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James R. Brandon - Myth and Reality: A Story of Kabuki during American Censorship, 1945-1949 - Asian Theatre Journal 23:1 Asian Theatre Journal 23.1 (2006) 1-110

Myth and Reality:

A Story of Kabuki during American Censorship, 1945–1949

American censors during the occupation of Japan after World War II unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate feudal themes and foster new democratic plays in kabuki. Contrary to popular myths, kabuki flourished under the Occupation, "banned" plays were rapidly released, the infamous "list of banned plays" was not significant, most American censors were captivated by kabuki, and credit for Occupation assistance to kabuki should not limited to one man, Faubion Bowers. Using archival records, I show that the Shōchiku Company, the major kabuki producer, successfully resisted the democratic aims of the Occupation. Shōchiku's "classics-only" policy protected Japanese culture from American contamination and inadvertently fashioned the fossilized kabuki we know today.

I would like to examine some of the rampant myths and misunderstandings that have grown up about censorship of kabuki plays during the American Occupation of Japan following World War II. In order to do this, I will briefly describe the system of censorship, concentrating on the early years, 1945–1947, when major policies were set and crucial decisions made. I will identify important discrepancies between my narrative and previous published accounts.1 In particular, I will show that kabuki was not a helpless victim of vengeful or bumbling American officials but, to the contrary, that Japanese producers [End Page 1] and managers maintained the initiative in determining postwar kabuki policy. Japanese accounts consistently call the immediate postwar years the darkest period in kabuki history, but in fact kabuki productions were more numerous during American censorship than either before or after. Nor, as is popularly believed, did one American alone "save" postwar kabuki from destruction. I will show that a half-dozen American theatre censors recognized kabuki's superior artistry and instituted relaxed policies for that reason. Finally, I will explore the failure of American demands for plays with contemporary topics and democratic themes. I believe that American pressure solidified the policy of kabuki producers to reduce the repertory into today's fossilized, "classics-only" configuration.


Over a four-year period, from October 1945 until November 1949, American theatre censors in the headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) examined approximately 100,000 Japanese play scripts that professional and amateur producers intended to stage. Kabuki scripts made up a small proportion of the total but were of particular concern to the Occupation. Kabuki was a high art deserving of respect, and yet it was the theatrical form most deeply implicated in feudal, militarist, and ultra-nationalist ideology that the Occupation was mandated to extirpate from Japanese society. Theatre officials in SCAP wrestled with this issue from 1945 to 1949, passing through several stages in the process.

Without exception, Japanese scholars and journalists have continued to say that censorship during the Occupation put kabuki in great peril, for example, "The theatre that was most endangered by the Occupation was kabuki" (Toita 1979: 60), and "SCAP theatre censorship banned the majority of kabuki performances" (Takagi 2000: 13). An official history of the Shōchiku Theatrical Corporation (the major producer of kabuki) states the case succinctly: "Kabuki drama stood in crisis" (Tanaka 1964: 168).

Based on my examination of censored play scripts that have not been studied before and original Occupation documents, as well as interviews with former censors, I believe the effects of American censorship have been greatly exaggerated. Regarding kabuki, the Occupation's basic aim was to "democratize" (minshūshūgi-ka) the repertory and in this it completely failed.2 I believe that four years of American censorship of kabuki produced two minor effects. First, the Occupation blocked the performance of some blatantly militaristic and feudalistic plays for a period of time: for example, Genta's Disinheritance for a few weeks, The Subscription List for six months, Chronicle of the Battle [End Page 2] of Ichinotani for a year, and the famous revenge drama The Treasury of Loyal Retainers for two years.3 (See Plate 1.) Second, a small number of new kabuki plays were staged at the urging of the Occupation. Other than this, kabuki's managers effectively resisted American attempts to modernize the kabuki repertory.

The Occupation's aim was never to put kabuki out of business (as is sometimes implied). Indeed, throughout the Occupation period, Shōchiku producers held the initiative: they proposed kabuki programs they wished to stage and American authorities reacted to those choices. They proposed plays that were disliked by the Occupation. They proposed plays that went against the "democratic" policies of the Occupation. Yet most were approved: out of some 350 kabuki titles that the Shōchiku Theatrical Corporation submitted to Occupation censors for approval, approximately one dozen were rejected for performance, that is "suppressed," to use the Occupation term.4

By the time World War II was reaching its horrifying end in the summer of 1945, kabuki was on the brink of extinction, the result of policies and actions of the Japanese government. In March 1944, Prime Minister Tōjō Hideki's cabinet ordered Japan's thirteen largest theatres, including Tokyo's Kabuki-za, to close (most for the duration of the war, as it turned out). Kabuki troupes were forced to downsize, leave the cities, and tour the provinces. Popular genres of theatre that specialized in comedies and sword fighting dramas (taishū goraku) replaced kabuki in government favor. Elite, luxurious kabuki essentially disappeared from commercial stages and from public consciousness in the war's final convulsive months. No professional kabuki was staged in Tokyo during the last two months of the war. Finally, half of the theatres in the nation were burned down or blown up in massive B-29 saturation bombings between March and June 1945. Kabuki was an inch from death when the war ended on August 15. It may even be true that the peaceful Occupation interlude that followed saved kabuki from extermination.

When the young demobilized kabuki actor Nakamura Matagorō II first saw the carnage of bombed-out Tokyo in October 1945, he recalls, "I thought that since Japan was utterly defeated, kabuki, too, was finished. Japan would have to recover without the luxury of play going" (Ikeda 1977: 132). Matagorō considered becoming a farmer, and Onoe Baikō VII, who would become one of the great stars of postwar kabuki, thought about going into business (Onoe et al. 1993: 135). Their despondence soon passed and both actors plunged into the excitement of postwar kabuki productions. As we will see, kabuki flourished in the immediate postwar years and under the American Occupation. [End Page 3]

Occupation Goals: Democracy and an End to Feudalism

Soon after the American Occupation army began arriving in Japan in early September, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, set up Occupation headquarters (GHQ) in the Dai Ichi Insurance Building opposite the imperial palace. (See Plate 2.) (One of MacArthur's military secretaries was Major Faubion Bowers, a friend of kabuki who later became a theatre censor.) Within three months, the American army of Occupation numbered 430,287 (Fukushima 1987: 24).

 Only rubble is left after B-29 bombers leveled the Zenshin-za (Vanguard Troupe) theatre building, film studio, acting academy, and housing complex in suburban Tokyo in spring 1945. Despite the destruction, the cooperative troupe, primarily kabuki actors, resumed productions in September and October. (Photo: Courtesy of Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University)
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Figure 1
Only rubble is left after B-29 bombers leveled the Zenshin-za (Vanguard Troupe) theatre building, film studio, acting academy, and housing complex in suburban Tokyo in spring 1945. Despite the destruction, the cooperative troupe, primarily kabuki actors, resumed productions in September and October. (Photo: Courtesy of Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University)

SCAP was first informed by Washington that theatre was potentially censorable in a cable, "Initial Policy for Control of Japanese Information Services," forwarded to General MacArthur in Manila, August 22, a week before Occupation forces began arriving in Japan. The advisory stipulated that among other things, "Libraries, theaters, rallies, periodicals should be controlled by you in light of existing local situation."5 The immediate concern of Occupation censors on arriving in [End Page 4] Japan was preventing jingoist Japanese newspapers and radio from continuing the kind of vitriolic anti-American propaganda they had been producing throughout the war. Initially there was no one among the small censorship staff to pay attention to theatre. As a consequence, during the first three months of the Occupation, owners and managers opened their theatres when they wished and staged whatever plays they thought appropriate. SCAP did not order theatres to close nor urge actors to take up more useful occupations (as the Japanese government had done during the war). Strongly anti-American, pro-militaristic playwrights such as Kikuta Kazuo were not punished or forbidden to write (Kikuta 1968: 261–264). Even Kishida Kunio, the famous modern drama (shingeki) playwright who was soon "purged" for his role in the wartime ultra-rightist Imperial Rule Assistance Association (Taisei Yokusankai), was allowed to write plays and have them performed (Memorandum, "Status of Playwright, Kunio Kishida," October 12, 1948, E. M. Kaneshima, Box 5305).

 Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, leaving SCAP headquarters, Dai Ichi Insurance Building, Tokyo, summer 1947. MacArthur traveled without armed guard or security escort, believing he should demonstrate confidence in the peaceful nature of the American Occupation through his personal actions. (Photo: Courtesy of Sheldon Varney)
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Figure 2
Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, leaving SCAP headquarters, Dai Ichi Insurance Building, Tokyo, summer 1947. MacArthur traveled without armed guard or security escort, believing he should demonstrate confidence in the peaceful nature of the American Occupation through his personal actions. (Photo: Courtesy of Sheldon Varney)
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It was basic Occupation policy to leave Japanese institutions in place and to work through them to accomplish Occupation aims. And so Emperor Hirohito remained emperor and the Diet continued to pass laws. Considering that Japan's military actions in Asia and the Pacific had brought about the deaths of twenty million people, this was a daring policy choice for the American victors. Japanese followed their usual laws and procedures to accept wartime Prime Minister Suzuki Kantarō's resignation and install Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko as the first postwar prime minister. Initially the police and most ministry officials remained in their jobs. In time, top military and political war leaders were placed on trial for war crimes, and over a period of three years the most strongly nationalist and militarist supporters of the war were purged from official positions of influence.6 Nonetheless, unlike in Germany, the essential organization of Japanese society and government remained intact in the postwar period.

 Occupation censors carried out their work at the same time the International Military Tribunal for the Far East was trying high- and low-ranking officers and civilians for crimes against humanity and violations of the rules of war. For 'condoning abuse and torture of Allied prisoners' at two prisoner-of-war camps under his command, 1st Lt. Hazama Kosaku was sentenced on March 19, 1947, to fifteen years at hard labor. (U.S. Signal Corps Photo, National Archives)
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Figure 3
Occupation censors carried out their work at the same time the International Military Tribunal for the Far East was trying high- and low-ranking officers and civilians for crimes against humanity and violations of the rules of war. For "condoning abuse and torture of Allied prisoners" at two prisoner-of-war camps under his command, 1st Lt. Hazama Kosaku was sentenced on March 19, 1947, to fifteen years at hard labor. (U.S. Signal Corps Photo, National Archives)
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Similarly, the American Occupation allowed the wartime structure of commercial kabuki to continue without change.7 This is extremely important to recognize. SCAP did not place American "advisers" on Shōchiku's board of directors in order to control the repertories of the six major kabuki troupes that were under Shōchiku control.8 Nor did SCAP attempt to break up the existing monopoly concentrations of theatrical ownership. The twin brothers Shirai Matsujirō and Ōtani Takejirō, who were chairman and president of Shōchiku throughout the war, continued in these positions for the seven years of the American Occupation and until their deaths in 1951 and 1969, respectively. The Americans did not purge or punish any kabuki actor, director, playwright, or producer for promoting Japan's "sacred war" (seisen).

Shōchiku Theatrical Corporation's Plan for Postwar Kabuki

Naturally enough, Emperor Hirohito's sudden announcement of surrender on August 15, 1945, caught most loyal subjects completely by surprise. Although peace had come, the next day actor Ichikawa Ennosuke II spoke in an interview as if the war was continuing:

I was greatly shocked to hear that our grand Kabuki Theater [Kabuki-za] in Tokyo was burnt [. . .] by the enemy's indiscriminate bombing. [. . .] In spite of various handicaps which the enemy's cruel acts have imposed upon us [. . .] we are prepared to perform at street corners if such must be done in order to enliven the spirit of our people in conducting the war.
(Nippon Times, August 16, 1945)

After a week, more reasoned plans for kabuki's future were unveiled. On August 21, a week before the first Americans soldiers arrived in Japan, Shōchiku president Ōtani Takejirō laid down the direction that postwar kabuki should follow. Ōtani acknowledged with awe and gratitude the emperor's instruction to speedily "light the streets and reconstruct entertainment" for the sake of his majesty's war-weary citizens. Ōtani gratefully accepted the emperor's will:

The surrender is a brutal fact and many foreigners will soon come to Japan, but it is not necessary that we bow down to them. [. . .] I believe we must preserve our nation's traditions and maintain the chastity and purity of our performing arts. Of course we must strengthen more than ever the traditions of kabuki, the theatre of The Subscription List and The Treasury of Loyal Retainers that foreign visitors have always enjoyed. The development of our postwar theatre should be based on kabuki. Our theatre was strengthened and refined in the fires of eight [End Page 7] years of war [and] our performing artists flourished during the war as in no other time in our history. We are doing everything possible to once again show with pride the glorious traditions of kabuki.
(Mainichi Shinbun, August 21, 1945; reprinted Nippon Times, August 28, 1945)

Japan was a defeated nation and Occupation forces would soon arrive, but Ōtani offered his oath to the emperor that kabuki, forged in the fires of war, would continue, pure and unchanged. Perhaps five days after the nation's traumatic surrender is too soon to expect Ōtani, a strongly loyal imperial subject, to envision any different future for his beloved kabuki. In fact, for the rest of his life, Ōtani never deviated from the course of action he laid out here: kabuki must be preserved against Western contamination. Even before the Occupation had begun Ōtani was, to paraphrase John W. Dower, "Taking up the challenge of conquering the conqueror" (1999: 301).

There is a deeper motivation behind Ōtani's insistence that kabuki not change. In the abyss of human despair and material destruction that characterized Japan in the traumatic summer of 1945, Ōtani had the foresight to see that traditional culture could be the immovable rock to which Japanese might cling. Ōtani was arguing that if this bold example of local culture was preserved without change, perhaps the Japanese nation itself could survive its humiliating defeat and stand unperturbed against the tide of Americanization that was about to flood over Japan's sacred soil. A few months later, Ima Hidekai, an official in the new Ministry of Education, agreed with Ōtani's position: "Japan was defeated in the war, but in culture we have not been defeated by the Americans. We ourselves as well as others must recognize that we have a splendid cultural tradition that is not equaled by foreign nations" (1995: 109).

The day after Ōtani made his pronouncement about kabuki's future, Shōchiku sponsored, to many people's astonishment, a kabuki program at Osaka's Kabuki-za.9 In September and October, Shōchiku mounted full-scale kabuki programs at five theatres in three cities—the Tokyo Gekijō and Shinjuku Daiichi Gekijō in Tokyo, the Osaka Kabuki-za in Osaka, and the Kyoto-za and Minami-za in Kyoto.10 Shōchiku's chief rival, the Tōhō Theatrical Corporation, staged one kabuki program, Ginza Reconstructs and Mirror Lion, at the Teikoku Gekijō in Tokyo, starring Onoe Kikugorō VI. This was the first play the young Matagorō saw after returning from service in the navy:

In the midst of utter destruction, it was unimaginable that theatres were already open. It was like a dream. [. . .] Coming in the front doors of the Teigeki [Teikoku Gekijō], girls dressed in immaculate kimono [End Page 8] greeted us from either side of the lobby doors. Others took our tickets and ushered us to our seats. I was amazed. The atmosphere of the old Teigeki was completely undisturbed. I felt I'd been taken back to Tokyo of prewar times. A first class ticket [. . .] was less than a pack of black market cigarettes.
(Ikeda 1977: 137)

Traditional, commercial kabuki was indeed making an amazing recovery on its own initiative immediately after the war.

Producers and responsible officials in Shōchiku chose whatever kabuki plays they wished to produce in August, September, October, and November 1945, without interference by SCAP. In those months, producers chose some forty kabuki titles from a repertory of 400–500 plays. These selections provided the first experiences most American Occupation officials had with kabuki. In line with president Ōtani's public pledge in August, Shōchiku producers chose almost entirely traditional plays: humanistic domestic pieces (sewamono) such as Benten the Thief and Tokijirō of Kutsukake,11 plays forbidden by Japanese censors during the war. Despite loss of costumes and properties, well-loved dance pieces (shosagoto), Wisteria Maiden, The Puppet Sanbasō, and The Maiden of Dōjō Temple were staged in approximations of their usual brilliance. Shōchiku officials also chose to do ten traditional history plays (jidaimono) that Japanese governments had profusely praised during the war for teaching national loyalty and the "Japanese warrior's spirit" (Yamato damashii). Prominent among the latter were particularly gory dramas featuring the sacrifice (gisei) of a child or a woman for the sake of feudal loyalty (chūgi)—Picture Scroll of the Taikō, The Broken Dish, Moritsuna's Battle Camp, and The Village School scene from Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy. They were plays perfectly suited to send soldiers off to war. The question was, were they appropriate for a new democratic and peaceable Japan?

