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By Culturekiosque Staff

TOKYO, 11 NOVEMBER 2011 — This year's Kyoto Prize for Arts and Philosophy has been awarded to the 61-year-old Japanese Kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando V.

The Inamori Foundation of Japan presents the annual awards in recognition of lifetime achievement in the categories of basic science, advanced technology and arts and philosophy. The award includes a cash prize of 50 million yen, or approximately $625,000.

In announcing the 27th annual awards yesterday in Kyoto the foundation said of the Japanese performing artist, "Tamasaburo Bando V, as a male actor specializing in female roles, has created his own unique world with his performances in Kabuki and established his position as the leading actor of female roles, although not born into a Kabuki family. He is also an internationally active performer in various genres of performing arts and holds countless audiences spellbound with his unsurpassed artistry."

Tamasaburo Bando V
© Inamori Foundation 2011

Despite its roots in bawdy street theater, kabuki was the most popular form of stage entertainment in Edo Japan (1615 - 1868). All professional kabuki actors begin their training with studies in Japanese classical dance, and every movement in kabuki is based in dance.

For more than four decades, Tamasaburo has delivered acclaimed performances in onnagata (Kabuki female roles), establishing himself with unsurpassed artistry as a tate oyama, or leading actor of female roles, in the contemporary Kabuki scene.

Born in Shin'ichi Morita, Japan in 1950, Tamasaburo Bando V did not hail  from a distinguished family of Kabuki performers where gestures and dramatic scripts have been handed down traditionally from father to son for around 400 years. Nevertheless, Tamasaburo's early devotion to this art form enabled him to make his stage debut at the age of seven. At 19 he was selected to play the role of Princess Shiranui in the Kabuki drama, Chinsetsu Yumiharizuki (The Moon Like a Drawn Bow); the following year he played Omiwa in Imoseyama Onna Teikin Goten (At the Palace on Mount Mikasa, from The Teachings for Women). His career has been characterized by a pioneering spirit that led him to collaborate with the shimpa (new school) in Kyoka Izumi’s Keiko Ogi in 1975, and to play the role of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth the following year. In 2007, under his own artistic direction, he staged marathon performances of Kyoka Izumi’s works for an entire month, an unprecedented event at Tokyo’s famed Kabuki-za Theatre.

Kabuki Legend Tamasaburo Bando V in Kurokami

Tamasaburo’s achievements in dance, drama and film have been recognized beyond the world of Kabuki theater. In 1984 he was invited to represent Japan in the Metropolitan Opera’s Centennial Gala, where he was featured along with such renowned performers as chanson singer Yves Montand, ballet dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, and opera singer Plácido Domingo; his performance of Sagi Musume (The Heron Maiden) attracted worldwide attention. He has also collaborated with ballet luminaries such as Maurice Béjart and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and performed with the Japanese taiko drum ensemble Kodo. His films include Gekashitsu (The Operating Room), which he co-wrote and directed, and Andrzej Wajda’s Nastasja, in which he played the double roles of Prince Myshkin and Nastasja. In 2008, Tamasaburo participated in China’s Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theater, playing the lead role in The Peony Pavilion in Beijing.

Tamasaburo Bando V receives Kyoto Prize
© Inamori Foundation 2011

The Inamori Foundation was established in 1984 by Kazuo Inamori, founder and chairman emeritus of Kyocera Corp. The Kyoto Prize was founded in 1985 and has been awarded to 84 individuals and one foundation — collectively representing 15 nations. Individual laureates range from scientists, engineers and researchers to philosophers, painters, architects, sculptors, musicians and film directors.  The United States has produced the most recipients (34), followed by Japan (14), the United Kingdom (12), and France (8).

Past Kyoto Prize laureates in the field of culture include the German choreographer Pina Bausch (2007), Japanese designer Issey Miyake (2006), Austrian conductor and early European music specialist Nikolaus Harnoncourt (2005), French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez (2009),  Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (1994), British stage director Peter Brook (1991) and the Italian architect Renzo Piano (1990).

Headline image: Tamasaburo Bando V  

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