Actor: Bandō Tamasaburō V (五代目坂東玉三郎)

Alternate names:
Bandō Kinoji (坂東喜の字)
Nirehara Shin’ichi (original name)

Related links: Tamasaburō and Yo-yo Ma collaboration to the music of Bach - a video;


This actor was born on April 25, 1950. He took this name in June 1964. He was adopted by Morita Kan'ya XIV (1907-75). He made his debut in 1957 under the name Kinoji.


According to Alison Eldridge in her entry at the Britannica Tamasaburō had polio as a young child. "At age six he was adopted into the family of Kabuki actor Morita Kan’ya XIV, who had no sons of his own and was looking for a successor. He made his stage debut under the name Bandō Kinoji in 1957, playing the role of Kotarō in the drama Terakoya (“The Temple School”). In 1964 he inherited the prestigious stage name Bandō Tamasaburō, becoming the fifth actor to perform under that moniker. The following year his adoptive father and he performed together as mother and daughter in an adaptation of Chūshingura (“The Treasury of the Loyal Retainers”). In 1969 Tamasaburō won the role of Princess Shiranui in Mishima Yukio’s new Kabuki play Chinsetsu yumiharizuki (“The Moon like a Drawn Bow”). Other notable roles from that period include Princess Taema in Narukami (1970; “The Thunder God”) and Princess Nowake in Sumidagawa gonichi no omokage (1971; “Memories of the Sumida River”).

His adoptive father forbade Tamasaburō to perform outside Kabuki, but after Kan’ya’s death in 1975, Tamasaburō began to make a name for himself in other genres. He acted in shimpa (“new school”) productions such as Keiko ōgi (1975; “The Practice Fan”) and dabbled in Shakespeare, appearing as Lady Macbeth and Desdemona. In the late 1970s he also began acting in films, and he went on to star in Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s Nastasja (1994), in which he played both a male and a female role. In the early 1990s he began directing films, and his 1992 effort Yume no onna (“Dream Woman”) was screened at the 1993 Berlinale film festival.

In addition to his wide range of non-Kabuki projects, Tamasaburō continued to perform Kabuki throughout his career, both in Japan and abroad. In 1996 he collaborated with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, performing Kabuki dance to the music of J.S. Bach, and in 1998 he danced alongside Mikhail Baryshnikov. He also brought his Kabuki sensibility to traditional Chinese kunqu theatre, directing and starring in a production of Mudanting (“The Peony Pavilion”) at the Shanghai International Arts Festival in 2009. The opera was widely praised, and it played in Tokyo the following year. Tamasaburō, who had been honoured with many awards during his lengthy career, in 2011 received the prestigious Kyoto Prize for his contributions to the arts."


"October 1996: Yo-Yo Ma and Tamasaburō combine talents to create an emotionally charged dance to J.S. Bach's "Suite No. 5 for Unaccompanied Cello", which is performed at the Suntory Hall in Tōkyō. The performance has been filmed and released..."


The BBC noted David Bowie "...learned from famed onnagata Tamasaburo Bando how to apply traditional kabuki make-up - its bold highlighted features on a white background are evident in the lightning bolt across the Ziggy face."

In an article in Vogue from 2016 it says: "Before Bowie sang “I’m an alligator,” he learned the art of kabuki makeup from Japan’s most famous onnagata, Bandō Tamasaburō V..."