Hiroshi Watanabe 2003
Chikako Suga as Otsune, Matsuo Kabuki
Silver gelatin photograph, edition of 30
Oak frame: H52 x W42 cm
Hiroshi Watanabe (b. 1951, Sapporo) is a Japanese photographer, based in Los Angeles since 1975. His work is represented in numerous museum collections including LACMA and The J. Paul Getty Museum, and has been exhibited across the US, Europe and Japan.
Hiroshi Watanabe on his Kabuki series:
Those Kabuki players you see in my photographs are not with the mainstream Kabuki companies in Tokyo. They are with localized small groups located in various parts of Japan. They are not professional actors in a sense, as they don’t get paid for their plays. They actually spend quite a lot of their own money to be in the plays. Kabuki is known for lavish make-up, costumes, and stage set-ups. As such, those who want to be in the plays must be committed and prepared. They spend their time and money because of their love for being in the theater—attention they get, pride, prestige, and joy of being part of their tradition.
One such company is based in a town called Nakatsugawa. The town is cozily nested at the foot of Japan Alps Mountains. It was situated at the halfway point between Tokyo and Kyoto of the old main road called Nakasendo in Edo era, and because of this strategic location, it flourished as a trading post about three hundred years ago. The town became rich, but had no cultures as they are away from big cities. They had to wait for Kabuki Company to arrive, which comes only once a year. Being tired of waiting, they finally decided to do Kabuki by themselves. They built a theater and hired make-up artists, costumers, and stage craftsmen from Kyoto just for themselves, and they started to play their favorite stories. Thus it became their tradition.