Bad Kabuki Drama

For the last three weeks the Japanese media have been obsessed with the antics of the kabuki world’s most celebrated actor, Ichikawa Ebizo, who was involved in a bar brawl the morning of Nov. 25.

The beating resulted in hospitalization and the cancellation of two important theatrical series, one in Kyoto, the other in Tokyo, featuring Ebizo, the scion to kabuki’s most illustrious family, during the lucrative New Year’s season.

Though the 33-year-old Ebizo has cultivated a reputation as a playboy and a hard drinker since emerging as a superstar in his teens, the mainstream media has mostly avoided any embarrassing reports over the years, because kabuki clans occupy a lofty position in Japanese society comparable to that of the Imperial family.

Earlier this year he finally married. However, his wife, a popular TV announcer named Mao Kobayashi, is not of the “rien” (kabuki world) and still doesn’t know the protocol. When Ebizo returned from a bender the morning of the 25th all bloodied, she called the police, making the matter public.

At a Dec. 7 press conference, Ebizo apologized for the incident but claimed he was the victim in the fight. Various media reports, however, contradict his claim.

The subordinate has since been arrested and claims he didn’t start the fight.

Initially, the media reported that Ebizo’s injuries were severe, though the only evidence of the contretemps at the press conference was a bloodshot eye. Perhaps more severe than the fight, it was Ebizo’s cavalier cancellation of a Nov. 24 press conference to promote the New Year’s performances that enraged Shochiku, the theatrical company that oversees the kabuki world.

Shochiku has suspended Ebizo’s professional activies “indefinitely.”