Soganoya, Gorō (1877–1948) By Fukushima, Yoshiko
Soganoya, Gorō was a Japanese actor, director and playwright who created of a new genre of modern comedy called kigeki (also shinkigeki). He wrote around 1,000 short comedies under the pen name Ikkai Gyojin. His comedy style was inspired by humor as well as the satirical and ironical laughter of Western comedy such as that of Moliére. Many of his works are still performed by the comedy troupe, Shōchiku Shinkigeki. His signature pieces include The Flower of the Luffa (1917) and Cherry Trees in Leaf (1933).
Soganoya became a student of the kabuki actor Nakamura Sangorō in 1892 and made his stage debut as the utility actor Nakamura Sannosuke at Osaka’s Naniwaza in 1893. In 1902 he met Nakamura Tokizo’s student, Nakamura Jidai (1869–1925) at the traveling kabuki troupe Osaka’s Fukuiza. In 1903, using their new names, Sannosuke as Gorō and Jidai as Jūrō, they formed Soganoya Brothers Troupe in order to create new comedy to replace the old style of comedy called niwaka which had been established by Tsuruya Danjurō in Osaka. Their debut in 1904 at Yūokaza in Itami near Osaka was a failure, but their first success came with Funny Kanjinchō acted for the traveling kabuki troupe, Nakamura Fukuen Ichiza in Wakayama, in which Gorō acted the role of Benkei and Jūrō Togashi.