Ichikawa Ennosuke III, born Masahiko Kinoshi on December 9, 1939, and sadly passing away on September 13, 2023, was a legendary figure in the world of Japanese kabuki theater. Under the stage name Ichikawa Ennosuke III, he left an indelible mark on the kabuki stage, renowned for his love of keren (stage tricks) and innovative performances.

A Theatrical Prodigy

Ennosuke embarked on his theatrical journey at a remarkably young age, making his stage debut at just eight years old at the Tōkyō Gekijō. Initially known as Ichikawa Danko III, he would later adopt the prestigious name Ennosuke in 1963 when he was 24 years old. His family lineage was steeped in kabuki tradition, with his brother being Ichikawa Danshirō IV, his father Danshirō III, and his mother Sanae Takasugi. Notably, their great-grandfather and grandfather were the first and second to bear the name Ichikawa Ennosuke, respectively, showcasing the rich heritage of kabuki theater in their family.

A Master of Keren

Ennosuke was celebrated as a master of dramatic costumes, extravagant theater signage, and the art of keren, which involves stage tricks. While some kabuki purists considered these elements as catering to popular taste and distracting from the true essence of the art, Ennosuke garnered admiration among those who appreciated keren. His performances often featured awe-inspiring chūnori, where he would soar above the audience suspended by strings. In 1968, he astounded audiences by performing chūnori for the first time as the fox in “Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura.” Remarkably, he repeated this feat over 5000 times, with his 5000th chūnori performance portraying Guan Yu in 2000.

Reviving Old Traditions and Innovating Kabuki

Ennosuke’s contributions to kabuki extended beyond keren. He played a pivotal role in reviving classic plays, including “Date no Jūyaku” (The Ten Roles of Date), where he portrayed ten characters in a single performance using rapid costume changes known as hayagawari. Additionally, in 1986, he introduced a more contemporary style of kabuki referred to as “Super Kabuki,” showcasing his innovative spirit.

A Legacy and Transition

In November 2003, Ennosuke faced health issues resembling a stroke, leading to a hiatus from performances in the subsequent year. Ultimately, he ceased performing in 2004 and officially retired in 2012 under the name Ichikawa En’no II. His nephew, Takahiko Kinoshi, who had been known as Kamejiro II, took on the Ennosuke stage name, becoming Ichikawa Ennosuke IV.

Ennosuke’s artistic influence extended beyond kabuki, as his son, Teruyuki Kagawa, is a well-known actor in his own right, bearing the stage name Ichikawa Chusha IX as a kabuki actor.

A Farewell to a Theatrical Legend

Ichikawa En’ō II passed away in Tokyo on September 13, 2023, at the age of 83, leaving behind a legacy of innovation, creativity, and a deep appreciation for the art of kabuki. His contributions continue to inspire and resonate within the world of Japanese theater.