Actor: Hanayagi Shōtarō (花柳"章太郎)

Lifetime: May 24 1894 - January 6 1965

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Hanayagi Shōtarō was an actor who flourished in Tokyo in the 1920s through 1950s. He led the revival of the Shinpa (New Faction) school of theater, which combined elements of traditional kabuki with modern and Western drama. A handsome man, he won popular acclaim as an actor in female roles on stage, but later in life he played male lead roles as well. He appeared in Mizoguchi Ken's famous 1939 film, "Zangiku Monogatari" in 1939, and is the subject of Yakusha shosetsu Hanayagi Shōtarō, written by his friend, the author Kawaguci [sic] Shotaro. In 1952 he became the head of a Shinpa troupe, and appeared many times with the group's female lead, Mizutani Yaeko. He was recognized by the Japanese government as a "Living National Treasure" for his artistic skills, and won numerous prizes.

This is quoted directly from the Portland Art Museum (Oregon) curatorial notes.


Hanayagi Shōtarō was a versatile actor born at a time of great change in the acting field. He not only acted on stage but in films, too. He played the parts of both women and men. That was not unusual in the history of kabuki theater for an especially talented performer. However, the 20th century brought on even greater changes. Women were no longer blocked from performing on stage and Shōtarō's daughter Ono Michiko, aka Hanayagi Toshiko, was one of these trailblazers.