Matsumoto Kōshirō VII

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Matsumoto Kōshirō VII
Kōshirō Matsumoto VII as Benkei.jpg
Kōshirō Matsumoto VII as Benkei
Born (1870-05-12)12 May 1870
Tokyo, Japan
Died 27 January 1949(1949-01-27) (aged 78)
Other names Kōraiya, Ichikawa Komazō VIII, Ichikawa Somegorō IV, Ichikawa Kintarō, Fujima Kansai, Fujima Kan'emon III

Matsumoto Kōshirō VII (七代目 松本 幸四郎, Shichidaime Matsumoto Kōshirō, 12 May 1870-27 January 1949) was one of the leading tachiyaku Kabuki actors of Japan's Meiji period (1868–1912) through the late 1940s.


Like most Kabuki actors, Kōshirō held a number of stage names () over the course of his career. A member of the Kōraiya guild, he would often be called by that name, particularly in the practice of yagō, in which an actor's guild name is shouted out as a cheer or encouragement during a performance. Following in his birth father's footsteps as a master of traditional dance, he bore the stage name Fujima Kan'emon III within that context. In his first appearance on the Kabuki stage, he took the name Ichikawa Kintarō, and would later take the names Ichikawa Somegorō IV and Ichikawa Komazō VIII before coming to be known as the seventh Matsumoto Kōshirō.


The son of buyō (traditional dance) master Fujima Kan'emon II, he was adopted into the kabuki theatre by Ichikawa Danjūrō IX, who then became his master. Kōshirō's sons would come to take the stage names Ichikawa Danjūrō XI, Matsumoto Kōshirō VIII, and Onoe Shōroku II; his son-in-law, Nakamura Jakuemon IV, was also an actor, along with many of Kōshirō's grandsons and great-grandsons.

Life and career[edit]

Third son of a builder and contractor, he was noticed in his early years by Fujima Kan'emmon II, an important buyō dance master, who quickly adopted him and instructed him in the art of traditional dances. However he was later noted by Ichikawa Danjuro IX, who thought he would have been better suited in the world of Kabuki and took him under his protection. Under the stage name of Ichikawa Kintarō, he made his stage debut in 1881, at the age of eleven. He would then grow up to become the best disciple of Danjuro. However, the young Kintaro was indiscrete in this youthness with many escapades, which angered his master who expelled him from the Ichikawa clan. For a long time it was thought he would never return on the stage. He was later forgiven and by April 1890 he went back to stage and he took the name of Ichikawa Somegorō IV. In 1893 he took part in the opening ceremonies of Tokyo's Meiji-za theatre.

It was also during these years that he performed for the first time the prestigious role of the warrior priest Benkei in Kanjincho, a role which was back then an exclusive of Danjuro's clan and which required a permission by them to perform the role (Ichikawa Ennosuke III's great-grandfather, Danshiro II, got expelled from the Ichikawa clan for the same reason).

A couple of months before his master's death, in 1903, he would then take the name of Ichikawa Komazō VIII. This particular name had been used by several actors of both Ichikawa Danjuro and Matsumoto Koshiro's clans and receiving it was an honour.

He would also take part in the 1911 opening ceremonies of the Imperial Theater, and took the name Matsumoto Kōshirō, one of the most prestigious roles in the Kabuki world which had not been used for over half a century, at a shūmei naming ceremony there only a few months later. Along with the onnagata Onoe Baikō VI and wagotoshi Sawamura Sōjūrō VII, Kōshirō became one of the leading actors of the troupe. Over the following years, he would perform, often alongside these two compatriots, in a number of productions in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, a rare feat for a Kabuki actor. This was in large part due to the differences between the Tokyo (Edo) and Kyoto-Osaka (Kamigata) styles of acting; few actors were particularly successful at performing in both regions. Two of his more common roles in this period, which he played in multiple cities, were those of Nikko Danjō in Meiboku Sendai Hagi and Benkei. Though a specialist in male roles, and in particular the aragoto warrior roles like Benkei, Kōshirō did on occasion also play women, such as Lady Yoshio in Meiboku Sendai Hagi.

Continuing the trade of his adoptive father, Kōshirō became the head of the Fujima dance school in 1917, and took his father's name, becoming Fujima Kan'emon III; he would use this name when performing buyō traditional dance, but continued to be known as Kōshirō in the theatre world.

Kōshirō continued to perform in all three major cities through World War II, and made his last stage appearance in December 1948, at the Shinbashi Enbujō in Tokyo.

Family and legacy[edit]

Koshiro had three sons and a daughter. His sons would then become respectively Ichikawa Danjuro XI , Matsumoto Hakuo I (known before as Koshiro VIII) and Onoe Shoroku II. He passed Danjuro IX's knowledge and teaching techniques to them who became without any doubts the best tachiyaku (male role specialists) of the first and early second half of the 20th century. Her daughter married the onnagata actor Nakamura Jakuemon IV. He was also the father-in-law of Nakamura Kichiemon I's daughter. His grandsons became the most famous actors of the second half of the 20th century and are still performing today alongside his great-grandsons. Today he has blood relatives with many other Kabuki clans, such as Onoe Kikugoro, Danjuro and indirectly with Nakamura Kanzaburo's clans. No other actor left such a wide inheritance in the kabuki world.

He made of the role of benkei his trademark, having performed it over 1600 times during his lifelong career, in particular with fellow actors Ichimura Uzaemon XV in the role of Togashi and Onore Kikugoro VI or Baiko VI in the role of Yoshitsune. Some recordings still exists today and these are considered to be some of the oldest Japanese movies to record. Today the role of Benkei is considered the trademark of Koshiro's family.

Altrough he was the most potential candidate to succees to the name of his master, who did't have any male son, and become Danjuro X, his youthful indiscrections prevented him get the prestigious name. After Danjuro IX's death his son-in-law Sansho Ichikawa V, new head of the family, was considering to give him the prestogious name but Danjuro's widow never forgot Koshiro and prevented him to get the name until he became too old to actually care. Still Sansho (postmously Danjuro X) decided to adopt Koshiro's eldest son instead, who became Danjuro XI and new head of the family. That's why fans still considers him an Ichikawa by all means. Many Kabuki scholars still considers him the real Danjuro X.

See also[edit]