American Plans for Kabuki: CCD and CI&E

On August 29, in the "United States Initial Post-Surrender Policy for Japan," the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, DC, set forth two sociopolitical goals for the Occupation of Japan. First, "The authority of the militarists and the influence of militarism will be totally eliminated from [Japan's] political, economic, and social life. Institutions expressive of the spirit of militarism and aggression will be vigorously suppressed." This negative mission to "vigorously suppress" feudalist, militarist, and ultra-nationalist messages in the mass media was assigned to the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) within SCAP. Second, "The Japanese people shall be encouraged to develop a desire for individual liberties and respect for fundamental human rights, particularly [End Page 9]

 A kabuki scene deemed not suitable for performance in democratic Japan: General Moritsuna encourages his young nephew, Koshirō, to commit suicide (seppuku) in loyalty to the child's father in Moritsuna's Battle Camp. The photo, autographed by the star, 'Kichiemon' (left) and the actor's grandson, 'Somegorō' (later Matsumoto Kōshirō IX, right), is one of many kabuki photographs actors gave to American censors as token gifts, in this case in gratitude for CCD releasing Moritsuna for performance in April 1947. (Photo: Courtesy of Alexander Calhoun)
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Figure 4
A kabuki scene deemed not suitable for performance in democratic Japan: General Moritsuna encourages his young nephew, Koshirō, to commit suicide (seppuku) in loyalty to the child's father in Moritsuna's Battle Camp. The photo, autographed by the star, "Kichiemon" (left) and the actor's grandson, "Somegorō" (later Matsumoto Kōshirō IX, right), is one of many kabuki photographs actors gave to American censors as token gifts, in this case in gratitude for CCD releasing Moritsuna for performance in April 1947. (Photo: Courtesy of Alexander Calhoun)
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the freedoms of religion, assembly, speech, and the press" (Political Reorientation 1948: 423). The Civil Information and Education Section (CI&E) was created within SCAP to carry out the positive task of promoting democracy, freedom, and individual liberty through public education and the media.

In the same document, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) directed the supreme commander, General Douglas MacArthur, to establish "minimum control and censorship" of Japanese civil communications and media (Political Reorientation 1948: 432). Censorship was a normal military procedure and now it would be applied to post-surrender, enemy Japan.12 On September 3, General MacArthur placed his Civil Censorship Detachment within the intelligence gathering section of his headquarters (he could have put it elsewhere).13 CCD had two operating divisions. The Communications Division examined postal, telephone, and telegraph messages, and the Press, Pictorial, and Broadcasting (PPB) Division was responsible for preventing militaristic or ultra-nationalistic material from being disseminated by print, radio, and pictorial media. Initially "pictorial" referred to motion pictures, but by late November, a Theatre Sub-Section was formed within the Pictorial Section of PPB, staffed, and charged with "censorship and control" of all public theatrical performances.

Several salient features of MacArthur's decision to organize censorship in this fashion can be mentioned. First, putting CCD within the intelligence section of the military structure—Civil Intelligence Service (CIS) and General Staff Section for Intelligence (G-2)—correctly suggests that CCD's main function was gathering intelligence, not "censorship" as the term is usually understood. This is evident in CCD staffing numbers. In 1947, CCD employed some seven thousand personnel, of whom more than six thousand were assigned to the Communications Division responsible for ferreting out "civil intelligence" by listening to phone conversations and reading domestic cables and mail.14 The information gathered was forwarded to various sections of SCAP so that Occupation policies could be adjusted to meet changing conditions in Japan.15 On the other hand, the main mission of the PPB Division was censorship pure and simple: stopping feudal and militaristic content from appearing in books, magazines, newspapers, radio, film, and theatre productions. PPB's mission was carried out with about one thousand employees.16

Second, CCD was authorized to order actions and punish noncompliance. The Theatre Sub-Section of PPB could legally ban a theatrical production. Being part of the army's general command structure (i.e., CIS/G-2) enhanced CCD's punitive authority.17 [End Page 11]

Third, PPB censorship, including theatre, was decentralized. Officers were posted in three district offices—District I: Tokyo; District II: Osaka; and District III: Fukuoka—where they were responsible for media operating in their adjacent areas. General policy was set in Tokyo but censors in each district carried out their work separately and generally independently.

Fourth, theatre censors were instructed to exercise control over theatre productions of all types, professional and amateur.18 In practice, censors exempted nō, kyōgen, kagura, bugaku, and other ancient or ceremonial performance from examination, largely because their audiences were small. Kabuki was an important form of theatre to the censors because it had high visibility, played to large audiences, and was known to have suspect feudal content.

When a theatre producer wished to present a play, he was required to submit the play script (daihon) to the Theatre Sub-Section, CCD, for approval. A Japanese national examined the script for violation of the brief Pictorial Code (praise of militarism or feudalism, anti-democratic ideas, untruthful history, or criticism of the Allies or the Occupation). The Japanese national's recommendation was passed to a supervisor, usually a nisei, a second generation Japanese American, who forwarded it to a censor, initially an officer, for action. Within one to three days, the censor made a decision: pass, pass with deletions, or "suppress" (forbid production). The censor placed a "PC" (passed censorship) stamp on the title page of a passed script.19 Page numbers of deletions, if any, were written beside the stamp. Rarely was a deletion more than a word or phrase—"samurai" or "loyalty to my lord," for example. Censors did not delete whole scenes or acts. And, very important, CCD regulations forbid censors from ordering a scene rewritten or telling a playwright what content he should include in a play. This restriction contributed to the eventual failure of kabuki censorship.20

Six men directed theatre censorship in PPB, District I, Tokyo: Captain Charles B. Reese (September–October 1945), 1st Lt. Victor Ehlers (November 1945), 1st Lt. Earle Ernst (December 1945–May 1947), War Department Civilian (WDC) Faubion Bowers (May 1947– May 1948), WDC Stanley Y. Kaizawa (May–December 1948), and WDC John Allyn Jr. (January–November 1949).21 In District II, Osaka, 2nd Lt. Royall Zuckerman and 2nd Lt. John Allyn Jr. shared theatre censorship duties in the beginning.22 Between late 1945 and 1947, 2nd Lt. Seymour Palestin, 2nd Lt. Joseph Goldstein, and 2nd Lt. Alexander Calhoun were theatre censors in Tokyo under Ernst, while WDC Takeshi Teshima and Takeo Tada were authorized to censor plays in Osaka. Theatre Sub-Section staff in Tokyo and Osaka included several nisei supervisors and twenty-to-thirty Japanese national translators and script [End Page 12] examiners. All Americans assigned to theatre censorship in Japan afterEhlers were graduates of the Army's Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Language School at Camp Savage/Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and most knew each other during their several years of Japanese language instruction (Interviews with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, June 8, 15, and 29, 2000; John Allyn Jr., October 25, 2000; and Alexander Calhoun, October 5, 2000).23

 Traveling teams from Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka PPB explained censorship procedures to local producers, troupe heads, and theatre owners in all of Japan's provinces. Lt. Alexander Calhoun (left) and Sgt. Stanley Y. Kaizawa (right) of Theatre Sub-Section, Tokyo, wait for a train in Akita Prefecture, with their baggage and boxes of handouts in front of them, summer 1946. (Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i)
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Figure 5
Traveling teams from Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka PPB explained censorship procedures to local producers, troupe heads, and theatre owners in all of Japan's provinces. Lt. Alexander Calhoun (left) and Sgt. Stanley Y. Kaizawa (right) of Theatre Sub-Section, Tokyo, wait for a train in Akita Prefecture, with their baggage and boxes of handouts in front of them, summer 1946. (Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i)

In 1946 and 1947, the Theatre Sub-Section sent teams to every prefecture, where meetings were held with local producers and theatre owners to explain the censorship system and the CCD Theatrical [End Page 13] Code. As a result, each month producers around the country submitted two thousand to four thousand theatrical scripts to CCD in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka for censorship. Theatre staff commonly examined fifty to a hundred scripts per day, and on occasion up to three hundred (Theatre Sub-Section, "Daily Reports" March–May, 1949, Box 8649).

Beginning in 1947, CCD gradually shifted radio, newspapers, magazines, and books to post-censorship (spot checking after publication or broadcast).24 However, the live nature of theatre did not allow post-censorship.25 In December 1948, Washington drastically reduced SCAP's budget, with the result that PPB district offices in Osaka and Fukuoka were eliminated. From January to November 1949, theatre scripts from all parts of Japan were sent to Tokyo for examination. WDC John Allyn Jr., who had been in Osaka, moved to Tokyo to be chief theatre censor for Japan. WDC Takeshi Teshima and WDC Maxie Sakamoto came to Tokyo to handle the scripts from Kansai and Kyushu, respectively. It was a slow, burdensome, and inefficient arrangement that did not last long. In the face of further SCAP budget cuts in 1949, the entire CCD operation was put on the chopping block that autumn (Interviews with John Allyn Jr., October 25, 2000; and Stanley Y. Kaizawa, June 20 and September 15, 2000). Following MacArthur's explicit order that "no publicity whatever will accompany the termination of CCD," censorship was dissolved on November 1, 1949, and all CCD personnel were dismissed without public announcement (Chief of Staff, "Memorandum for General Willoughby," October 9, 1949, Box 8540).26 As of November 1949, kabuki was free of formal government censorship for the first time in its history.

Theatre censorship within CCD was rife with paradoxes and contradictions. The Americans assigned to theatre censorship—Ernst, Palestin, Goldstein, Calhoun, Zuckerman, Allyn, Bowers, and Kaizawa —were members of an intellectual and educational elite. Military necessity required civil censorship in Japan, but the censors were not crusty regular Army officers, but young, idealistic civilians in uniform. As we will see, the men wielding the censor's stamp were more inclined to became kabuki-philes than harsh foes of enemy plays.

The second basic Occupation goal was promoting individual freedom, democracy, and liberal thought in Japanese society. MacArthur established nine "special staff sections" in SCAP to carry out this aim within law, public welfare, business, government, and other civilian sectors. One of these special sections was Civil Information and Education (CI&E), whose mission was, as the Nippon Times so charmingly put it: "Turning Japanese thought into democratic channels" (October 13, 1945).27 CI&E within SCAP was modeled on a standard military unit found in division and higher headquarters called Troop Information [End Page 14] and Education (TI&E), whose mission is to provide information and educational programs for members of that military unit.28 Military regulations say such a unit can "advise" and offer "guidance," but it has no command function. That is, unlike CCD, it could not order or force any action. Here lies another paradox: CI&E theatre officials pushed kabuki hard to change, to become "democratic," but they lacked the authority to force change. This fact was crucial to SCAP's failure to alter the nature of kabuki.

 Staff of Theatre Sub-Section, CCD, Tokyo, visits Tōhō Film Studios, winter 1945–1946. From left: Tōhō Theatrical Corporation liaison with SCAP, Muramatsu (first name unknown), chief theatre censor Lt. Earle Ernst, theatre censor Lt. Seymour Palestin, Tōhō actress Mitani Sachiko, registrar Sgt. Stanley Y. Kaizawa, and typist Sgt. James Nakata. (Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i)
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Figure 6
Staff of Theatre Sub-Section, CCD, Tokyo, visits Tōhō Film Studios, winter 1945–1946. From left: Tōhō Theatrical Corporation liaison with SCAP, Muramatsu (first name unknown), chief theatre censor Lt. Earle Ernst, theatre censor Lt. Seymour Palestin, Tōhō actress Mitani Sachiko, registrar Sgt. Stanley Y. Kaizawa, and typist Sgt. James Nakata. (Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i)

CI&E was organized into a number of divisions.29 One was the Motion Picture and Theatrical Division (MPTD), consisting of two units, a Motion Picture Unit and a Theatrical Unit, responsible for promoting democratic themes in films and live theatre.30 Theatre Unit was led by four men between 1945 and 1950: Naval Lt. Junior Grade John Boruff (October 1945–January 1946), 1st Lt. Harold (Hal) Keith (January 1946–July 1946), WDC Edward (Eddie) Kaneshima (August 1946–June 1947), and WDC Willard Thompson (July 1947–August 1950). With the exception of Kaneshima, the heads of the Theatre [End Page 15] Unit were not trained in Japanese language, and the unit was small compared to the Theatre Sub-Section in CCD, usually staffed by three or four people.

Boruff often complained that his work was frustrated by "the bottleneck in interpreters and translators" ("CR: 25 October 1945," Box 5255).31 When the Korean War began in June 1950, CI&E's resources were shifted to provide the Japanese press with war information from the American point of view. The Theatre Unit was deemed unessential and, on August 17, 1950, terminated. Willard Thompson, then Theatre Unit head, resigned and his assistants were released (MPTD, August 17, 1950, Box 5304).

John Boruff and Harold Keith were theatre professionals, and their experience in the New York laissez-faire production system ill prepared them to supervise a makeover of hidebound kabuki. When, as we will see, the managers of kabuki stonewalled CI&E pleas for change, neither Boruff nor Keith were able to imagine SCAP providing tangible financial support to assure democratic kabuki productions. Their professional experience had taught them that government had no place in theatre art.

CCD and CI&E were intended to complement and strengthen each other and initially they did. But the differences in mission and types of personnel ultimately sent them in different directions and occasionally at cross purposes, with CCD eventually freeing a world-class art from censorship and CI&E desperately trying to get kabuki to create new, democratic plays. In October 1945, at the beginning of theatre censorship, Charles Reese of CCD and John Boruff of CI&E, "Agreed to coordinate [our] work as closely as possible" ("CR: 11 October 1945," Box 5255). They shared the expectation that when CCD prevented a certain number of feudal and militarist kabuki plays from being staged, new democratic scripts, encouraged by CI&E, would come forth to fill the gap. Therefore, through a natural process, democratic ideas would replace Tokugawa-era feudal ideals in kabuki. The first head of Theatre Sub-Section, CCD, 2nd Lt. Earle Ernst (later 1st Lt.), laid out this approach in a report to his superiors on January 16, 1946, two months after he arrived in Japan. Here he emphasized the positive role of new plays displacing old plays: "We expect to cooperate closely with CI&E and achieve our purpose through a positive program of getting the right kinds of plays on the stage and thus in time forcing the old ones into oblivion" (Draft, "Answer to Gen. Dyke Memo," January 18, 1946, Box 8618).32 Ernst believed this plan would cause minimal disruption or harm to kabuki. In April 1946, Harold Keith, then head of the Theatre Unit, CI&E, described the same plan to American readers of Theatre Arts in the first article about kabuki to [End Page 16] be published in America after the war: "First, the Samurai tradition of the popular Kabuki drama, with its attendant themes of revenge, sex-inequality, warrior worship, blind loyalty to one's lord and the absence of individual conscience, had to be discouraged. [. . .] Secondly, these were to be replaced with modern plays that carried a constructive message" (1946: 240).

Ernst is the chief author of the twenty-page, single-spaced "Special Report No. 18, Censorship and the Present State of the Japanese Theatre." The report, completed in April 1947, just before Ernst was demobilized, describes CCD's early theatre policy in similar terms: "Since the mere prevention of the performance of certain plays in not an end in itself, it was hoped that the suppression of plays would create a certain vacuum so that new plays would be written [and] producers and playwrights would receive a kind of education" (Ernst [with Bowers] 1947: 7).33 Japanese accounts tend to present American suppression of kabuki scripts as a kind of irrational brigandage against the fruits of Japanese dramatic genius. The larger Occupation purpose of encouraging new plays is overlooked (or disparaged). But the broad rationale described above seems quite logical: just as an acorn needs a sunny space in the forest to grow, new plays need open space (ma) in the old repertory to sprout and mature. The monopolists at Shōchiku were not about to open up the kabuki repertory on their own. If it was to be done, the Americans would have to do it because they were the outsiders.

How Do You Censor a Great Art?

Kabuki presented an extremely difficult issue for CCD and CI&E theatre officers. From the earliest months of the Occupation, Ernst in CCD and Boruff and Keith in CI&E wrote that kabuki was a great art and, although its themes were feudal, it would be terrible if SCAP banned or harmed it. Boruff, in the second article about kabuki to be published in America, in October 1946, rhapsodized: "Pictorially the plays are exquisite; the sets are a pageant of simplicity; and the costumes produce an atmosphere of opulence. [Combat scenes] are so stylized in their presentation [they become] in reality a magnificent spectacle [. . .] resembling a dance more than a battle" (Boruff 1946: 275–276). Osaka theatre censor 2nd Lt. (later WDC) John Allyn Jr. also fell under the spell of kabuki, attending theatre performances almost daily. During four years of theatre and pictorial censorship in Osaka and Tokyo, he came to admire kabuki plays, later publishing The Story of Forty-Seven Ronin. After earning a doctorate from UCLA in shingeki, he pursued an academic career teaching Japanese theatre and film in Los Angeles (Interview with John Allyn Jr., May 10, 2003). All of the [End Page 17] censors wrestled with the question, how can the worst plays be discouraged without harming kabuki art?

