Tsuruya (kabuki) => Takashimaya (kabuki)
Background: He was born to Kodanji ICHIKAWA (IV) however Kodanji already had an adopted child called Sadanji ICHIKAWA (I) and he was not keen to make him an actor. Soon after birth, Udanji was ostensibly sent to the shibai-jaya Tsuruya in Osaka's Dotonbori district as an apprentice, however in actuality he was adopted by the tea room. However as Udanji grew older he failed to show any interest in the trade, and as he failed to do much except copy the stage actors he was sent back to his home and turned to his beloved acting. The stage family name he chose when he later took the name Udanji ICHIKAWA was 'Tsuruya,' which he borrowed from the name of the family in which he was raised. Some time later he changed to the stage family name of his own family 'Takashimaya,' however in deference to his adopted brother Sadanji (I) and his younger half brother Kodanji ICHIKAWA (V), he used a different character to write the character for 'shima' in 'Takashimaya'.

Tea room name: Kinokuniya
Stage family name: Kinokuniya (kabuki)
Background: He was born as the second son of Sojuro SAWAMURA. He took the name Tanosuke SAWAMURA (III) as a brilliant actor of female roles and in the following year when he was only 16 he took leading roles and became the top performer of female roles in the Ogosho Period (1787 - 1841); however after a stage accident gangrene set in and he had to have his legs amputated, and was forced to retire from acting. After retiring, he set up and ran a tea room called Kinokuniya and in the Meiji Period this grew to become the Sawamura-za Theater.

Tea room name: Yamazakiya
Stage family name: Yamazakiya (kabuki)
Background: He was born into the tea room Yamazakiya attached to the Meiji-za Theater in Nihonbashi, Chuo-ward, Tokyo. He became an actor as a student of Danjuro ICHIKAWA (IX) and then trained in Osaka as a student of Nizaemon KATAOKA (XI). After returning to Tokyo, he succeeded to the former name of his teacher Danjuro (IX) and took the name Gonjuro KAWARASAKI (II).

Tokizo Nakamura (V) (later Yorozuya)
Tea room name: Yorozuya
Stage family name: Harimaya (kabuki) => Yorozuya
Background: Karoku NAKAMURA (III) was married to Kame, the daughter of Kichiemon OGAWA who ran the Yorozuya tea room affiliated with the Ichimura-za theater. Karoku (III) (real name Tokizo NAMINO) and Kame OGAWA had four sons however of these only three survived including Kichiemon NAKAMURA (I) (real name Tatsujiro NAMINO), Tokizo NAKAMURA (III) (real name Yonekichiro OGAWA) and Kanzaburo NAKAMURA (XVII) (real name Seiji NAMINO). The middle child Tokizo (III) for some reason favored his mother's side of the family and identified himself as OGAWA, and wished to create a new family independent of his father's 'Harimaya', however this was not to be realized during his lifetime. Then two generations later, in 1971, his grandson Tokizo (V), together with colleagues and students of Ogawa family that was descended from Tokizo (III), seceded from 'Harimaya' and newly took the name 'Yorozuya'. Thus after 80 years, Yorozuya, the name of the household of their great-grandmother was once again used as a stage family name (kabuki).

[Original Japanese]