Tsuruya Nanboku (鶴屋南北 (4代目))

Nanboku TSURUYA IV (1755 - December 22, 1829) was a Kabuki playwright during the latter half of the Edo period.

There were five persons succeeded to the professional name Nanboku TSURUYA, but when it is simply referred to as Nanboku TSURUYA or Nanboku, it usually indicates Nanboku TSURUYA IV. As Nanboku TSURUYA IV was distinguished in the achievements among the five Nanboku TSURUYA, he is particularly called DaiNanboku, meaning the Big Nanboku.

He was born in Nihonbashi, Edo (present Chuo Ward, Tokyo). His childhood name was Katsujiro and his nickname was Genzo. He operated a dyer's shop with his father Isaburo EBIYA, but he loved plays so much that he intended to be a playwright; at last, he became a disciple of Jisuke SAKURADA, and later practiced under Sansho KANAI, Gohei NAMIKI, Jusuke NAKAMURA, and Kinpachi MASUYAMA. During a period of obscurity as long as 30 years, he at first took the name Hyozo SAKURADA, then Hyozo SAWA, and Hyozo KATSU.

In February 1803, he became the head of resident playwrights for the first time at the age of 49, and wrote "Yoni Hibike Sakura" for Hikosaburo BANDO III. In June 1804, "Tenjiku Tokubei Kokubanashi" (modeled after an adventurer Tenjiku Tokubei) that he wrote specifically for Matsusuke ONOE I at the Kawarazaki-za theater in Edo made a great hit, and in the New Year of the next year, "Shitenno Momiji no Edoguma" made a hit at the Kawarazaki-za theater, which proved that he was a playwright who will lead the next generation both nominally and virtually. In July 1808, he completed a ghost story by "Iroeiri Otogizoshi" at the Ichimura-za theater. In 1811, he succeeded to the professional name Nanboku TSURUYA VI. Thereafter, he successively wrote scripts for Kabuki plays.

He also wrote a lot of popular fictions 'Gokan' by the name of Josuke UBA I.

Personal Profile
Although 'Nanboku TSURUYA' was the professional name of Kabuki actor, a playwright Hyozo KATSU succeeded to the name because he married Okichi, a daughter of Nanboku TSURUYA III. At the age of 26, a quarter of a century before the succession to the name, he married Okichi, and in the next year, the eldest son Hyozo KATSU II to be Nanboku TSURUYA V was born.

His style
With a great originality, he established a form of ghost stories with Matsusuke ONOE I, and dramatic elements of Kabuki play with Danjuro ICHIKAWA VII, Kikugoro ONOE III, Hanshiro IWAI V, and Koshiro MATSUMOTO VII. In cooperation with a wigmaker Tokuro, he devised wigs which are still used at present. For the ghost stories, he pioneered expressions in Kabuki by affiliating with a carpenter of stage sets Kanbei HASEGAWA XI in creating ingenious stage settings.

He was good at expressing the background of the play by sticking to his fantastic idea and realism, which features the development of his plot by mixing quite different worlds such as: having a wedding ceremony at the scene of a crime ("Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan"); making a courtesan visit a row house ("Ukiyozuka Hiyoku no Inazuma"); making the court noble become professional homosexual from hardship of life ("Shitenno Momiji no Edoguma"); and making a princess become a prostitute ("Sakurahime Azumabunsho"). With a touch of black humor added to decadence and weirdness, his style clearly reflected the fully-matured merchant class culture during the Kasei era.

Important works
Kabuki plays
"Yotsuya Kaidan" "Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan""Kamikakete Sango Taisetu" "Ehon Gappouga Tsuji" "Haji Momiji Ase no Kaomise" "Tenjiku Tokubei Kokubanashi" "Osome Hisamatsu Ukina no Yomiuri"
"Kokorono Nazo Toketa Iroiroto" "Nazo no Obi Chotto Tokubei" "Nazoraete Fujigane Soga" "Yaegasumi Soga no Kumiito" "Sumidagawa Hana no Goshozome" "Tokimo Kikyo Shusse no Ukejo" "Sakurahime Azuma Bunsho" "Ukiyozuka Hiyoku no Inazuma" "Okunigozen Kesho no Sugatami" "Iroeiri Otogizoushi" "Hitoritabi Gojusantugi", and so forth

He wrote a lot of Gokan by the name of Josuke UBA I.


He told to those close to him that he was not able to write letters and hated reading. In fact, he wrote play scripts full of mistakes such as "Sono hatake watase" for "Sono hata watase", "Madu, kyo wa korekiri" for "Mazu, kyo wa korekiri", and the like.

He was such a short-tempered person that when he was working on his next script, but nagged by his wife who was saying they had no money to buy rice, and forced to go out with a mosquito net to pawn it for rice, his neighbor asked him looking at his stern face 'What's the matter?'--He answered with still stern face 'I'm going to do killing.', jargon for pawning, to astonish the neighbor.

Although the head of resident playwrights generally entrusts his assistants to write a script, he wrote the plot and the words for a new play and took notes about the details of the play by himself even after he became the head, which helped his assistants very much. But he did not tell the plot to an assistant who did not follow his instructions.

As his plays were featured by using a coffin, his contemporary wrote 'a play with a coffin might probably be a play written by Nanboku' (Ippo NISHIZAWA "Denkisaksho".)

He was talented on advertisement. For the first performance of the work that made him well known "Tenjiku Tokubei Kokubanashi", he discussed with the troupe members to spread a rumor across Edo that the actors use Christian magic in their quick-change. It made such a fuss that the Edo magistrate's office launched investigation, but they were not blamed and instead, officers admired the play. That made the performance a great success.

He made a booklet for distributing the mourners at his funeral with a title "Shidenokadomatu Gomanzai", which was a humors 'work' full of satire on himself. He stick to be a playwright to his last moment.

[Original Japanese]