One of the strongest myths concerning kabuki censorship is that only one person in SCAP—Faubion Bowers—appreciated kabuki.34 Bowers loved kabuki unconditionally and he used his early position asone of MacArthur's military secretaries to advance the idea that kabuki was an art of international stature that deserved SCAP protection. No American was a more avid fan of kabuki than Bowers. Here is a typical media description of Bowers decades after the Occupation had receded into hazy history: "One after the other, he freed traditional kabuki plays that MacArthur's GHQ had forbidden. Bowers is the savior of post-war kabuki on whose shoulders the prosperity of present-day kabuki stands" (Bowers et al. 1999: 118).35

Bowers was not shy about accepting the title "Savior of kabuki," saying in one published discussion, "Although I was a censor, I was its savior" (Bowers et al. 1999: 122). What has not been acknowledged is that Boruff, Keith, Ernst, and Allyn showed their appreciation of kabuki artistry in 1945 and 1946 independently of Bowers.36 Kaizawa became so enamored of kabuki he studied kabuki dance (nihon buyō) and kouta singing, something Bowers never did (Interview with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, February 2, 2002). Forty years after the Occupation ended, Ernst was incensed that Bowers hogged all credit:

[Bowers] has continued to advertise himself as the person who single-handedly "saved kabuki." His regard for the truth is so small that I've had to threaten him with a lawsuit. [. . .] I am less concerned with Bowers' egoism than I am with distortion of fact and history. He has created the apparently accepted opinion that before he became chief censor, previous censors were engaged in willful destruction of Kabuki.
(Ernst letter to Inose Naoki, February 3, 1987, Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i)

Censors forbid many productions, but "willful destruction of kabuki" was not part of SCAP's plan, as we will see.

CI&E to Kabuki: Do New Plays

In September and October 1945, CI&E widely publicized the Occupation's anti-feudal, pro-democracy positions. On September 22, the third week of the Occupation, WDC David Conde, the dynamic first head of the Motion Picture and Theatrical Division of CI&E met with forty Japanese Bureau of Information officials and film and theatrical producers to lay out for them CI&E's "production principles." It was the first day of CI&E's existence. Conde read from a two-page "Memorandum to the Japanese Empire" that had been written several [End Page 18] days before. First, he urged that his listeners, "Have many ways to cooperate" with the Occupation's goals. They can help eradicate militarism and promote fundamental liberties in Japan by producing films (and, by extension, plays) with positive themes: "Plan to solve Japan's postwar problems," "construction of a peaceful nation," "rehabilitation of Japanese soldiers," "encourage free discussion," "foster peaceful constructive organization of labor unions," "respect for human rights," and other commonsense topics.

Conde then diverged from his bland general remarks to single out kabuki (still reading from the statement) as the one Japanese art form in which feudal ideology presented a special problem. I give Conde's exact words below because they effectively set initial SCAP theatre policy:

Kabuki plays that are based on feudalistic loyalty and revenge are unwarrantable in the present world; and so far as deception, murder and faithlessness are justified before the masses, and private revenge is allowed neglecting the laws, the Japanese will not understand the basis of the acts that control the international relations in the current world. (Draft Memorandum to Japanese Empire, Issued by General Headquarters of Allied Forces, "Indication of Production Principles of IDS," September 22, 1945, Box 8563)37

Conde then "advised" Japanese film and theatre producers to use "every means of amusement and information" to inform citizens of democracy, individualism, and self-government. An editorial commentary in the first postwar issue of Engekikai (Theatre World), published in October 1945, presented Conde's statement as SCAP theatre policy. Now everyone in the Japanese theatre world could read it and be aware of SCAP's intent. In translation, Conde's warning—"unwarrantable"—became a direct prohibition—"are forbidden" (kinjite iru): "The announced policy of Occupation Headquarters toward film and theatre is that plays justifying sacrifice of life or revenge based on feudal age loyalty or show admiration for gangsters or murderers are forbidden" ("Shūsen chokugo" 1945: 46).

The Conde/SCAP statement contains nuances that we need to recognize. Kabuki is not condemned overall, as is often asserted in Japanese accounts,38 but some plays are unacceptably feudalistic. A play that contains a scene of revenge or sacrifice is not automatically rejected; what is not acceptable is a play in which feudal ideology is justified or glorified (seitō or sanbi). CCD theatre censor Earle Ernst in memos and reports stresses the latter point. He writes, for example, in February 1947, "We have never suppressed a Kabuki play because the women in it were not treated democratically or because there was [End Page 19] some talk of revenge" ("Memorandum To: AKM[ori], RHK[unzman], JJC[ostello]," February 26, 1947, E.E[rnst]., Box 8618).39 Or, as a CCD pictorial censor in Nagoya told regional theatre producers, "It was pointed out that vendetta, sword fights, suicide, and murder were acceptable if essential to the plot" (PPB District Station IIa, Nagoya, Pictorial Section, "Memorandum for the Record," December 1, 1947, Box 8656). Most writers on Occupation censorship, however, have overlooked this important distinction and mistakenly have written that Occupation censors wanted to forbid (kinshi) all scenes of revenge, ritual suicide, or sacrifice.40

In the first week of October, Conde forcefully brought the same message to President Matsumoto (first name unknown) of the Japan Producers Association (Nippon Kōgyō Kyōkai), representing all important theatre and film producers in Japan:

Plays and motion pictures depicting Japanese Bushido and the spirit of feudal gamblers and gangsters are not in line with the constructing of a new and democratic Japan. [. . .] Such plays, kabuki and movies were one form of promoting Japanese militarism. [. . .] Japan must hereafter depart from such drama, not permit their performance and instead encourage drama fostering liberalism and democracy.
(Nippon Times, October 6, 1945)41

It is natural that in one of SCAP's earliest public pronouncements on theatre Conde would mention both suppressing bad feudal content and fostering new democratic ideas. In practice the two are linked. But it was an early warning that CI&E film and theatre officers would try to forbid undesirable content, which put them in direct competition with CCD. A newspaper headline picked up on Conde's suppression remarks: "War Motifs Must Go From Japan's Stages."

Conde was known for his progressive beliefs. When Conde was working in the Psychological Warfare Branch in the Philippines in 1944–1945, he came to intensely dislike the militaristic propaganda he found in Japanese war films and, it seems, in kabuki as well. Edward Kaneshima, a Hawai'i-born nisei labor activist and graduate of the Army MIS language school, met Conde in the Philippines in early 1945, where he interpreted for Conde and was his drinking companion. In Tokyo, Kaneshima continued to work under Conde in the Theatre Unit, CI&E. According to Kaneshima, "Conde was considered a leftist or even a communist. He wanted films that weren't just liberal, but progressive. They say he was eased out for this. He was very opposed to kabuki. I didn't agree with that. I loved kabuki" (Interview with Edward Kaneshima, September 14, 2000). [End Page 20]

 CI&E officers in Theatrical Unit, Motion Picture and Theatrical Division, meet leading actors of the Zenshin-za (Vanguard Troupe) backstage at the Teikoku Gekijō after a performance of Narukami the Thundergod, November 1945. Front row: Theatre Unit head Naval Lt. John Boruff (left) and Theatre Unit deputy head Lt. Harold Keith. Back row: Motion Picture and Theatrical Unit translator Lt. Clifford Konno (second from left) and Zenshin-za troupe leader Kawarasaki Chōjūrō (right). CI&E strongly supported Zenshin-za's progressive politics and its frequent productions of Western plays. (U.S. Army, Signal Corps, National Archives)
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Figure 7
CI&E officers in Theatrical Unit, Motion Picture and Theatrical Division, meet leading actors of the Zenshin-za (Vanguard Troupe) backstage at the Teikoku Gekijō after a performance of Narukami the Thundergod, November 1945. Front row: Theatre Unit head Naval Lt. John Boruff (left) and Theatre Unit deputy head Lt. Harold Keith. Back row: Motion Picture and Theatrical Unit translator Lt. Clifford Konno (second from left) and Zenshin-za troupe leader Kawarasaki Chōjūrō (right). CI&E strongly supported Zenshin-za's progressive politics and its frequent productions of Western plays. (U.S. Army, Signal Corps, National Archives)

A Counter to Shōchiku Resistance: Require Thirty Percent New Plays

A few days after Conde's meeting with Matsumoto, Naval Lt. John Boruff arrived in Tokyo where he was assigned to head the newly formed Theatre Unit, CI&E. Boruff immediately went to work, explaining SCAP's democratic goals for theatre to producers and troupe leaders again and again. Boruff reported the current theatre situation to Conde, his superior, on October 30: "[Producers] have been notified of the type of play we want to see them do, and told they may continue to do their old plays (subject to control of censorship [CCD]) provided they also do a reasonable amount of new scripts dealing with democratic subjects and the future of Japan" ("CR: 30 October 1945," Box [End Page 21] 5255). Boruff's original expectation, then, was that as long as producers staged some new plays, SCAP would allow the traditional repertory.

It was a modest tradeoff in Boruff's view, not punitive, and easy for producers to do. Boruff arrived in Tokyo with a strong interest in learning about Japanese theatre. At Yale, he had been president of the Dramatic Club and by the time the war began, he was an established professional actor and playwright in New York (Boruff 1946: 161; Mayo 2001: 276).42 In Tokyo, he immediately set about seeing as many productions as possible: he describes going to twenty-three plays in his first month on the job—kabuki, nō, kyōgen, shingeki, Takarazuka, musicals, and popular comedies—everything that was playing in the city. Almost every day he met with leading theatre artists alone or in groups—Hijikata Yoshi, Itō Michio, Senda Koreya, Sugimura Haruko, Kubota Mantarō, Kikuta Kazuo, Ōtani Takejirō, and scores of others (see daily reports, "CR," October through November 1945, Box 5255). In every meeting, Boruff urged directors, playwrights, and actors to create new plays to help Japan become a new democratic society. Shingeki artists welcomed Boruff's support, especially those who had been jailed during the war by the Japanese Thought Police or whose plays had been suppressed. Democratic, progressive, socially constructive plays were exactly what they wanted to stage. An anonymous observer in Nihon Engeki (Japanese Theatre) enthused that: "Actors at all theatres in October made similar curtain speeches calling on their audiences to support the restoration of freedom in the theatre and conversion to democracy" ("Tōzai nanboku" 1945: 20). The "god of kabuki acting," Onoe Kikugorō VI, seemed to be on the side of change as well (although he had been an avid supporter of the war until a few weeks before). He is quoted in a September interview: "Hereafter, I believe, it will be our duty to eradicate all indecent morals through the medium of our traditional stage. [. . .] Kabuki, no doubt, will have to undergo drastic changes, but whatever takes place, we know it will be the beginning of a new era in Kabuki drama" (Nippon Times, September 26, 1945).

But Boruff sensed, within two weeks of taking up his job, that commercial producers of kabuki were a different matter. He suspected responsible people were far from sincere when they nodded, "yes," to his urgings that they create a new, democratic kabuki. In his daily report of October 20, Boruff wrote that playwrights feared their careers would suffer if they made too sudden a political about-face. He noted an article in the Yomiuri Shinbun, saying the Japanese government's "repressive thought control system has been only seemingly abolished while in actual practice it is still very much in effect" ("CR: 19 October 1945," Box 5255). [End Page 22]

As Christopher Aldous has recently written, Occupation officials encountered a powerful "resilience and durability of social forms and patterns" that stymied change in post-surrender Japan (Aldous 1997: 212–213). In kabuki, systems of thought deeply rooted in feudal culture were not easily overturned. Kabuki itself was a feudal social system, with the stars the feudal lords and bit players their serfs. And Shōchiku was the shogunal overlord to whom stars and walk-ons alike were little more than indentured servants. Boruff realized he would need a strong lever to pry open the tight, conservative world of commercial kabuki theatre and allow liberal impulses to flow in. On October 29, Boruff believed he had found the right lever: he drafted a memo that ordered all producers to stage new plays.

The idea had been planted in Boruff's mind on October 16, when he met with six Shōchiku producers and attempted to find out their plans for staging new plays. He asked directly but politely, "What percentage of [your] plays will reflect the new ideas we want to see"? This gentle nudge elicited evasive replies and no clear commitment. Discouraged, he reported, "No sign of [Shōchiku] attempting plays of liberal bent as yet" ("CR: 16 October 1945," Box 5255) and "scripts show no sign of the promised 'New Japan'" ("CR: 21 October 1945," Box 5255).

Not only Americans in the Occupation deplored the lack of change. Critic Toita Yasuji grumbled in the December 1945 issue of Nihon Engeki, "Truly, 1945 is a year I wish to forget for regretfully we have not seen the rebirth of Japan this year. The four months since August 15th has produced almost no progress in self-reflection or debate [over war responsibility]. The state of the theatre world is not one bit different" (Toita 1945: 64). Boruff decided, after three weeks of fruitless meetings with Shōchiku staff, that these officials had no intention of being swayed by his "advice." He was being stonewalled. He resolved to act immediately and decisively.

On the morning of October 29, Boruff discussed with Capt. Charles B. Reese, Pictorial Censor in CCD, his intention to require new plays. This was a hectic day for Reese. He had on his desk scripts of six kabuki plays that were scheduled to open in a few days.43 These were the same plays in which Boruff had found no signs of a New Japan. In addition, another dozen scripts of other genres were stacked on Reese's desk, requiring his censorship decision before the productions opened in two or three days.44 With his script duties still not resolved, Reese politely listened to Boruff's plan. Reese seems to have agreed to put in writing a parallel CCD proposal. Now Boruff and Reese could show a united front when they met with theatre producers, as scheduled, that coming Friday, November 2. Boruff then returned to his [End Page 23] office and drafted a startling memorandum addressed to all theatrical producers. It said, among other things:

Beginning 1 December 1945, it is expected that at least thirty percent of the total monthly production of any one theatre owner [. . .] will be new scripts dealing with important problems of modern Japan [...] "New scripts" [can] include old scripts banned for political reasons, historical dramas exposing militarism and feudalism, [and] studies of progressive Japanese leaders of the past in their fight for the people.
(Draft, "Memorandum for All Theatrical Owners [Producers] of Japan," attached to "CR: 29 October 1945," Box 5255)

He signed the memo, "Lt. J. Boruff USNR, Theatre Policy Section, GHQ," creating for himself a fictitious position in "Theatre Policy" that would, presumably, awe the Japanese. CI&E's "expectation" of 30 percent new plays was considerably softened by the broad definition of what constituted a "new" play. In fact, old plays with the proper content could satisfy the terms of Boruff's memo.

The next day, October 30, Boruff conferred with David Conde, head of the Motion Picture and Theatrical Division, and gained his superior's approval for the plan. In his meeting with Conde, he described goals that went considerably beyond the language of the draft memo:

I have not pressed the producers too hard for changes [. . . but to] put some teeth into [this unit's] instructions, it is my intention, with approval of higher authority, to close down or otherwise punish any producer who dodges this order [to] show on their boards thirty percent new plays dealing with democratic themes. [. . .] On the first reasonable excuse I should like to exercise this power to establish a precedent and indicate clearly to producers that I have that power.
("CR: 31 October 1945," Box 5255. Sentence order altered.)

In his draft memo, Boruff had threatened that if a play synopsis misrepresented the content of a production, that production "will be summarily closed by this office and, if deemed necessary, further measures will be taken against the owner [or] producer." But the draft memo had said nothing about punishment if the 30 percent new play policy was ignored. It seems that Boruff's attitude was hardening by the day, even by the hour.45

Boruff's plan contained a serious flaw: he didn't have the legal power to close a theatre. On October 31, Boruff went back to Reese with his draft and asked him to use CCD muscle to close recalcitrant theatres: [End Page 24]

Japanese theatre is an autocratic, highly centralized organization with a few liberals caught in its weave and helpless against the big producing companies. [. . .] In order to crack this clique open [. . .] I need to have the power to make these producers do a certain amount of worthy plays which follow our line of thinking. [. . .] I need to have [the power] and have them know I have it. Then I can actually dictate what a percentage of their plays shall be about.
("CR: 31 October 1945," Box 5255)

But Reese's mind was on his own problem: should he approve or suppress a dozen scripts planned for November openings? Reese had on his desk English translations of some of the six kabuki scripts (provided by Shōchiku) as well as English plot synopses of all of them. He also had the Japanese language kabuki scripts but he could not read them and CCD did not have many Japanese national translators yet. Reese had no precedent to guide him, for these were the first kabuki scripts to pass through Occupation censorship.

