enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館

Chapter 4: The Charm of Dazzling Costuming(新派展)

Finding Avant-gardness in Shimpa Dramas

Chapter 4: The Charm of Dazzling Costuming

One of the pleasures of watching theatre lies in the costumes and stagecraft. Above all, costumes that ingeniously give depth to a wide range of roles, play an important part in representing the world of shimpa. There are countless cases in which costumes convey the individuality and personality of a role, and are passed down to later generations to help shape the image of individual works.

Here, we introduce mainly the stage costumes used by Hanayagi Shotaro, the famous onnagata who typifies the period before and after the Second World War.

Japanese painter Kaburagi Kiyokata had boundless praise for Hanayagi’s attention and devotion to his costumes, saying, “The love he gives to his kimono is not that of an ordinary woman of the world, and his taste in his costumes are beyond the reach of craftsmen”. Hanayagi, who had many interests and a deep knowledge of art, befriended Ito Shinsui from a young age, looked up to Kimura Sohachi as his teacher, and had a close relationship with Komura Settai, Yamagawa Shuho, Okumura Dogyu, and Miyata Shigeo, among others. His costumes grew out of his interactions with these individuals. Even if it was for just a single performance or role, these master painters would apply their expertise to design and research, and sometimes even take up their own brush to paint, thereby bring Hanayagi’s costumes to life. The lavishness of their efforts was striking.

Unlike ordinary costumes, stage costumes, with all their patterns and colours, are not complete until actors put them on and the light hits them. They come alive after they are seen by an audience. Hanayagi had a wealth of knowledge and knew how to show off his costumes. It is said that the costumes that Hanayagi liked attracted admiration from geisha and others, and many spectators visited the theatre just to see his costumes.

We hope you enjoy the dazzling charms of Hanayagi’s costumes, where his sense of aesthetics intersects with painterly art.