Matsumoto Kôshirô VII (1870-1949) is now remembered for his authentic rendition of kabuki classics. However, in his youth, he was interested in Western culture and learned English, Western dance and the violin. Worthy of special mention is his experiments with Western make-up, which he learned from Making Up (Witmark & Sons 1905), a stage make-up manual by American actor James Young. Kôshirô had photographs of his wearing Western make-up taken and published themin Japanese theater magazine Engei Gahô serially, under the title of “hensô”. Literally meaning “to change one's looks,” “hensô” can imply more than changing one's appearance by putting on make-up. I would argue that Matsumoto's engrossment in Western make-up prefigured the subsequent development of interest in facial expressions as an acting technique, which was advocated by theatre theorists and practitioners who had seen or studied Western theater in early twentieth century Japan. The irony with this is that, while those who emphasized the importance of “hyôjyô” - a rarely used word then meaning facial expressions - and sought guidance for Kôshirô's “hensô” series pursued a new style of acting to get rid of old kabuki, Kôshirô studied Western make-up for his acting in kabuki theater. Kôshirô's photos have not been fully appreciated because his experiments with Western make-up were considered an amateurish hobby. However, considering the influences his study had on shingeki actors - he taught Western make-up methods at Tokyo Haiyu Yôseijo, a training facility for shingeki actors - it is necessary to cast a new light on Kôshirô, who is usually understood as a superb Meiji-era kabuki actor endowed with a beautiful body suitable for kabuki classics. Certainly, he was a pioneer in modernizing kabuki acting as well as a mediator between kabuki and modern Japanese theater.
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Edited and published by : Japanese Society for Theatre Research. Comparative Theatre Section Produced and listed by : Odanaka Lab, Department of Culture asRepresentation, Graduate School of Literature and Human Sciences,Osaka City University