Reese was an old hand at censorship. He had been part of MacArthur's CCD operation from its inception in mid 1944. He had done months of postal censorship in the Philippines reading mail, yet this did not prepare him for the complex task of judging traditional Japanese dramatic scripts. Further, Reese's first censorship decision in Tokyo, as head of the Pictorial Section, PPB, three weeks earlier had turned out badly. At the end of September, he had suppressed the first postwar Japanese newsreel, "The Atomic Bomb," about the effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and the arrival of American troops in Japan, only to see this decision overturned. Reese fumed that CCD officials who were "not even from the Pictorial Section" passed the film over his objections ("Memorandum to: Chief, PPB, Div," October 3, 1945, Box 8578). Reese also must have had in mind SCAPIN 16, the Civil Liberties directive of September 10, in which General MacArthur had promised the Japanese people "Minimum restrictions on freedom of speech" (SCAPIN 16, "Civil Liberties" 1948: 460).46 Once burned, Reese would be twice shy about suppressing pictorial media. He approved all the kabuki scripts that day, signing each, "Returned by Civil Censorship, 31 Oct 1945, C. B. Reese" (see play scripts in Shōchiku Ōtani Library).

Turning to Boruff's proposal that CCD sign on as CI&E's enforcer, Reese diplomatically declined: "Only in a very restricted sense" could Reese close down a producer who "fails to cooperate satisfactorily with Lt. Boruff" ("CR: 31 October 1945," Box 5255). Reese's job was to examine and approve or disapprove scripts for performance, not close theatres on Boruff's whim. Indeed, soon the PPB "Policy [End Page 25] Manual" would state: "Censorship personnel does not have authority to close a theatre" ("Policy Manual for Press, Pictorial and Broadcast Division," May 10, 1946, Box 8604).47

Boruff had one more card to play. On the morning of November 2, he jumped two levels of SCAP hierarchy and personally broached his plan to the commanding officer of CI&E, Colonel Kermit (Ken) Dyke. He urged that CI&E draft a SCAP Instruction (SCAPIN) to the Japanese government "stipulating that a certain number of liberal plays must be done each month." Dyke turned Boruff down, pointing out that such a directive exceeded CI&E's legal authority: "This would not reflect the true policy of the Occupation. [. . .] indirect action alone [is] acceptable" ("CR: 2 November 1945," Box 5255). That is, CI&E can only advise or offer guidance. It cannot command.

So, later that day, when Boruff joined Reese in a major meeting with producers from the Shōchiku, Tōhō, and Yoshimoto theatrical companies, he did not present his threat of theatre closings (two days earlier he had informally discussed the contents of the draft memo with producers). Reese was the main speaker. He laid out the requirements of CCD censorship that he had been working on over the past two weeks. Reese's instructions, as reported in the January 1946 issue of Engekikai, codified the manner in which scripts were to be submitted:

Two weeks before opening, all producers are required to send to CI&E48 one copy of an English language synopsis of any play they intend to produce and one week before opening, two copies of the Japanese script and a full English translation. After synopses have been censored changes are forbidden, but if changes are made they must be approved by Captain Reese of [CCD].49 In the event there is a change that has not been approved, production will be stopped. A script approved for Tokyo is valid for other areas as well.
("Shibai-goyomi san" 1946: 25)

Scripts were to conform to a brief CCD Pictorial Code: do not be untruthful, do not criticize the Occupation, and do not show "anti-democratic, feudalistic, ultra-nationalistic, or militaristic propaganda" ("Pictorial Code for Japan," undated, Box 8578). After Reese finished, Boruff chastised the producers for failing to stage new, "liberal" scripts and for doing only "token" modern plays. He asked them to "restate their desire to cooperate in building a new liberal theatre." Naturally they did so. He provides no other details of the meeting ("CR: 3 November 1945," Box 5255).50 The Engekikai report goes on to say that producers met with Reese and Boruff again to resolve matters: "These instructions caused all producing companies considerable hardship. [End Page 26] The worried producers were brought together and a way to prepare English texts was worked out. At the same time, the instruction that programs at every theatre must include more than 30 percent new plays particularly disturbed Shōchiku, which controls kabuki." Shōchiku officials complained that it was impossible to stage two premiers on a day's program of six plays. Toita Yasuji tells us that in response, Boruff immediately relented and replied that one new play out of six would be enough (Toita 1979: 62–63). It would seem that 15 percent was better than nothing. Boruff's roar had been reduced to a whisper. And Shōchiku had won a significant victory.

Shōchiku Chooses "Viciously" Feudal Plays

Play choices that Shōchiku producers had made a few weeks before would now have long-range consequences, far more profound than they had imagined at the time. In early October, Shōchiku was preparing Japanese play scripts and English synopses (and some script translations) for the November program at the Tokyo Gekijō. Among the plays being readied for submission to CCD and CI&E was Priest Kochiyama an extremely popular bandit play (shiranamimono) by Kawatake Mokuami. Because wartime police censors had objected to Kochiyama's Robin Hood–like story of a thief impersonating a high priest to save a young woman, the play was expected to have clear sailing with the Occupation. Producers were trying to decide which play to put on the Tokyo Gekijō program: the plebian Priest Kochiyama or The Village School, famous for its incident of child-sacrifice in the name of feudal loyalty. Japanese advisers, knowing that SCAP objected to overtly feudal themes, warned Shōchiku officials that Village School was not appropriate. But the producers chose Village School, submitted the script to CCD, obtained approval from Reese (as we have seen), and began performances on November 5. Shōchiku producers also picked Okamoto Kidō's The Broken Dish (1916) for the November bill at the Shinjuku Dai Ichi Gekijō. The first sentence of the English scenario that CCD and CI&E received from Shōchiku showed great promise from the American point of view: "Long, long time ago there was a democratic 'samurai' named Harima Aoyama, who had an aversion for the strict life of samurai circles, although he himself was a samurai." But the synopsis concluded on a dangerous note. When Harima's mistress, Okiku, deliberately breaks a family heirloom dish to test his love for her, "Harima got angry with Okiku as he thought that his affection for her was tested [. . .] in such a rude way and killed her by his sword with tears in his eyes" (Shōchiku Script Collection, Waseda University Theatre Museum Library).

On November 8, Boruff went to a performance of Broken Dish [End Page 27]

 During the run of Broken Dish (Banchō sara yashiki) at the Dai Ichi Gekijō in Tokyo, CCD Pictorial Censor Charles B. Reese wrote, 'Suppressed, 8 Nov 45,' beneath CCD's script receipt number 22 on the first page of the play's English translation. The suppression applied to future submission, not to the present production. (Script in Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i)
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Figure 8
During the run of Broken Dish (Banchō sara yashiki) at the Dai Ichi Gekijō in Tokyo, CCD Pictorial Censor Charles B. Reese wrote, "Suppressed, 8 Nov 45," beneath CCD's script receipt number 22 on the first page of the play's English translation. The suppression applied to future submission, not to the present production. (Script in Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i)

and was shocked to discover that in the play Okiku joyfully accepts her death at the hands of her samurai lord. Boruff wrote in his daily report, "From social point of view this is a vicious play affirming the inferiority of woman and suggesting a samurai has godlike rights over her."51 Boruff was annoyed by what he believed was Shōchiku's duplicity: "Shochiku first submitted incomplete synopsis of 'Broken Dish' concealing its true content and omitting part of plot where Samurai kills. Later submitted second synopsis indicating killing but not making motivation clear" ("CR: 8 November 1945," Box 5255). Reese of CCD either attended the play with Boruff or he saw an earlier performance, because on that day Reese wrote "Suppressed, 8 Nov 45" in his distinctive handwriting on the cover of the script (Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i). Sometime between November 8 and 11, Reese told the Shōchiku liaison to SCAP, Yoshida Matsuji, that the play was not acceptable but because the production [End Page 28] had already opened, it could complete its run. Thereafter, Shōchiku should not propose Broken Dish again.52

On November 10 or 11, Boruff went to see Village School at the Tokyo Gekijō. Toita Yasuji describes Shōchiku's reaction to Boruff's visit:

Shōchiku officials had imagined at first they could fool the Americans as they had fooled Japanese officials during the war. In November 1945, they tried to hoodwink the CI&E officer who showed up just as Village School began by escorting him to a reception room. But he wasn't duped. He opened the door, looked out, and it was obvious that Village School was being played. Then immediately, from the next day, performances were stopped.
(Andō 1961: 47)

Boruff does not mention such an incident but his daily report conveys his deep suspicion: "Play believed to be vicious but difficulty of interpreting ancient dialogue makes further visit necessary." On November 12, Boruff met 1st Lt. Victor Ehlers, who that day replaced Reese as chief censor in the Pictorial Section, CCD. Boruff had to start all over: he gave Ehlers a detailed briefing on "the problem of socially vicious plays like The Broken Dish and The Village School."53 Boruff advised against using the "crude weapon" of censorship "despite vicious content of these old plays." Rather than ban bad plays, it is better to "fight these plays with new ideas" ("CR: 12 November 1945," Box 5255). That, of course, was CI&E's fundamental theatre mission.

Boruff and Ehlers saw intransigence and deliberate opposition in Shōchiku's choice of these particular plays out of a large repertory. Shōchiku's decision to resist Occupation wishes was by no means unique. Many Japanese leaders believed that the Occupiers could not penetrate their culture and therefore it was safe to continue the old ways. In October and November SCAP response to Japanese intransigence in newspapers, magazines, and education, as well as theatre, was uniform: censorship controls were imposed that had not been in place before (see Spaulding 1988 and Mayo 1984).

Ehlers faced a delicate decision in his first days as chief pictorial censor. He agreed with Boruff that the child sacrifice in Village School was not acceptable, but his predecessor had approved the production.54 On November 13 or 14, Ehlers made his decision. He advised Shōchiku's liaison Yoshida "not to show this play again, after its present run is terminated." In this, Ehlers was following the precedent of Broken Dish. Also, on November 15, Boruff received a letter critical of the play from a Japanese citizen who urged CI&E to "investigate the contents of this play, realize its influence upon the mind[s] of people, and take proper measures." We can imagine that Boruff immediately [End Page 29] showed the letter to Ehlers ("CR: 15 November 1945," Box 5255). Ehlers undoubtedly shared Boruff's stated belief that "Shōchiku misrepresented the actual content" of the plays and "gambled on our inability to find out what they were really about" ("CR: 16 November 1945," Box 5255). Ehlers decided to take another step: he summoned Yoshida and Satō Tokusaburō of Shōchiku's theatrical department, and firmly told them that Village School must close within five days. "It should be removed quietly from boards" not later than November 20 ("CR: 18 November 1945," Box 5255).55

It is commonly said that closing Village School was the "first step" in CCD censorship of kabuki (e.g., Kawatake Shigetoshi 1959: 961). As we have seen, Broken Dish was the first step; Village School was the second step. And both steps were responses to provocative plays, deliberately chosen by kabuki producers. It is tempting to imagine "what if"Shōchiku producers had chosen Priest Kochiyama instead of Village School. If Shōchiku had shown some forbearance during the first months of the Occupation, kabuki might well have faded quietly from the SCAP radar screen. Instead, Shōchiku's resistance seized the attention of theatre officers in SCAP and brought about closer scrutiny of kabuki.

The "Village School Incident:" Myth and Reality

To the best of my knowledge, Kawatake Shigetoshi coined the term "Village School Incident" (Terakoya jiken) in 1959, ten years after censorship had ended, to describe the five-day period during which the play was closed (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1959: 960). It is usually believed that closing Village School was hidden from the public: "Of course, the newspapers did not publish one line about the 'Village School Incident.' Or if they tried, SCAP did not allow it" (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1964: 137). But in fact at least three accounts of the closing were soon published without CCD objection.

CI&E itself moved quickly to make an object lesson of Shōchiku's poor play choice. One day after the closing, CI&E issued a press release that was published in Engekikai:

November 21, 1945: An informal announcement of the CI&E noted its earlier advice that plays based on feudal principles such as loyalty (chūgi) and sacrifice (gisei) for a feudal lord were not appropriate in present-day Japan. The censorship office [CCD] has warned that this month's production of Village School precisely fits the category of undesirable play that glorifies sacrifice for a feudal lord. Therefore, the responsible officials withdrew the play beginning today. Martyr of Sakura has replaced Village School56 until the close of the run on November 29.
("Shibai-goyomi san," 1946: 21) [End Page 30]

On December 2, a few days after the program at the Tokyo Gekijō ended, the Tokyo Shinbun offered a major article headlined "Is Kabuki Feudal? Regarding Suspension of Sugawara at Tokyo Gekijō." The author, Motoyama Ogifune, referred indirectly to the reason for closing the play: "In the aftermath of the removal of Sugawara [Village School] from the program at the Tokyo Gekijō, the issue of whether kabuki is feudal or not is being hotly debated. This is not a passing matter, but a serious problem that must be fundamentally settled." Motoyama then argued that kabuki is not feudal: it is a product of the feudal age but did not benefit from feudalism; it is a commoner's art born of the people; it camouflaged itself as feudal in order to survive in feudal times (which now works against it); a famous line like "to serve one's lord is painful indeed" in Village School expresses humanistic opposition to feudalism;57 and the great plays, such as Sugawara and Loyal Retainers, are not loved for their content or themes but for their visual beauty, concentrated emotion, and skilled acting. Motoyama lays out virtually all the arguments in favor of kabuki that Faubion Bowers and other Americans would repeat on kabuki's behalf in the coming months. Motoyama concludes with the hopeful pronouncement that "As long as Japan's history continues, kabuki will not die" (Motoyama 1945: 2).

The third published account, in the journal Taihei, by Yamamoto M., exposed the rumor that SCAP had banned the play: "In these clamorous days of democracy, I imagined that this play would never be staged, but it was, at the Tokyo Gekijō by Kōshirō and Kichiemon and their companies. However, as I had expected, after more than ten days of performance it was suddenly withdrawn under instruction, I hear, of GHQ [General Headquarters]" (CCD translation, April 11, 1946, Box 8618). The Press Section, CCD, approved these articles for publication.

For one of the most fascinating, and quixotic, stories that cluster around the incident, we must turn to the words of the veteran kabuki actor Ichikawa Ennosuke II (later Enō). He was stunned when he heard Village School was to be closed:

The Occupiers' ban on lovers' suicides, sword fighting, harakiri, and revenge, saying such scenes are undemocratic, seemed to me to spell the certain extermination of kabuki. [. . .] By some means or other I felt I had to get them to relax this measure, so I went to see Keith in SCAP. I told him, "In any case, at least you should go and see kabuki on the stage. Kabuki is not what you think it is." So Keith went to see Village School and then told me, "If you just read the story, cutting off a child's head is truly cruel. But when you hold in mind that this is a theatrical art, you see a beautiful, splendid performance." Because I [End Page 31] seized this opportunity, soon the prohibitions were relaxed.
(Nimura 1964: 400–401)

Perhaps Keith saw Village School in the five days between Ehlers' order and the play's closing. And perhaps he told Ennosuke he thought the scene was beautiful and splendid. But Keith was only Boruff's deputy in CI&E, without power to alter a CCD decision. It is too bad Ennosuke did not call on Ehlers in CCD, or even Boruff, where his appeal might have yielded concrete results in November 1945.

Faubion Bowers, the best-known CCD theatre censor, told a marvelously sensational version of the Village School closing on many occasions after the Occupation had ended. Bower's account, although fictitious, has been retold as the truth many times in Japan and America. In 1970, Bowers publicly charged Ernst and Keith with Nazi-like jackboot behavior. The tone of his writing in The New York Times Magazine can only be described as malicious: "Earle Ernst, a drama instructor, and Hal Keith, a one-or-two-time actor [. . .] with some soldiers and Japanese policemen abruptly stopped a performance of The Village School during the climactic head inspection sequence" (Bowers 1970: 39). In an earlier Bowers' telling, the incident produced severe financial consequences: Ernst and Keith not only "stopped the performance in the middle," they closed down the theatre, sending the spectators home with their money refunded (Bowers 1960: 40). As the years passed, his telling became more caustic but just as far from the truth. At a 1984 symposium on Occupation censorship Bowers said:

I am sure you will know that famous time in early September [sic] 1945 when American MPs [Military Police] and Japanese police walked onstage in the middle of a performance at the Imperial Theatre [sic] and stopped the great actors Kōshirō VII and Kichiemon II [sic] from doing Terakoya. There was a severed head of a child in the drama and as soon as the box containing it was opened, the Occupation authorities hiding behind the police stopped the show. This was a catastrophic blow for kabuki.
(1988: 203)

In this brief statement, Bowers manages to garble the facts three times, perhaps owing to fading memory. In any case, for forty years Bowers took delight in relating this melodramatic "catastrophe," but he no longer named Ernst, who threatened to sue Bowers for defamation (Richie 1997: 18; Ernst letter to Inose Naoki, February 3, 1987, Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i).

