Kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando V | Photo courtesy of Inamori Foundation

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SAN DIEGO, CALIF.: Tamasaburo Bando V is one of Japan’s most celebrated performers of Kabuki, the traditional dance/drama form whose roots date back some 500 years. On Thursday, March 22, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., the 61-year-old artist offers a free presentation that is open to the public as part of the annual Kyoto Symposium, March 21-22, at the University of San Diego (online registration is required at www.kyotoprize-us.org).

Kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando V  |  Photo courtesy of Inamori Foundation
Kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando V | Photo courtesy of Inamori Foundation

In 2011, Tamasaburo became a Kyoto Prize laureate. He received this prestigious $625,000 prize, bestowed every year by Japan’s Inamori Foundation. A tate oyama, or leading interpreter of female roles, Tamasaburo is one of Japan’s most famous Kabuki actors, known for performing onnagata (female roles) in the all-male Kabuki tradition. Using the backdrop of his life’s work, Tamasaburo will reveal the skills he uses in playing Kabuki roles, including the essentials of hard work and the ideals of beauty as pursued by the artist.

Devoted to his art since childhood, Tamasaburo made his public stage debut at age seven. Beyond kabuki, he has been featured by the Metropolitan Opera and has performed with renowned artists from around the world. His films include Gekashitsu (The Operating Room), which he co-wrote and directed; and Andrzej Wajda’s Nastasja, in which he played both male and female leading roles.

In the past 11 years, the Inamori Foundation and the Kyoto Symposium Organization organizes the Kyoto Prize Symposium which showcases the latest laureates of the Kyoto Prize — Japan’s highest private award for global achievement.  Tamasaburo is the Kyoto laureate in the fields of arts and philosophy. The other 2011 laureates are Dr. John W. Cahn, a materials scientist who established the landmark theory of spinodal decomposition, and Dr. Rashid Sunyaev, a Russian-German astrophysicists contributor to high-energy astronomy who proposed the theory that fluctuations in cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) may be used to explore the expanding universe. Cahn was recognized for his work in advanced technology, Sunyaev in “basic sciences.”

In his acceptance speech, Tamasaburo spoke about his belief that kabuki must use live theatrical space to bring audiences into the illusions, ideals, and imagination of the actor:

I would like to tell you about how I came to be a Kabuki actor, but it would be more appropriate to say that I got involved in this world of Kabuki as a child, without the foggiest notion of what I would eventually become. And then, before I knew it, I had become a Kabuki actor. From that point on, my driving forces have been an intense desire to be physically active and an abiding love of theater. Because I was physically weak as a child, my parents took care of everything for me, and essentially let me say and do whatever I pleased. Now, in accepting this prestigious prize, I look back on those bygone days and can only regret having led such a self-love life without regard for my family and those around me. Having become acquainted with the noble philosophy of the Inamori Foundation upon the receipt of the Kyoto Prize, I feel that I have a duty to live up to that philosophy.

When I succeeded to the name of Tamasaburo Bando V at the age of 14, my foster father (Kanya Morita XIV) told me, “From today on, you will be a professional. It will be tough going from here on out.” This was when I realized that I was going to be a professional. My foster father passed away when I was 24, but I remember his constant admonitions. He would say things like “When you sit back and rest on your laurels, it’s all over,” and “Don’t allow yourself to be a jack of all trades, master of none.” My senior Kabuki actors also used to tell me, “Don’t try to act for the audience. Simply be the character.”

I cannot imagine that I would have been awarded this prize without so much support from the many forerunners and senior performers who have helped to make Japanese theater to become what it is today, and I am deeply in their debt for this great honor. Learning that I would be receiving this prize gave me cause to look back over the many experiences that I have had during my life and career thus far, and also the courage to go forward. Once again, I want to express my deepest appreciation and wish continued development of the Inamori Foundation.


Kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando V  |  Photo courtesy of Inamori Foundation
Kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando V | Photo courtesy of Inamori Foundation
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