How to assume an Azuma pose

John Baker photographer | Tokuho Azuma in change room at Royal Opera House Covent Garden

John Baker photographer | Tokuho Azuma in change room at Royal Opera House Covent Garden

  • Azuma Tokuho in her dressing room at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The Kabuki make-up contrasts oddly with the prints on the wall and the cigarettes on the table. [Photographer: John Baker].
  • The Azuma Kabuki Dancers and Musicians performed at the Royal Opera House, at Covent Garden between 11th September – 1st October, 1955. The performance was designed for a Western audience; using part-drama, part-opera and part-dance. The performers included Tsurunosuke Bando, Tokuho Azuma, Masaya Fujima, Shusai Fujima, Mitsuemon Bando and Umesuke Onoe.

Azuma Tokuho (actually Yamada Kikue) was born on 15th February, 1909, in the Tokyo Prefecture; the illegitimate child of Ichimura Uzaemon XV (1874–1945), a kabuki actor; and a geisha and dancer (1879–1957). Tokuho was a Japanese dancer, teacher and member of the Japanese Academy of Arts. She founded and directed the Azuma School of Dance for Kabuki Dancers and Musicians, a dancing troupe introduced to western audiences in the 1950s.

In 1928 at the age of 19, Tokuho met Nakamura Tomijūrō IV (born 11th June, 1908) in a nearby artist’s dressing room, fell in love with Tomijūrō, ran away; and later married him. Two years later, in 1930, she founded the Shuntokai and began performing as a dancer under the stage name Harue Fujima. Other known aliases include: Fujima Harue, Azuma Harue and Harue Azuma. In 1942 she took the name Tokuho.

  • In 1939, she fell in love again with Satō Kōjirō (actually Masaya Fujima 1915-1957), whom she married in the 1950s.
  • From 1954 to 1956 Tokuho toured the United Kingdom and the United States with the Azuma-Kabuki. In the US, they performed in 40 cities, in 11 different states.

Tokuho had two sons. Her first son Nakamura Tomijūrō V. (1929-2011) was a kabuki actor and was honoured as a living national treasure. Her grandson Nakamura Takanosuke (b. 1999), whom her son had at the age of 70, is also a kabuki actor. Her second son Motoyasu Yamada is also known as Aiko Watanabe.

In 1968, Tokuho handed over the management of the Azuma School of Dance to Nakamura Tomijūrō V; and she withdrew from the school.

  • Tokuho was presented with the Medal of Honour on a purple ribbon (1976)
  • The Order of the Noble Crown in the fourth class of merit (1982); and
  • Was honoured as a person with special cultural merits (1991).

Tokuho died on 23rd April, 1998 at the age of 89.

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“Is It Art?”

Source: Haskell, Arnold L. The Ballet Annual (1957)

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