Bowers offered his baroque tale to Japanese readers for the first time forty-eight years after the event (Onoe et al. 1993: 134). Onoe Baikō VII, one of Bowers' dearest kabuki friends, repeated Bowers' version [End Page 32]

 Major Faubion Bowers hosting a party at the American Embassy, Tokyo, spring–summer, 1946, ostensibly to introduce kabuki actors to Earle Ernst and other CCD theatre censors. Center front, Onoe Shōroku II; standing, from left, Onoe Baikō VII, Nakamura Utaemon VI, Shōroku's younger sister, Bowers, and Shōroku's brother-in-law. American theatre censors are not shown in this or other photographs of Bowers' parties. (Photo: Courtesy of Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University)
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Figure 9
Major Faubion Bowers hosting a party at the American Embassy, Tokyo, spring–summer, 1946, ostensibly to introduce kabuki actors to Earle Ernst and other CCD theatre censors. Center front, Onoe Shōroku II; standing, from left, Onoe Baikō VII, Nakamura Utaemon VI, Shōroku's younger sister, Bowers, and Shōroku's brother-in-law. American theatre censors are not shown in this or other photographs of Bowers' parties. (Photo: Courtesy of Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University)

as fact a year later (Onoe 1994: 12). Bowers was a superb storyteller, but he had no firsthand knowledge of the event. This is clear in a letter he wrote fifty years later to Stanley Y. Kaizawa, Bowers' friend and successor as chief theatre censor in CCD: "Were you with Censorship or CI&E when in 1945 Oct? Nov? at the Imperial Theatre Koshiro VII and Kichiemon I were performing Terakoya (Village School) and the Japanese police walked on stage and stopped the performance as soon as the kubijikken (head inspection) started?" (Bowers' letter to Kaizawa, April 26, 1995, Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i). According to Kawatake Shigetoshi, Bowers learned of the closing a year and a half after the event, in April 1947, when Kawatake told him (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1995: 212–213).58 In the letter, Bowers is not certain of the month of performance and he has the wrong theatre (it was the Tokyo Gekijō). Kaizawa had the longest tenure (1945–1949) in Theatre Sub-Section in Tokyo, so he [End Page 33] was a good person to ask. Unfortunately Kaizawa arrived in Japan on Christmas day 1945, too late to have firsthand information to share (Interview with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, November 14, 2000). As the decades passed, the story must have seemed true to Bowers.

In Bowers' tale, SCAP acts precipitously and Ernst and Keith are callous barbarians. One of Bowers' less appealing traits was a tendency to disparage others in order to increase his own importance.59 Ernst, he said, "thought kabuki was bad in every way" (Okamoto 1998: 248). Bowers called his SCAP colleagues know-nothings. And at work he ridiculed Lieutenant Calhoun, calling him "Lieutenant Buffoon" (Interview with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, July 22, 2001). Bowers' personal remarks matter because in a dozen post-Occupation articles and interviews about kabuki censorship, Bowers consistently placed himself at the center of events and excluded the contributions of his colleagues. Over time, his self-serving description of others—"No one in the censor's office knows anything about theatre"—took on the aura of truth (Bowers et al. 1999: 122). Ernst certainly knew more about theatre than Bowers (and played the piano better, too, according to some) (Interview with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, July 15, 2001). Ernst held a master's degree (1939) and a doctorate (1940) in theatre history from Cornell University and he taught theatre at the University of Hawai'i for three years before the war. He then spent one and a half years in intensive Japanese language training at the University of Michigan and in the MIS Army language school. So Ernst brought a detailed, scholarly knowledge of theatre to his job, as well as a reasonable ability in Japanese language. Ernst went on to write The Kabuki Theatre (1956), still the most perceptive appreciation of kabuki in English, and at the University of Hawai'i in the late 1950s he directed English-language translations of Benten the Thief and Sugawara, and taught the first university classes in Japanese theatre in America. It also could be argued that New York stage professionals Boruff and Keith knew more about theatre than Bowers, who was primarily a musician. Late in his life, Yoshida Matsuji reminisced about the character of the Americans he had worked with on a daily basis. He noted they approached kabuki differently: "My feeling was that Ernst was a scholar, Boruff was a gentleman, and Bowers a fan" (Kawaji 1986: 15).

Kawatake Toshio used the notes of his father, Kawatake Shigetoshi, to reconstruct, in 1995, the Village School Incident as remembered by Japanese participants and observers. He noted that SCAP normally worked indirectly and quietly in the background, so it was against the nature of SCAP to have police leap on stage in front of several thousand spectators. Kawatake argued that it was more reasonable [End Page 34] to believe that CCD quietly advised Shōchiku to close the play (Kawatake Toshio 1995: 213). This description is confirmed by the memos in the SCAP files that I have been quoting: Ehlers waited several days before he advised Shōchiku to "quietly remove" from the boards the Village School production.

In searching to verify the truth of the Village School Incident, I have found no witness who saw police go on stage. I think it is significant that when Onoe Baikō tells a Sankei Shinbun interviewer in 1994 that "police went on stage," Bowers is his source of information (Onoe 1994: 12). He does not quote fellow actors who had played the scene that November and therefore knew the truth. Nakamura Kanzaburō, who played Tonami in the production, says nothing about police: "November 21, from an order of the American Occupation, Village School performances were banned" (1999: 255). Finally, Ernst has an unbreakable alibi: he was not in Japan when Ehlers ordered the play closed. The dramatic story of a Japanese art victimized by uncultured Americans carries a resonance in Japan, even after half a century. A new generation in Japan is learning the old fictitious story today.60 I suggest it is long past time to bury Bowers' tall tale.61

Boruff had predicted trouble with kabuki four weeks before the Village School problem arose: "Some producers are going to give us a bitter underground fight" despite their smiling agreement ("CR: 19 October 1945," Box 5255). A chance meeting on November 15 confirmed Boruff's suspicion that Shōchiku's decision to stage two undesirable plays was not an aberration or mistake. That day Matsumoto of the Japan Producers Association told Boruff that Shōchiku producers had deliberately selected Village School knowing its theme of child sacrifice broke SCAP's anti-feudal policy. They said it didn't matter because Americans "can't understand kabuki. They won't give us any trouble." Matsumoto told Boruff that Japanese reporters were laughing at the Americans for being naïve and foolish. He urged Boruff to watch for unusual casting (a villain playing a hero role) that the audience could interpret as making fun of the Occupation ("CR: 15 November 1945," Box 5255).

In a matter of days, Shōchiku provoked its third censorship rejection when it submitted the classic dance-drama The Subscription List to Tokyo CCD for a planned December production. Shōchiku officials must have thought the play would be passed because a production was running in Osaka without incident and another production would go forward in Kobe in December. But the censor in Tokyo watched a film of the play, made in 1943, that proudly acclaimed the play's hero, Benkei, " The ideal example of loyalty to his lord" ("CIEWS, period 15 [End Page 35] December–21 December 1945," Box 5351). CCD told Yoshida that Shōchiku should "voluntarily withdraw" Subscription List from consideration, which it did. (See Plate 3.)

CI&E's Plan to Ban Bad Plays

Boruff's campaign to require producers to stage new plays hadbeen killed a week before. Now, firmly believing that Shōchiku was actively opposing SCAP policies, he formulated a second plan to achieve democratization of kabuki, a plan that approached the problem from the opposite direction. He would ban the worst traditional plays by a SCAP directive (SCAPIN). In the meeting with Matsumoto on November 15, which exposed Shōchiku's disdain for SCAP policies, Boruff "instructed Matsumoto to have all producers prepare short synopsis [sic] of entire stock pile of plays including kabuki and present them to us in the near future accompanied by their own comment as to whether the plays are vicious or harmless" ("CR: 15 November 1945," Box 5255). Producers should judge each play's worth, Boruff said, on the basis of the "thirteen points used in the [CI&E] movie code" ("CR: 16 November 1945," Box 5255). These were mostly prohibitions of feudalist and militarist themes that Conde had prepared for film writers and directors.62 At this juncture Japanese and American views of the list's genesis shimmer in Rashomon-like subjectivity: Japanese sources say SCAP initiated and ordered the list; American sources say that CI&E was only responding to Japanese requests for guidance in future play selection (Kawatake Shigetohsi 1964: 167–169; "CR: 31 October 1945," Box 5255).

Early the next morning, November 16, Boruff went to see his boss Conde, outlined the problem, and proposed a powerful solution. Boruff stressed to Conde that Shōchiku's recalcitrance required them to act: "[My] original feeling that these [kabuki] plays should not be banned has changed due to experience of past month in which Shochiku placed two extremely vicious scripts in production." Ehlers, too, was greatly displeased with the "uncooperative attitude." Boruff told Conde the best approach was to prepare a "list of theatre scripts (largely kabuki) to be later banned by directive" ("CR: 16 November 1945," Box 5255). Conde was wholly sympathetic. Two weeks before this, on November 2, Conde had sent to Colonel Dyke a list of 236 Japanese wartime propaganda films and the draft of a SCAPIN ordering the Imperial Japanese government to forbid showing the films. Conde had begun to compile the list while working in psychological warfare in the Philippines six months before, and now it was complete. The SCAPIN naming taboo films was being issued that day, virtually as [End Page 36] Boruff and Conde were speaking.63 Boruff must have thought, "If Conde can ban bad films, why can't I ban bad kabuki plays?"

With Conde's approval in hand, Boruff went upstairs to consult with Ehlers in CCD, who agreed "to future handling of kabuki, i.e. collecting data on all such plays with view to issuing directive banning most vicious for future production."64 Boruff repeated his request for the play list to Satō Tokusaburō of Shōchiku two days later, and the following day Yoshida promised Boruff that he would soon have "outline synopsis of all kabuki" in hand ("CR: 18 November 1945" and "CR: 19 November 1945," Box 5255).65

Commentary in the January 1946 issue of Engekikai noted that CI&E's "advice" to do new kabuki plays especially disturbed Shōchiku that controls kabuki (p. 25). In early October, Shochiku had changed the name of its wartime Kabuki Investigation Committee (Kabuki Kentō Iinkai) to the Performing Arts and Culture Investigation Committee (Geinō Bunka Kentōkai). In response to Boruff's request for play synopses, Shōchiku charged the renamed committee with the task of preparing a list of plays suitable for a democratic society. Members were Shōchiku employees Endō Tameharu, Wakiya Mitsunobu, and Kawajiri Seitan, plus Waseda University Theatre Museum director Kawatake Shigetoshi, critic Atsumi Seitarō, and playwright Kubota Mantarō. (Ironically, until a few months earlier these same kabuki experts had been choosing plays that supported Japan's war effort.) In the space of one week, the Investigation Committee came up with a list of some five hundred "kabuki plays" (kabuki geki) and "new-history plays" (shin jidaigeki) that were divided, following Boruff's request, into "possible" and "not possible" categories.

The Investigation Committee judged 150–170 of the selected plays to be possible for performance (we do not know the exact number), including scores of domestic plays, such as Love Letter from the Licensed Quarter and Summer Festival: Mirror of Osaka, and eight to ten history plays, including Narukami the Thundergod, whose hero, Saint Narukami, is in rebellion against the emperor. The Investigation Committee decided that some fifty famous history plays were not possible for performance—Strife in the Date Clan, The Battles of Coxinga, Moritsuna's Battle Camp, and Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy, for example. Committee members were aware that many Americans knew at least one kabuki play: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers. Since it was a revenge play, they listed it not possible, a status that continued until November 1947. One of the most overtly objectionable kabuki scenes occurs in The Battle of Ichinotani when general Kumagai Jirō Naozane beheads his own son, Kojirō, to protect the life of Atsumori, son of the [End Page 37] emperor.66 Naturally, the Investigation Committee listed it in the not possible category. The largest group, and the most unusual, consisted of more than three hundred new-history plays, mostly written in the 1930s and early 1940s. Most are little known and of minor interest, yet the Investigation Committee chose them over traditional kabuki plays two to one.

For example, the Investigation Committee put twenty-nine new-history plays by the prolific and popular playwright Mayama Seika on the list although not more than four or five can be considered part of the repertory. Two-thirds are so little regarded they have never been revived and half are not mentioned in Brian Powell's detailed study of the author's works (1990). With or without censorship, most new-history plays on the list would never be restaged. What motivated the Investigation Committee to pad the new-history play selection with 150–200 unknown and inconsequential titles? Several reasons seem plausible. Committee members may have worried that if they did not put a title on the list, it would be hard to get the play approved later (the list was supposed to contain all plays that Shōchiku might wish to stage in the future). As it turned out, CCD censors paid no attention to whether a proposed play was on the list or not. Or the Committee may have felt that an extremely long list that was studded with little-known titles would be hard for the Americans to sort through. Perhaps unnecessary titles would help mask other plays the committee was worried about. That is, some chaff may have been added to hide the wheat.67 Yet another possibility exists: on June 19, 1944, the Greater Japan Producers Association, of which Ōtani Takejirō was an important member, began to compile a list of the best kabuki plays. If the postwar Investigation Committee used or adapted that list, it would explain the quickness with which the list was prepared and why many shin jidaigeki plays, popular during the war, are on the list (Nagayama 1995: 324).

Shōchiku, CI&E, and CCD Create a List of Withdrawn Plays

Shōchiku gave the Investigation Committee's list of some five hundred titles, without the promised synopses, to Boruff on November 26. On November 30, Boruff told Shōchiku officials that he wanted to begin discussions with the Investigation Committee on December 4. Some Japanese accounts imply that the meeting was hastily called, but four days' notice seems a reasonable lead time (Japanese writers are fond of calling SCAP actions "sudden" (totsuzen), suggesting American unpredictability and Japanese helplessness).68 Japanese accounts also imply that Boruff was wholly unfamiliar with the scripts. But Boruff [End Page 38] spent the week reviewing plays on the list. After several discussions with Enko Vaccari, a well-known Japanese language teacher fluent in English who was assisting CI&E, Boruff wrote in his daily report for November 27, one week before the first meeting, that his "preliminary survey found twelve bad ones which Shōchiku had listed as harmless" ("CR November 27, 1945," Box 5255). The following day, Boruff went over details of his plan with Ehlers, who would represent CCD. Boruff's spirits leaped when Ehlers, "Expressed feeling directive [banning plays] should come from Censorship." Immediately, Boruff "Heartily agreed," for this was the heaven-sent solution to CI&E's powerlessness ("CR November 28, 1945," Box 5255).

On the appointed afternoon, the seven members of the Investigation Committee, including Shōchiku's English-speaking liaison, Yoshida Matsuji, went to Boruff's office in the Radio Tokyo Building (NHK), central Tokyo. Representing CCD was Lt. Earle Ernst, chief censor of the newly formed Theatre Sub-Section, Pictorial Section, PPB, who had just taken over theatre censorship from Ehlers.69 Also present were Lt. Joseph Goldstein, another newly arrived theatre censor in CCD, and Vaccari as an extremely knowledgeable interpreter.70 Boruff was the highest-ranking American officer present and he conducted the meeting. Ernst, two military ranks lower and just two weeks in Japan, acted as clerk, keeping the scripts in order. Kawatake Shigetoshi has written the only detailed, firsthand account of the proceedings, based on two meetings he attended (1959: 937–958; 1964: 131–156). Kawatake praises Boruff for guiding the discussions in an unexpectedly friendly, open manner. Had the roles been reversed, Kawatake notes, a Japanese occupation official in America would have made imperious demands (Kawatake Toshio 1995: 215).71 To begin with, Boruff accepted with little comment the list of plays the Investigation Committee judged possible for performance. Occasionally someone consulted the reference book Outline of Kabuki Plays (Kabuki saiken), by Iizuka Tomoichirō, for plot information. As we know, Boruff's aim was to identify "vicious" plays that could be banned. Kawatake tells us that Boruff took up the plays the Investigation Committee believed were not possible, one by one, in detailed discussions that lasted sixteen hours and were spread over four consecutive days.72 The results of the discussions must have surprised Japanese and American participants alike: in the first two days Boruff approved twenty-five plays that the Investigation Committee thought not possible and disapproved only five that the committee believed were "good," for a net gain of twenty acceptable plays (Kawatake Toshio 2005: 247).

