Yakusha Hyōbanki: The definitive record of Kabuki actor criticism (in Japanese)

Yakusha Hyōbanki, a record of theater criticism of Kabuki actors, was published annually for 250 years from the mid-17th century to the early 20th century (Meiji era). The transliteration and revision of the text is an ongoing project begun in the 1960s with the support of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology (MEXT). In February 2020 Izumi Shoin announced the publication of the third volume of the third collection.

The third collection of "Kabuki Hyōbanki" : This includes the 12 "Yakusha Hyobanki” published from 1778 through 1781

The third collection of Yakushsa Hyōbanki focuses on Kabuki in the 18th century when the great Ichikawa Danjuro V was active. There are such details, recorded in 1781, as Danjurō's use of silent gestures to intensify a stage fight with another actor. Even the popularity of the actors was described in detail. Danjurō, was tremendously popular with the public, as seen in the various souvenirs such as cigarette holders, hand towels and rice crackers which were decorated with the mimasu (the Ichikawa family crest).

In the study of the literary arts of the Edo period, it is important to be aware of the essential role of Kabuki culture. In this era, Edo-gesaku (playful, popular fiction) flourished and developed in the world of literature. In the Kansai region, cultural activities blossomed with the appearance of such literary figures as Yosa Buson and Ueda Akinari. In the world of ukiyo-e, actors’ portraits were drawn by the famous Tōsūsai Sharaku.

There is a wealth of information revealed in the Yakusha Hyōbanki. Sharaku’s portraits provided the name of the play and the role the actor played. In addition to the Yakusha Hyōbanki published in Kansai, were those published in the Edo region (present day Tokyo). Also included are the lesser publications from cities such as Nagoya and Kofu, which were outside the ‘big three’: Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo.

Yakusha Hyōbanki covers a wide variety of issues such as the evolution of Kabuki culture, the characteristics of Kabuki actors’ performances, aspects of Kabuki culture, interpretations of the literary arts newly created from that culture, and the connection between the three big cities and regional culture.

 Publication Details

Title:The third collection of "Kabuki Hyōbanki"
Author:The publishing association of Yakusha Hyobanki
Publication Date:20 Feb. 2020

The catalog of yakusha hyobanki “yakusya tochi manryo” : The leading actor was Ichikawa Danjuro. Shigoku-jo-jo-kichi (exceedingly - superior - superior – excellent ), a very prestigious rank in a hyobanki.

An illustration of yakusha hyobanki “yakusya tochi manryo” : The actor in black clothes on the left is Ichikawa Danjuro in the role of Oboshi Yuranosuke.

Published: 15 Jun 2020


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Japan Society for the Promotion of Science(JSPS) KAKENHI - Grant-in-Aid for Publication of Scientific Research Results - Scientific Literature, Grant Number 19HP5020