Tsuruya Nanboku IV (四代目鶴屋南北) (individual 1755 – 1829)

Katsu Hyōzō I (勝俵蔵)



In Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology 1600-1900 edited by Haruo Shirane, Columbia University Press, 2002, on page 844, it says:

"Little is known about Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755-1829) except that he was born in Edo and was the son of a dyer. In 1776 he became an apprentice to Sakurada Jisuke I (d. 1806), one of the leading kabuki playwrights of the day, who specialized in drama depicting contemporary life. In the following year Nanboku began working at the Nakamura Theater under the pen name Sakurada Heizō. In 1780, at the age of twenty-five, he married Oyoshi, the daughter of Tsuruya Nanboku III, the third in a succession of kabuki comic actors. It took another twenty years, however, before he produced the first hit, Indian Tokubei, A Story of a Foreign Country (Tenjiku Tokubei ikokubanashi, 1804), starring Onoe Matsusuke, an actor with a tremendous range of roles who specialized in the kind of ghost plays and stage tricks that Nanboku was to make his own. Then, after taking the name Tsuruya Nanboku IV in 1811, he wrote more than 120 plays, the most famous today being Scarlet Princess of Edo (Sakurahime azuma no bunshō, 1817) and Ghost Stories at Yotsuya (Yotsuya kaidan, 1825)."


Since Shirane's book came out in 2002 a lot more information has been gathered about Nanboku IV by Furido Hideo (古井戸秀夫), although much of it has yet to be translated into English. "Since retiring from teaching, Furuido has become even more active as a scholar. Based on his nearly half-a-century of study and research, in 2018 he published Hyōden Tsuruya Nanboku (A Critical Biography of Tsuruya Nanboku), a two-volume book of over 1,600 pages formatted in a tight, two-column configuration. Bringing together all the research he has conducted over his long career, this monograph won four prestigious awards from various public and private organizations, from the Yomiuri Prize for Literature to the Geijutsusenshō (Award for Artistic Excellence) from the Ministry of Education, the Kawatake Award for the best work of theatre scholarship, and the Kadokawa Gen’yoshi Prize, which goes to the best achievement in the fields of Japanese literature, history, and culture. The range of these prizes mark both the scholarly depth and the broad reach of this monumental work."

"While this two-volume monograph is titled Hyōden Tsuruya Nanboku, it is much more than just a biography of Nanboku: it delves into the stories of his grave and his residence; it talks about members of an earlier generation of playwrights from whom Nanboku learned, such as Kanai Sanshō and Sakurada Jisuke; his friendship with Hiraga Gen’nai and other literary giants; the lives of Ōtani Tokuji, Onoe Matsusuke, Onoe Kikugorō and many other actors and playwrights with whom he worked and crossed paths; and new aesthetics and role-types including the kizewa (true “sewa”), akuba (evil women), and iroaku (erotic rogue) that Nanboku’s plays developed, and their long, complex lineages. And as if this weren’t enough, at the same time he was working on this book, Furuido also simultaneously produced Tsuruya Nanboku, a readable biography that offers a narrower, chronological narrative of Nanboku’s life from his youth to the end of his career, published as part of Yoshikawa Kōbunkan’s biography series in 2020. In 2021 and 2022, he published a three-volume series of Nanboku’s unpublished plays under the title Mikan Nanboku zenshū (Complete Unpublished Plays of Nanboku) from Hakusui-sha. This collection is organized chronologically to include plays Nanboku wrote as an understudy, under the name Katsu Hyōzō (vol. 1); those he wrote after he inherited the name of Tsuruya Nanboku (vol. 2); and work produced during his later years, when he collaborated with his son Naoe Jūbei (vol. 3). The final volume also includes Nanboku’s essays, letters, and haikai surimono. Along with his award-winning 2018 Hyōden Tsuruya Nanboku, these transcriptions both fill out our understanding of Nanboku’s career and enhance our understanding of nineteenth-century kabuki more broadly."

This is from the translator's notes by Satoko Shimazaki.