Kawatake cites half a dozen classic plays deemed unsuitable by the Investigation Committee for reason of murder or suicide that [End Page 39] Boruff ruled "democratically" acceptable. For example, the Investigation Committee had placed the famous comedy Sukeroku: Flower of Edo in the unacceptable category because it concludes with a bloody murder scene. When in the course of discussion it came out that the killer, Sukeroku, is a commoner and the man he kills is Ikyū, an evil samurai, Boruff said the play could be done. Kawatake notes that the Shōchiku side did not tell Boruff that Sukeroku's lover Agemaki is a prostitute. Nor did they say Sukeroku is "in truth" (jitsu wa) a famous samurai, Soga Gorō, nor that Sukeroku kills Ikyū to avenge his father's murder. Similarly, Boruff judged the history play Just a Minute! acceptable because the hero's motive in executing evil samurai is protection of the innocent. Also, Boruff approved several plays showing female characters in a positive light that the committee had thought unacceptable: the history play Rokusuke of Keya Village, featuring a modest female warrior; Festival Sashichi, whose slain heroine is presented sympathetically; and The Tale of Shiraishi, in which two sister-heroines plot to kill the man who murdered their father. Kawatake does not tell us which five titles Boruff dropped from the "good" list nor why he did so (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1964: 140–141).

At the conclusion of the discussions on December 7, the number of approved plays stood at 187.73 A Shōchiku scribe duly recorded the group's decisions regarding 507 play titles (see Table 1): 187 titles were "possible for performance" (jōen kanō)—79 kabuki and 108 new-history plays—whereas 320 titles were "not possible for performance" (jōen fukanō)—70 kabuki and 250 new-history plays (see the list in Shōchiku Ōtani Library).

Japanese accounts of the meetings say nothing about the Investigation Committee's original judgments. They state or imply that the purpose of the three-way meetings was for the Americans to choose which plays to ban or allow. The most recent Japanese account, written in 2005 by the current president of Shōchiku, is typical in its phrasing: "On the fourth of December, in the offices of the CI&E theatre section on the sixth floor of the Radio Tokyo Building in Uchisaiwaichō, kabuki plays were questioned in detail, one by one, for content, the nature of the major characters, and plot incidents and were then judged possible or not possible for performance" (Nagayama 2005: 339).

But judging the plays "possible" or "not possible" for performance had already been carried out by the Japanese Investigation Committee on its own. I believe the most significant aspect of these meetings is that the American side accepted virtually all of the Investigation Committee's evaluations. The number of changes Boruff made represents a tiny fraction of the total. And the changes Boruff made [End Page 40]

Front and back cover of the eleven-page list of 507 'possible' and 'not possible' play titles decided on in joint meetings of the Japanese Performing Arts and Culture Investigation Committee, CI&E, and CCD, December 4–7, 1945. The front cover (left) identifies the text, 'A summary list by performance classification of kabuki and new-history plays resulting from investigation,' the date and place, 'December 1945, sixth floor, Radio Tokyo Building,' organizations involved, Shōchiku's 'Performing Arts and Culture Investigation Committee and MacArthur's General Headquarters, Theatre Section, Naval Lt. Boruff,' and 'one participant, Kawajiri Seitan.' The back cover (right) identifies the text, 'A summary list by performance classification of kabuki and new-history plays,' and participants in the meetings, 'Mr. Boruff and Mr. Keith of General Headquarters and Kawatake Shigetoshi, Kawajiri Seitan, Atsumi Seitarō, Endō Tameharu and Wakiya Mitsunobu of the Investigation Committee.' The identification of Keith appears to be an error. (Text in Shōchiku Ōtani Library)
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Figure 10 and 11
Front and back cover of the eleven-page list of 507 "possible" and "not possible" play titles decided on in joint meetings of the Japanese Performing Arts and Culture Investigation Committee, CI&E, and CCD, December 4–7, 1945. The front cover (left) identifies the text, "A summary list by performance classification of kabuki and new-history plays resulting from investigation," the date and place, "December 1945, sixth floor, Radio Tokyo Building," organizations involved, Shōchiku's "Performing Arts and Culture Investigation Committee and MacArthur's General Headquarters, Theatre Section, Naval Lt. Boruff," and "one participant, Kawajiri Seitan." The back cover (right) identifies the text, "A summary list by performance classification of kabuki and new-history plays," and participants in the meetings, "Mr. Boruff and Mr. Keith of General Headquarters and Kawatake Shigetoshi, Kawajiri Seitan, Atsumi Seitarō, Endō Tameharu and Wakiya Mitsunobu of the Investigation Committee." The identification of Keith appears to be an error. (Text in Shōchiku Ōtani Library)
 Number of play titles 'possible' and 'not possible' to perform, determined at Shōchiku-CI&E-CCD meetings, December 4–7, 1945.
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Table 1
Number of play titles "possible" and "not possible" to perform, determined at Shōchiku-CI&E-CCD meetings, December 4–7, 1945.
[End Page 41]

were mostly to approve questionable plays. Still, we gain the impression that Boruff required careful persuasion and explanation. The plot and character descriptions provided by the Japanese participants were deliberately fuzzy and leaned toward the positive side. Some of the explanations, as with Sukeroku, were misleading. And for the Japanese there certainly was a sense of danger and precariousness: What if Boruff misunderstands? What if Boruff says "no" to this or that play? After all, absolute power lay with Boruff (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1959: 964–965).74

When the discussions were concluded, Kawatake was pleased: "I heaved a sigh of relief because the thirteen prohibitions, over which we had worried so much, had not been strictly applied" (1959: 965). The anxiety that Investigation Committee members felt was understandable, but misplaced. Boruff undoubtedly thought a precise and detailed list of prohibited themes would help focus discussions. Japanese feared the long list of thirteen forbidden topics signaled a more pervasive censorship policy, which was not the American intention. Boruff chose the film guide that Conde had drawn up to steer new films in the right direction, largely because it was available. A screenwriter could easily avoid the many forbidden topics, but as Kawatake pessimistically observed, "Speaking in the extreme, it would seem that every kabuki and bunraku play would be disapproved" (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1964: 138). Fortunately, this worst-case scenario did not play out. The kabuki repertory had been partially trimmed. But the disaster that the discussions seemed to portend did not occur: Boruff was moderate in his judgments of what constituted feudal loyalty or undue militarism.

Kawatake Toshio has suggested, correctly I believe, that the Investigation Committee prepared its list hurriedly because the titles are not in exact i-ro-ha or A-B-C order. Further, a very popular play is listed twice using alternate titles.75 Did Investigation Committee members divide up the repertory among them? If each person brought in some plays or if the earlier, wartime list was partially used, that would explain the inconsistencies.

Kawatake reports that during the discussions Boruff wondered aloud if kabuki could voluntarily shut down for a few years to avoid censorship problems. When Kawatake and other Japanese responded that that would be the end of kabuki, Boruff acceded agreeably, "We will say no more about it" (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1959: 965). After the discussions were concluded, it would seem that Investigation Committee members suggested additional play titles. On the day the meetings ended, Joseph Goldstein wrote in a CCD memo for the record, "Will receive definite answer December 8 as to when we can receive their entire list of plays with their criticism" (Memo, "Meeting with Mr. [End Page 42] Matsumoto and Assistant of Dai Nippon," December 7, 1945, Box 8580). So CCD expected to receive additional play titles.

In the third week of December, Ernst and his Theatre Sub-Section staff came up with a final list containing 517 plays titles, written in Roman letters for CCD use. The list contains the plays on the Shōchiku-CI&E-CCD list, less nine dropped titles and plus nineteen added titles, for a net increase of ten titles. Most of the additions were "approved" new-history plays.76 The important fact is that almost all ofthe original list made up by the Investigation Committee survived American scrutiny both during and following the discussions. This suggests that the high drama of the three-way discussions described by Kawatake Shigetoshi may be a bit exaggerated.

If we want to understand why certain plays were put on the list and others were not, and why plays were judged good or bad, we need to look first at the discussions among members of the Investigation Committee when they made up the original list in November. Unfortunately, no member of the Investigation Committee has written a description of the process whereby they selected and evaluated the more than five hundred plays, nor has the original list been found (Kawatake Toshio 1995: 215). It is an intriguing question why Japanese commentators never discuss the play selections made by the Investigation Committee but only discuss the meetings with SCAP officials. One unflattering explanation is that in this way Japanese participants can be presented as mere spectators to American censorship actions, rather than being responsible themselves for most of the censorship decisions.

Let us look briefly at some of the fourteen new-history titles that were added to the CCD's final list following the joint discussions. They are typically obscure works—The Orange Ship, Sequel to Nezumi the Rat, The Death of Toyoshige, The Scroll of Mii Temple—staged for a single production twenty to forty years ago and subsequently forgotten.77 Certainly the Americans were not capable of coming up with these titles on their own, so they must have been suggested by the Investigation Committee. What was the point of adding unimportant plays late in the selection process? Of course, most major plays are on the list. Yet, these strange circumstances confirm Kawatake Toshio's belief that the Investigation Committee put the list together in a hurried and somewhat arbitrary manner.

Early Demise of the List

A persistent myth about American censorship of kabuki is that the "list of banned plays" was important to CCD and that censorship was guided by the list. There was much pressure within SCAP to publish [End Page 43] a list of banned plays, but that did not happen. I suggest that the use of the list has been misunderstood.

From the beginning, Boruff wanted the list so that SCAP could order the Japanese government to forbid performances of the disapproved plays (as Conde had done with wartime propaganda films). One week after CI&E and CCD concluded their meetings with the Investigation Committee, Boruff wrote exultantly, "Censorship and this department are now in the process of tabulating the results preparatory to issuance of a directive by censorship in which unsatisfactory kabuki plays will be banned" ("CIEWS, period 1 December–14 December, 1945," Box 5351).78

As in his earlier plan, Boruff was dependent on CCD cooperation. He had Ehlers' assurance that CCD would issue a directive to the Japanese government, but Ehlers was no longer in charge of theatre censorship. In mid December, the new chief theatre censor Earle Ernst announced Theatre Sub-Section's policy on publicizing the list: "[We do] not wish to issue an official directive banning the Kabuki plays." Ernst preferred, in Boruff's words, to "let Shōchiku take the responsibility of getting the word around to other producers on what plays are taboo." Bitterly disappointed, Boruff argued that publicity was necessary to reach the hundreds of small troupes throughout Japan, but to no avail ("CIEWS, period 15 December–21 December 1945," Box 5351).

Ernst drafted a memo containing CCD's final list of 517 "Kabuki and Neo Classical Plays" for the guidance of District II and District III theatre censors.79 Major Alfred L. Dibella, PPB Division head, sent the memo under his signature to Osaka and Fukuoka by "safe hand courier" (to protect the confidentiality of the contents) on December 21. The division of the CCD list into "kabuki" and "neo-classic" groups follows the categories established by Shōchiku's Investigation Committee. The plays were further divided into those "voluntarily suppressed" by Shōchiku "as a result of a conference with Shochiku Theatrical Group" and "approved" plays, provided examination shows "there are no objectionable parts or scenes" ("Disapproved List of Kabuki & Neo Classical Plays," December 21, 1945, A.L.D[ibella], Box 8618). But within two months, PPB Tokyo revoked the list, instructing Osaka and Fukuoka censors to not use it as a censorship guide. Censors were to judge a script solely on its merits "even though the exact title appears on the list." "The December lists of 'approved' and 'disapproved' plays were not intended as records of censorship action [and] to avoid misunderstanding, it is suggested [. . .] their use be discontinued" (Pictorial to Chief, PPB, "Plays Submitted from Fukuoka," April 2, 1946, K C[ameron], Box 8520). [End Page 44]

It may seem surprising that CCD abandoned the list so quickly, but it was a CI&E project, and by March 1946, Boruff, the list's instigator, was gone. (See Plate 4. )

Boruff made one final attempt to get the disapproved list published in early January 1946, a few days before he left Japan for demobilization. Again he went directly to CI&E head, Kermit Dyke, now a brigadier general, and convinced him to support his plan. On January 14, 1946, General Dyke sent a memo to the commanding officer, CCD, asking why SCAP should not issue a "directive to the Imperial Japanese government to set up procedures [. . .] to effect the banning and prevent the production of undesirable Kabuki plays" (Memo "Censorship of Kabuki Plays," January 14, 1946, K. R. D[yke], Box 5116). General Dyke's memo was forwarded to Ernst, a lieutenant, for reply. Ernst shrugged off the general's suggestion, writing on January 19 his conclusion that the list should not be published. Ernst pointed out that a title did not determine the content of a play because kabuki titles and content constantly changed. Although this was only a few months into the Occupation, Ernst knew that censorship was temporary and soon would fade away: "The list [. . .] is based upon an incomplete knowledge of the plays and therefore cannot be regarded as final (Draft "Answer to Gen. Dyke memo," January 18, 1946, Box 8618).80 And later, in 1947, Ernst observed:

Since we were aware [in 1946] that our attitudes might well change as we got a better idea of the Japanese theatre, we deliberately couched the regulations in general terms so that we would not find ourselves embarrassed by an inflexible code. At the same time we have [. . .] not attempted to apply the same censorship criteria to Kabuki that we would apply to a modern play. If we did, it would be almost impossible to pass any Kabuki play, since all of them reflect the feudal society in which they were created.
("Memorandum to: AKM, RHK, JJC," February 26, 1947, E.E., Box 8618)

Ernst was looking to the future when the existence of a published list of banned titles would make it difficult to ease theatre censorship. He was also looking further ahead, to the end of censorship. Remarking on Ernst's attitude at this time, theatre censor Alexander Calhoun recalls: "Earle's position was that censorship should be ended as soon as possible. Censorship was consistent with the American system, it was needed, but it should be done away with quickly" (Interview with Alexander Calhoun, October 5, 2000). (See Plates 5 and Plate 6.)

Kawatake Shigetoshi tells us that during the December play list discussions, Boruff suggested to Investigation Committee members that if Shōchiku practiced self-restraint in play selection, "Present [End Page 45]

 Title page of the script of Battle Camp Debate staged January 1946 at Osaka's Kabuki-za. A Japanese national examiner in Osaka PPB has written in Japanese, 'performance forbidden' (jōen kinshi) to the right of the main title. The prohibition has been crossed out and the script marked approved with the 'PC, C.C.D.—610' stamp and the censor's signature, 'Royal C. Zuckerman, 2nd Lt. Inf.' (bottom right). On a second page (not shown), is a note that the play was 'banned by MacArthur's Headquarters, December 21, 1945.' Here is clear evidence that Osaka censors, acting on their own initiative, deliberately released a 'banned' play that they knew was on Tokyo's 'disapproved' list, months before Faubion Bowers was involved in censorship. (Script in Shōchiku Kansai Archives)
Click for larger view
Figure 12
Title page of the script of Battle Camp Debate staged January 1946 at Osaka's Kabuki-za. A Japanese national examiner in Osaka PPB has written in Japanese, "performance forbidden" (jōen kinshi) to the right of the main title. The prohibition has been crossed out and the script marked approved with the "PC, C.C.D.—610" stamp and the censor's signature, "Royal C. Zuckerman, 2nd Lt. Inf." (bottom right). On a second page (not shown), is a note that the play was "banned by MacArthur's Headquarters, December 21, 1945." Here is clear evidence that Osaka censors, acting on their own initiative, deliberately released a "banned" play that they knew was on Tokyo's "disapproved" list, months before Faubion Bowers was involved in censorship. (Script in Shōchiku Kansai Archives)
[End Page 46]

restrictions will naturally be gone within a few years."81 In fact, restrictions were relaxed sooner than Boruff imagined: CCD theatre censors released the first disapproved titles within a month and almost all major plays were released inside two years.

Neither CCD nor CI&E announced the existence of the list of approved and disapproved plays. But four days after the SCAP–Investigation Committee discussions were completed, an article in the Asahi Shinbun, almost certainly planted by Shōchiku, cried out, "The Treasury of Loyal Retainers and Strife in the Date Clan banned." Without mentioning the discussions, the short article attributed these "voluntary decisions" to Shōchiku's Investigation Committee: "Following the guidance plan of SCAP, the Performing Arts and Culture Investigation Committee has itself reexamined kabuki play scripts, with the result that plays that distort historical truth, degrade women or children, approve of ritual suicide, or advocate feudalistic thought inspiring militarism will not be done" (December 12, 1945). The article named a dozen suitable and unsuitable play titles. Soon an English translation of this article was published in the Nippon Times that was headlined "Banned Plays Revealed: Vendetta of 47 Ronin to be Eliminated From Kabuki." It opened with the now familiar litany of undesirable dramatic situations: "All dramatic plays replete with feudalistic ideas including those which glorify militarism, distort historic facts, abuse women or children, or justify suicides are to be eliminated hereafter from Kabuki performances" (December 24, 1945). Within a week, the theatre journal Engekikai carried a brief notice that as a result of meetings between SCAP and Shōchiku plays like Village School and Loyal Retainers would be "set aside and not performed" while many domestic plays were deemed appropriate (February 1946: 23). It seems that CI&E and CCD officials did not know that these articles were published.

