Kawasaki Kyuen (川崎九淵)

Kyuen KAWASAKI (July 11, 1874 - January 24, 1961) is a master of Nogaku otsuzumi (large hand drum used for Noh play). He held the posts of Sokedairi (representation of head of family) and Soke azukari (head of family under custody) of Kadono-ryu soke (the head family of the Kadono school), and became the first Living National Treasure from the Noh art. He also made great accomplishments in terms of theory, such as discovering the law of Ji hyoshi (Noh chorus rhythm).
Real name: Rikichi, the former name


He was born in Uo-machi, Onsen County, Ehime Prefecture (present-day near Hon-machi, Matsuyama City) on July 11, 1874. He practiced Noh in the Kita school that was popular in that area since he was young, and acquired a good reputation as a child prodigy when he performed Hono noh (dedication of Noh play) at Matsuyama Shinonome-jinja Shrine. Later he followed the recommendation of his master Setsunosuke TAKAHASHI, and learned Kadono-ryu Otsuzumi (large hand drum player of the Kadono school) from Masachika AZUMA. He also showed a remarkable talent in this style so that Issai ISHII, the Ishii-ryu soke (the head family of the Ishii school) asked him to be his successor when Issai saw him.

In 1899, he followed the advice of Nobuyoshi IKENOUCHI, the older brother of Kyoshi TAKAHAMA who was his classmate in elementary school, and moved to Tokyo and studied under Mataki TSUMURA who was in custody of Kadono school. Tsumura passed away suddenly one year later, however he devoted himself to his work as a Otsuzumi kata (large hand drum player) while receiving instructions from Kuro Tomoharu HOSHO from the head family of Hosho school, Kingo MISU in Kotsuzumi kata of Ko school, and Motonori KANZE in Taiko-kata Kanze-ryu (the Kanze school for drum performers).

While he performed Renjishi (a string of lions) called 'Shakkyo' (Stone Bridge, Noh Play) for contributing money at Japanese-Russo War in 1904, Einen no mai (dance of longevity) called 'Ataka' (the Ataka Barrier, Noh play) at retirement Noh by Kuro HOSHO in 1906, Noh play (performed) with the Emperor Meiji in attendance in 1910 and Noh play for enthronement ceremony of the Emperor Taisho in 1905, he was actively engaged in the Hayashikata (people who play hayashi, or the musical accompaniment) educating activity at the Nohgakukai of Kimoiri IKEUCHI, and nurtured his best pupils, such as Yoshiki YOSHIMI and Toshio KAMEI.

He moved to Akita and stayed there for safety during the war, but after the war he moved to Kyoto at the suggestion of Tetsuji TAKECHI.
Since then he took the stage name of 'Kyuen.'
He moved to Tokyo in 1950, held the position of Soke azukari (head of family under custody) of Kadono school soke, and was appointed as the first Japan Art Academy member as a Hayashikata in 1953. In 1955, he was certified as a holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure), the first holder from the Noh art, together with Roppeita KITA and Yoshimitsu KO from the Kotsuzumi kata of Ko school.

He was appointed as a trainer of Nogaku sanyaku yoseikai (meeting of training three roles of Nogaku) in 1954, but decided to retire when the heir Yukiyasu passed away suddenly in 1956. He performed his retirement Noh on September 8 and 20 in the same year, and left the Noh art at the age of 82. He died at the age of 86 on January 24, 1961.


He asked for a one-month practice of 'Seki-dera Komachi' (Komachi at Seki-dera Temple) by Kyusen SAKURAMA, which he performed in his last days (1955). He had nearly no lay disciples. He lived in honorable poverty like his master Mataki TSUMURA, but on the other hand he was highly praised by the masters in the same days, such as Roppeita KITA, Kanesuke NOGUCHI, Manaburo UMEWAKA, the first and Yoshimitsu KO.

On the other hand, when Manzo NOMURA, the seventh, Mansaku NOMURA, Shime SHIGEYAMA and his brother Sennojo SHIGEYAMA performed activities different from Kyogen (farce played during a Noh play cycle) in the post war period, Kyuen expressed negative attitude as a chairman of the Nohgaku Performers' Association, and he once insisted the expulsion of Sennojo.

[Original Japanese]