The list of approved plays was finally made public at a SCAP press conference held January 20, 1946 (described later). At that time the SCAP spokesman provided Japanese reporters with titles of the 187 "appropriate" plays that had been agreed upon in December: 79 kabuki and 108 new-history plays.82 The Mainichi Shinbun published these play titles (save one) January 24, under the headline "Kabuki and New-History Plays Suitable for Performance."83 The approved plays were now public knowledge.84 But in line with the policy set by Ernst, the 320 disapproved play titles were not publicized then and have not been published to this day.85

The Myth of "Two-Thirds" Banned Plays

John Boruff left Japan on January 11, 1946, returning to New York, where he resumed his career as a professional playwright, actor, [End Page 47] and later television script writer. Policy making in SCAP, as in all ad hoc organizations, was strongly colored by personality. When Boruff left CI&E, his campaigns to force change on kabuki faded quickly. His successors in the CI&E Theatre Unit—Harold Keith, Edward Kaneshima, and Willard L. Thompson—were far more interested in shingeki than in kabuki. Besides, Boruff's two major campaigns to modernize kabuki had been complete failures. Theatre Unit staff turned their full attention to modern drama, which they, and most Japanese, believed represented the future of Japanese theatre.

Both CI&E and CCD put much effort into creating the list, yet neither used it. Then what does the list mean? In the most recent, detailed English-language article on kabuki censorship under the Occupation, Marlene J. Mayo expresses the standard view that "Two-thirds of the existing repertoire of 500 plays [. . .] were designated harmful" and "after these conferences little else was left" to perform (Mayo 2001: 279). Writing in 2005, Shōchiku president Nagayama Takeomi puts the figure even higher: "Three-fourths of the repertory was banned" (338). But is this true? And where does the figure "two-thirds" or "three-fourths" come from?

If we look at Table 1 (p. 41), the figure of 320 "not possible" plays is almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the total of 507 plays on the list. But that does not mean that two-thirds of the kabuki repertory was banned. In the first place, traditional kabuki plays make up only 149, or one-third, of the titles on the list. If the traditional scripts are counted separately (as the Investigation Committee did), we see that seventy-nine, or more than one-half, were judged possible for performance. Further, as others have noted, the list contains almost no dance plays. If we add the one hundred or so traditional kabuki dance pieces, such as Two Lions, The Barrier Gate, Benkei Aboard Ship, and others to the list,we get some 250 traditional kabuki titles. And since the censors almost always judged dance plays harmless, we can say the Americans approved approximately 180 traditional kabuki scripts. In short, a more correct statement would be, "as a result of the meetings, three-fourths of the traditional kabuki repertory was judged suitable for performance."

The majority of the "not possible" titles on the list are new-history plays. At least one hundred glorify great warriors from Japan's bloody past—Taira Kiyomori, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Oda Nobunaga, and others—or offer twentieth-century, pro-imperial revisions of feudal history.86 The Investigation Committee included two war plays set in Japan's modern period: Universal Military Conscription (1940) and Map of Loyalty to the Emperor (1942). Needless to say, Shōchiku producers were unlikely to submit many of these plays for postwar performance. [End Page 48] It seems strange that the committee put so many unknown, inappropriate titles on the list, merely to say they should not be done.87 Finally, some of the new-history plays on the list were written for shinpa or shinkokugeki. From the beginning, Boruff had asked Shōchiku to provide, in his words, "A list of theatre scripts (mostly kabuki)." In sum, the total number of "not possible" titles tells us little about the fate of traditional kabuki plays under CCD censorship.

Even though Ernst refused to publicize CCD's list of "disapproved" plays and did not use it as a censorship guide, nonetheless he thought the list useful to Shōchiku. Ernst wrote to his superiors in January 1946, one month after the list had been finalized: "The list of approved and disapproved plays has been of great value in enabling those producers and troupes who wish to cooperate with us, to learn what CCD is opposed to and what it will approve" (Unsigned draft, "Answer to Gen. Dyke Memo," January 18, 1946, Box 8618). That is, producers could stick with approved plays, avoid disapproved scripts, and have no problems with CCD censorship. And producers had nearly two hundred traditional plays to safely choose from. Did producers do this? In fact, production chronologies for 1945–1949 show that Shōchiku producers did not follow this simple path (see Nagayama 1996 and Komiya 1989). I will return to this in a moment. But first I want to finish the narrative of early censorship.

January 10, 1946, was Boruff's last working day in CI&E before returning home. Unquestionably he is the most significant American concerned with theatre in the early months of the Occupation.88 Because Boruff instigated two major initiatives to reform kabuki (both failed), many Japanese believed that he, and CI&E, directed theatre censorship. Even Okamoto Shirō, the most recent serious Japanese writer on Occupation censorship of kabuki, misunderstands CI&E's lack of authority: "I have noted all along that CI&E controlled the censorship section. It was CI&E's responsibility to approve and deny permission for kabuki plays, to handle all negotiations, and to make all notifications" (Okamoto 2001: 90). As we have seen, this is a misunderstanding. CI&E did formulate policy designed to support democratic and liberal thought. But "responsibility to approve or deny" kabuki productions always rested with CCD: during Boruff's tenure in CI&E, Reese, Ehlers, and Ernst of CCD approved or disapproved plays in Tokyo, not Boruff. And "notification" of CCD actions necessarily came from CCD personnel. In two personal crusades, Boruff tried to carry forward both the positive and negative goals of the Occupation. But he did not succeed because his efforts overreached CI&E authority. Japanese observers at that time did not have access to the inner workings of SCAP and they can be forgiven for not seeing that while CI&E spoke [End Page 49] loudly, CCD, working quietly without publicity, carried the big stick of kabuki censorship. To make it even more confusing, at the start of the Occupation theatre officers of CCD and CI&E occupied offices in the same building, Radio Tokyo, just one floor apart. As Kabuki-za Corporation vice president Miyazaki Kyoichi recently told me, "We could not always tell who was giving us orders, CI&E or CCD" (Interview with Miyazaki Kyoichi, September 25, 2003). Today researchers can freely examine Occupation documents to gain a clearer understanding of the interplay between CCD and CI&E in dealing with theatre.

Kawatake Shigetoshi has written an interesting account of the lavish, and perhaps ill-considered, farewell party Shōchiku hosted for Boruff at a fancy Shinbashi restaurant on the evening of January 10, 1946. As the party wound down Boruff asked if Shōchiku would do 50 percent modern plays in kabuki as a personal favor after he was gone (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1964: 143). We don't know why Boruff broached this new idea on the eve of his departure. Also, we do not have a record of his exact words, only Japanese translations of what he said, so it is difficult to know Boruff's attitude or intention. My impression is that this was an offhand remark, a last-minute query about possibilities for kabuki's future. Perhaps the generous cups of sake he had been drinking that evening loosened his tongue. In any case, even though the next day Boruff would be gone from CI&E, Kawatake noted that Shōchiku officials were greatly disturbed and worried.

The following day, Boruff's deputy, Lt. Harold Keith, became the second head of Theatre Unit, CI&E. Like Boruff, Keith had been a professional actor in New York and like Boruff he became deeply interested in Japanese theatre, attending almost all the major productions while he was in Tokyo from November 1945 to June–July 1946. He was a devotee of ballet, and his wife was a professional ballet dancer in New York. After demobilization, he became a television producer and director in New York (Interviews with Edward Kaneshima, December 4, 2001; and Onoe Kuroemon, June 30, 2000). He was especially committed to, and interested in, modern drama in Japan. Kawatake Shigetoshi tells us that on Keith's first day as Theatre Unit head, January 11, 1946, he summoned several Shōchiku staff members to his office, where he scolded them for doing only old feudal plays. In the future kabuki programs must contain 50 percent new plays, Keith said, warning that if this were not done all kabuki would be forbidden. Boruff was present but, since he was no longer attached to SCAP, he did not speak. The Japanese sat silent and stony-faced. When Keith finished, Shōchiku board director Wakiya Mitsunobu, SCAP liaison Yoshida Matsuji, and three minor members of the playwriting staff [End Page 50] rose and left without saying a word (Kawatake Toshio 1995: 216–217). There was nothing they could say.

It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to decipher Keith's intentions. As far as I can discover, Keith did not write about the meeting in any report.89 Was he flaunting his new title as head of the Theatre Unit? Was he showing respect for the ideas of his former boss, who was present in the room? I cannot believe Keith thought Shōchiku would heed his scolding. He had seen Shōchiku producers successfully resist Boruff's earlier advice to do 30 percent new plays. He had seen Boruff fail to issue the list of banned plays. Keith knew that CI&E had no authority to stop a performance and certainly he, Keith, could not ban kabuki.

Japanese commentators consistently say that Keith's words heralded a time of stricter censorship by SCAP and poorer relations with Shōchiku. Okamoto writes harshly of Keith, "From now, Keith, the CI&E official responsible for censorship, adopted an aggressive attitude toward Shōchiku" (1998: 247). Most recently, Nagayama dubbed him "hardnosed Keith" who "worsened the situation" (2005: 339). Or as Kawatake Toshio put it: "the Buddha Boruff was replaced by the Devil Keith" (1995: 216).90 Certainly the statement attributed to Keith was harsh, but the new Theatre Unit head was in no position to carry out a program of kabuki reform. With Boruff gone, Ernst in CCD asserted undisputed control over kabuki: Ernst was "the czar of kabuki." And, as we will see, Ernst, who had a strong if irascible personality, began to relax censorship of kabuki. Ernst worked for a year with his assistants, Palestin, Goldstein, Calhoun, and, somewhat later, Bowers, to achieve this aim.

I believe that Keith's hastily called meeting did not represent a new direction; rather it signaled the end of CI&E's failed policy to encourage new democratic kabuki plays. We can note, first of all, that Keith's pronouncement, although it appears to have been severe and unpleasant, had no consequence within SCAP. Keith attached little importance to the meeting: he did not mention it in his weekly activities report and there is no follow-up to his words. I have searched CI&E (and CCD) files and have found no reference anywhere to "50 percent modern plays." It is as if Keith's meeting and his announcement never occurred. But Kawatake Shigetoshi's report cannot be doubted. From this, I believe that Keith made the "50 percent" remark, but he did not expect anything to come of it.

During the six months that Keith was Theatre Unit head, he devoted most of his attention to shingeki artists, whom he encouraged to do liberal, democratic plays.91 Keith "advised" appropriate themes [End Page 51] and "guided" the writing and revision of new play scripts. In short, CI&E was a powerful controlling agency over newly written plays.92 But Keith did not concern himself with kabuki scripts that were already written. He liked to scribble notes on traditional kabuki scripts that Shōchiku continued submitting, as a formality, to CI&E: "CCD says OK" and "CCD's baby." And he wrote a long comment on the first page of the script for Ryokan and a Nurse Maid by Tsubouchi Shōyō, performed by Kikugorō at the Tokyo Gekijō in May 1946: "What Kikugoro calls 'modern' not really such—Also his hara-kiri business is bad (CCD will get it, though, being an old play)—Keith" (CI&E play scripts, Box 5286, 5299). Clearly these are personal reactions (jotted down and dropped in a file) and not censorship actions. Ernst regretted CI&E's disconnect from kabuki affairs, complaining in 1947 about the lack of new kabuki scripts since Boruff's departure: "For a year there has been no one in the CIE Theatrical Section who has had any interest or competence in this matter [of guiding kabuki]" ("Memorandum to: AKM, RHK, JJC," February 26, 1947, E.E., Box 8618). Whatever Keith's intentions were when he demanded 50 percent new plays on January 11, his comments left Shōchiku officials shaken to the core and in a deep quandary. CI&E "advice" to do more new scripts struck a blow against Shōchiku's basic policy of preserving the traditional repertory. And from the other side, CCD censors in Tokyo had banned within a month's time three traditional favorites: Broken Dish, Village School, and Subscription List. Ernst's policy of examining each play on its merits, while fair and reasonable, was also profoundly unsettling to Shōchiku. It left the door open to frightening vagaries of foreign opinion that could only harm kabuki. Even if Shōchiku proposed only plays taken from CCD's "good" list, Ernst and his assistants might still disapprove a script on the grounds that it was somehow feudal or militaristic (which the censors did on at least three occasions).93 As a cushion against possible rejection, Shōchiku commonly submitted for censorship more scripts than it intended to produce (Priest Kochiyama has been mentioned).

Shōchiku's Pique: We Won't Do Kabuki Plays Anymore

Spooked by these unexpected Occupation moves, Shōchiku executives seem to have panicked, and they appeared poised to take an unprecedented step that horrified kabuki's fans. On January 20, 1946, ten days after Keith's warning, headlines in two daily newspapers announced the demise of kabuki:

"Traditional Kabuki Disappears"

"Shōchiku to Stage Only Dance Plays in Future" [End Page 52]

The article in the Mainichi Shinbun explained that an investigation by Shōchiku revealed that kabuki history plays, domestic plays, and many of Kawatake Mokuami's plays "are tinged with feudal ideology and exert a bad influence on democratization." Therefore, Shōchiku is voluntarily withdrawing the repertory and will stage only kabuki dances and new plays in the future. The second article, in the Tokyo Shinbun, implied that Shōchiku was reexamining the repertory and a plan to drop kabuki was one possible course of action. According to one opinion, "Kabuki's feudalistic plays have no value today except as 'classics.'" To this day these articles contain elements of mystery. Whose views are being quoted? Even if Shōchiku officials were rattled by SCAP actions, they knew that CCD had just approved several hundred plays for kabuki production. It was a strange leap to conclude that kabuki had to be abandoned.

Takahashi Tōshio of Shōchiku's Theatrical Department elaborated in the Tokyo Shinbun article, without exactly offering an explanation: "It is true that actors will have difficulty doing modern plays. Yet Kikugorō specializes in modern plays and Ennosuke and Kichiemon are not unfamiliar with them, so this is not a major worry. The difficulty lies in asking veteran playwrights to suddenly change direction. We must encourage young writers to contribute new plays" (January 20, 1946). Two days later, Shōchiku's deputy chief of the Theatrical Department, Satō Tokusaburō, denied that Shōchiku had any plan to "abandon all kabuki plays." Rather, "We want to stage those kabuki plays that are all right to stage. Even more, we will devote ourselves to enlightening the people through democratic plays." The Shōchiku employees' union was also quoted. The union called for Ōtani family members and their "puppet officials" to resign for mishandling kabuki and demanded union participation in deciding the appropriate postwar kabuki repertory (Asahi Shinbun, January 22, 1946).

The next day, as the storm of protest and concern reached a climax, Shōchiku clarified its position, seeming to accept CI&E's harshest demands: "We will not stop producing kabuki plays. From now on, we will stage kabuki programs consisting of 50 percent existing plays that are suitable, including recent kabuki plays, and for the remaining 50 percent we intend to stage modern dramas that oppose militarist ideas and break down feudal ideology" (Asahi Shinbun, January 23, 1946). That is, half of the plays will be entertainment taken from the list of "good" kabuki and new-history titles, and half will be new, serious plays that carry useful messages about contemporary society. Keith's demand for 50 percent new plays was being acknowledged, at least rhetorically.

The same day, Kawajiri Seitan, veteran Shōchiku playwright, [End Page 53] member of the Investigation Committee,and participant in the December meetings with CI&E and CCD, discoursed on the plays in the traditional repertory that could still be performed and those that "should be set aside." Kabuki was a great art and it would be a tragedy if Shōchiku ceased performing traditionalkabuki. The noted communist shingeki director Hijikata Yoshi expressed a radically different opinion in the same article: "The responsibility for this situation lies with monopoly capitalism that has entered even the feudalistic world of kabuki. Government authorities are also responsible, for they have left undisturbed the feudal ideology that has been cultivated for centuries" (Mainichi Shinbun, January 23, 1946). Or, some wondered, was closing down kabuki a smokescreen for a larger Shōchiku plan to turn its major legitimate theatres—the Tokyo Gekijō and Hōgaku-za—into movie houses to increase profits?

Lurking within this jumble of conflicting messages was the implication that SCAP was pressuring Shōchiku to abandon kabuki. An internal CCD memo, almost certainly written by Ernst, dismissed Shōchiku's original statement as a hollow threat:

Shochiku's "Theatrical Art Advisory Board" [Performing Arts and Culture Investigation Committee] consists of some of the foremost Japanese authorities on Kabuki; Shochiku has continued to produce Kabuki; in view of these circumstances it is unlikely that Shochiku would be remotely interested in banning Kabuki."
(Memorandum, "Subject: Statement by Major F. Bowers Concerning Kabuki," February 19, 1946, Box 8618)

Passive-aggressive resistance to SCAP, and more than a little pique, can be read into Shōchiku's statements. Shōchiku could easily have continued kabuki within the repertory of several hundred CCD-approved plays and dance pieces. Why did Shōchiku's Satō Tokusaburō say, "We will focus only on modern dramas appropriate to the age," when CI&E had never asked kabuki to go that far? Perhaps by threatening to close kabuki completely, Shōchiku was raising the stakes and challenging SCAP. Perhaps this was Shōchiku's attempt to imply to the public that SCAP was killing kabuki (censorship did not permit direct criticism of SCAP). Or was Shōchiku using the "democratic trend in theatre" to camouflage its decision to dissolve kabuki for economic reasons? As yet, kabuki was barely profitable for Shōchiku. This moment marked a low point for kabuki under the Occupation.94

SCAP officials understood that they were being criticized and immediately made a public counterattack. On January 22, two days after the first Tokyo Shinbun article appeared, a CI&E press spokesman, Captain John Henderson, released a statement (mentioned earlier) [End Page 54] denying SCAP involvement. This is the complete text that Henderson read to Japanese reporters that morning:

Kabuki plays have not been banned by CI&E. Few were found objectionable by CCD. The Shochiku press release that all Kabuki plays have been banned except a few dance Kabukis [sic] is erroneous. The story is this: Shochiku came to CCD and CI&E originally to ascertain the status of Kabuki. They were asked to bring in their own opinion of their Kabuki library under two listings—"good" from a democratic point of view and "undesirable." There followed a three-way conference, consuming 16 hours, attended by Shochiku, CCD and CI&E, in which the listings were revised. The result was an increase of substantial proportions in the number considered as good. The final count was: 196 good; 322 not.95 Shochiku then voluntarily decided to withhold the latter. GHQ wishes no art form to be killed, but GHQ is, of course, encouraged when the tendency of the Japanese theater is to present democratic material.
(PPB Division, "Memorandum for Record," January 23, 1946, Box 8618)

The SCAP statement was published the following day in the Asahi Shinbun and the Mainichi Shinbun. Keith, who took credit for drafting the announcement, was disingenuous in protesting that "GHQ wishes no art form to be killed," when he was the person who had threatened to end kabuki ("Weekly Report, Theatre, Lt. Keith," January 26, 1946, Box 5116).

In February, Ōtani Takejirō ended the debate when he made a comprehensive and authoritative statement of Shōchiku's intentions toward kabuki:

From today's standpoint, I know it is not enough to stage only kabuki classics. The original meaning of "kabuki" was modern play and a repertory limited to classics cannot be called kabuki. Henceforth, I want Shōchiku to stage half traditional kabuki or new works in the beautiful style of kabuki, and half modern plays or shingeki. [. . .] Just as theatrical culture is useful to construct a new Japan, I want to preserve for eternity the good aspects of kabuki that are unique to our nation. [. . .] Elements of great beauty exist in a number of kabuki plays that have unsuitable content. We need to weave kabuki's beauty of technique into plays that have suitable content. This is one way I believe kabuki can be preserved. Also, some unsuitable plays can be given splendid new life by deleting or rewriting one part [and] a classic play can be restructured while maintaining just its original spirit. [. . .] It is natural for new forms to appear on the stage [. . .] and so I swear an oath that while Shōchiku will absolutely not abandon kabuki, it will exert every effort to help kabuki actors create new styles of acting, [End Page 55] unsoiled by old forms (kata), when they set their hands to acting in new, modern plays.
(1946: 23)

Keith and Ernst certainly would have been overjoyed to read this multifaceted plan to create new kabuki plays and new kabuki acting kata, "unsoiled by old forms." (As far as I know, they did not see Ōtani's article.)

Writers on kabuki censorship unanimously ridicule the "advice" of Boruff and Keith to do 50 percent new plays. Okamoto says this was "too heavy a burden to carry" and audiences would not be interested in such modern plays (1998: 220). Ernst wrote, in a memorable phrase, that this was like requiring a concert pianist to "play Chopsticks on his program as an antidote to the classicism of Bach" (1956: 267). But concert pianists commonly balance classics and new works in their programs and, as Ōtani had just written, kabuki without new plays is not kabuki.

Why was it not possible for kabuki producers to stage one, two, or even three new plays in a program of six plays? When Ōtani pledged that Shōchiku would do exactly that, he was speaking from experience, having shepherded new scripts onto kabuki stages for decades. Under Ōtani's direction in 1940, for example, the Kabuki-za had specifically appealed to authors: "write new kabuki scripts that areappropriate" to the nation's wartime needs (Kabuki-za 1940: 31). When Boruff "advised" 30 percent new kabuki plays, Engekikai editorially agreed, citing reasons similar to those given by Ōtani: "The word kabuki means new drama. [. . .] Danjūrō [IX] and Kikugorō [V] premiered new plays one after the other, garnering praise and creating excellent productions. Kabuki actors cannot be permitted to ossify kabuki into a classic art. We must exert all our efforts to fostering new developments in the present situation" (January 1946: 25). And in February, an unsigned editorial in Engekiki expressed dismay at Shōchiku's stubborn reluctance to adapt to Japan's vastly changed circumstances: "Since the war ended, producers and acting troupes both have shown no readiness for the new, but rather they continue with the old attitudes of the past. [. . .] Even the "new" play, New Year Calendar, about Tokugawa-period merchants, contains no contemporary roles (Engekikai, February, 1946: 1).

American theatre officials in CCD wrote that they knew that "A large part of kabuki [. . .] was originally a commentary on the happenings of the day." They knew that Chikamatsu Monzaemon's lovers' suicide plays in the eighteenth century and Tsuruya Nanboku's raw-domestic plays (kizewamono) of the nineteenth century about thieves and murderers were dramatizations of current events (Ernst [with [End Page 56] Bowers] 1947: 10). The Americans did not know that Osanai Kaoru's five-act play, Mussolini, had run with great success at the Meiji-za in 1928 with kabuki actor Ichikawa Sadanji II playing Il Duce with gusto and swagger (Nagayama 1996: 578; Osanai 1928).

 Kabuki stars (from left) Ichimura Uzaemon XV, Onoe Kikugorō VI, and Bandō Hikosaburō VI (Kikugorō's younger brother) play three enlisted men who died leading a suicide charge on the China front in February 1932. The play, Matsui Shōō's Three Glorious Human Bombs, opened two weeks later at the Kabuki-za, as part of the March program. New plays about contemporary events were commonly performed throughout kabuki's history down to the end of World War II. (Photo: Courtesy of Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University)
Click for larger view
Figure 13
Kabuki stars (from left) Ichimura Uzaemon XV, Onoe Kikugorō VI, and Bandō Hikosaburō VI (Kikugorō's younger brother) play three enlisted men who died leading a suicide charge on the China front in February 1932. The play, Matsui Shōō's Three Glorious Human Bombs, opened two weeks later at the Kabuki-za, as part of the March program. New plays about contemporary events were commonly performed throughout kabuki's history down to the end of World War II. (Photo: Courtesy of Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University)

Ōtani Takejirō and Shōchiku producers knew it was a commonplace for kabuki actors to perform contemporary plays. In 1932, Onoe Kikugorō VI, Ichimura Uzaemon XV, and Bandō Hikosaburō VI played Japanese army privates who, just weeks before the play opened, gave their lives fighting in China. Throughout the war, kabuki plays about current events, called kiwamono, or "seasonal goods," fulfilled the function of today's docudramas on TV. The Last Hours of Commander Kanō (1937), Regimental Flag (1939), Pearl Harbor (1942), and scores of other kabuki plays dramatized contemporary war scenes between 1931 and 1944 (Nagayama 1993: 374–585; Tanaka 1964: 137–163). The entire history of kabuki tells us that if postwar playwrights had written kiwamono [End Page 57] plays set in 1946 for kabuki actors, it would have been as unremarkable as drinking a cup of green tea.

What was the result of Ōtani's promise? To begin with, nothing happened for three months because Shōchiku did not stage any kabuki in Tokyo during February, March, and April 1946. Had Keith made producers gun-shy? The next Shōchiku kabuki program in the city was in May at the Tokyo Gekijō. The two-part program containing one premier, two shin-kabuki, and three traditional plays, including Sukeroku and Benten the Thief, would seem to fulfill CI&E's expectations. However, none of the scripts confronted contemporary issues, prompting an unnamed editorial writer in Engekikai to chide producers for creating a luxurious, festival-like all-star kabuki program in which "the pledge to stage 50 percent modern plays appears to be forgotten" (Engekikai, March 1946: 1).

One of the stars at the Tokyo Gekijō in May was Nakamura Kichiemon I, famous for his grave portrayals of Kumagai, Moritsuna, and Yūranosuke, great historical roles popularly considered "banned" at that time. An article under Kichiemon's name in the theatre program addresses problems posed by American censorship more directly than any other writing of that time. Kichiemon advises a strategy of "moderation" in support of the traditional repertory until, in time, classic plays would be allowed. More conservative than Ōtani, he is against revising the classics to avoid censorship. The article is exceptional because SCAP strictly forbid public discussion of censorship:

Looking at the present and the future, I believe kabuki drama must proceed correctly, calmly, peacefully, and with enjoyment. So, we should not overly cling to the old or force the new. If it seems that a play will be forbidden (kinshi), let's say because it openly displays feudal ideology (hōken shisō) or is militaristic (gunkoku shūgiteki), isn't it better to not do the play at this time, rather than shoehorn it onstage using twisted rationalizations? [. . .]

Since the inner nature of kabuki drama is not easy to fathom, even for us who have lived within kabuki since childhood, [American] control (torishimari) of kabuki play production poses problems. I think it will be difficult for producers to gauge immediately if a play will be approved (kyoka) or banned (kinshi). [. . .] At such times, we should not think, "I'll rewrite the play just a little to be acceptable." I think we should stage kabuki in a true, honest, and thoughtful manner that will not cause us shame in retrospect.

If kabuki plays could just be comprehended, everyone [Americans] would understand that none are so bad they must be forbidden (kinshi). Also, the more plays you [Americans] see, the more often you will say, "Ah, this one is good. That one is good." In new plays, thematic content is a major concern. But that is not the case with a traditional [End Page 58] kabuki play. We do not ask about a play's ideology. We ask: is it beautiful? Is it interesting? Is it enjoyable? If kabuki plays are judged only on the basis of content, certainly some will pose difficulties.

Kichiemon continues with the well-worn argument that when a kabuki play is seen onstage, kabuki's gorgeous conventionalized beauty remains in the mind's eye, not the play's ideological content: "That being the case, I feel opportunities to perform the old kabuki classics will gradually increase, not this year, but next year and the year after" (Nakamura 1946: 7). Kichiemon did not have to wait two or three years: the following month he was able to play in The Subscription List, one of the most treasured plays of feudal loyalty, because of the understanding of the Americans Ernst, Bowers, and Palestin.

Kichiemon avoided new plays out of personal preference, but Ōtani could not afford to be so particular. How sincere was Ōtani when he promised to promote modern kiwamono in kabuki? The eight-play program Shōchiku producers arranged for Kichiemon at the Minami-za in Kyoto in November 1946 is not untypical of Shōchiku's efforts at that time (Nagayama 1996: 105). All the plays are traditional; not one is modern. And five of the plays on the program were judged by Shōchiku's own Investigation Committee to be excessively feudal and therefore "not possible" for performance! A year later, for the Arts Festival at the Tokyo Gekijō, Shōchiku producers chose four disapproved plays for Kichiemon and Ennosuke to perform—Strife in the Date Clan, The Swordsmith Kokaji, Moritsuna's Battle Camp, and Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety—on a program of six plays (Nagayama 1996: 679–680). Or let us look two years ahead. On March 15, 1948, Willard Thompson, the fourth head of Theatre Unit, CI&E, summoned Ōtani Takejirō and nine members of the Shōchiku Board of Directors to his office in order to criticize the company's "classics only" policy: "In the past eight months, Shochiku has, with only one exception, produced nothing but Kabuki and classic drama. They have made no contribution to the democratization of the country. They are not supporting one contemporary playwright" (Memorandum, March 15, 1948, W. L. Thompson, Box 5305).97 Ten days later an exasperated Thompson visited President Ōtani's office, sputtering about the "nine Kabuki productions in the nine Shochiku theatres" that month. Ōtani reiterated that "fostering and preserving [traditional] Kabuki" was Shōchiku's unwavering policy, but added as a sop, "The matter will be further studied" ("Production of American Plays," March 25, 1948, W. L. Thompson, Box 5305).98

A few days following this meeting, eight sons of kabuki stars visited Thompson to plead for his help. "They desire," Thompson [End Page 59] reported, "To perform in Kabuki plays with modern themes" but because they lack good modern kabuki scripts, "They have been performing in classics instead."99 And that November, the manager of Shōchiku's Tokyo Gekijō, Saitō Tetsuo, visited Thompson to complain that "Mr. Otani, pres. of Shochiku, is contemplating a second production of Chushingura at the Tokyo theater in February" and requested that "CIE recommend that this classic not be produced in the light of the amount of criticism leveled at Shochiku Co. and the Tokyo Theater for its presentation last year." Thompson wrote of Saitō: "He has repeatedly endeavored to supplement Kabuki plays with modern plays but has been opposed by the president, Mr. Otani" (Memorandum, "Chushingura [The Faithful Retainers]," November 25, 1948, W.L. Thompson, Box 5305).

Shōchiku's resistance to doing new plays in kabuki was based on some legitimate concerns. Perhaps most important was president Ōtani's unwavering belief that Shōchiku bore a heavy responsibility to preserve kabuki's traditional repertory without change. The old plays were expensive to stage, but they had a steady, devoted audience. Most kabuki productions at least broke even at the box office (whereas modern plays invariably lost money). It was easy for the Americans to say, "Do new plays," but Shōchiku's executives were concerned with what would draw a postwar audience. Orita Kōji, chief kabuki producer at the National Theatre of Japan, looks back on that period from a practical perspective:

Why did kiwamono stop after the war? There are many reasons. Kikugorō, Kōshirō, Kichiemon, and Baigyoku were too old to try new plays. There wasn't much financial incentive for playwrights to try something new: payment for a script was small and the magazines that had paid writers well for new plays in the 1920s and 1930s were gone. Also, young writers didn't know kabuki music or acting, so they couldn't write appropriate texts. We need a National Training School for kabuki playwrights, not actors, as we have now. And it wasn't pleasant for audiences to see their miserable lives reflected on stage.
(Interview with Orita Kōji, December 17, 2003)

Shōchiku and Tōhō also complained that the government's 150–200 percent theatre tax might well kill kabuki. They claimed their theatrical productions lost sixty million yen during the first half of 1948 (Memo, "Theater Admission Tax," October 12, 1948, E.M. Kaneshima, Box 5305).100 All in all, it was sound cultural policy to stick with the old kabuki repertory, and probably it was more profitable as well. Shōchiku producers had little motivation, other than SCAP pressure, which in [End Page 60] the end was not great, to experiment with unknown and probably unprofitable modern kabuki plays.

Shōchiku's Repertory of Resistance

We have looked briefly at the conflicting aims of Japanese producers and SCAP theatre officers regarding kabuki. I would now like to look at what kabuki plays were actually staged early in the Occupation. It is difficult to determine what selection process producers followed because such information is not made public. As Onoe Kuroemon, son of the late Kikugorō VI, told me, "Even I didn't know who chose the plays. Sometimes my father did. Usually it was Ōtani Takejirō" (Interview with Onoe Kuroemon, June 20, 2000). But overall we can identify two general directions. First, Shōchiku chose, and asked CCD to approve, as many traditional kabuki plays as possible. All writers on occupation censorship have assumed that if a title was on the disapproved list, the play was not performed. But when we examine the play choices make by Shōchiku producers, we find that this assumption is wrong. Shōchiku producers staged plays that were on CCD's disapproved list almost from the time the list was made. They also staged plays not on the list at all. This policy was not perverse from Shōchiku's point of view but followed president Ōtani's overall strategy of maintaining kabuki as a unique repository of national culture through the chaos of the postwar years (Kidō and Wakiya 1951: 322–323). Shōchiku's deliberate choice of plays that were disapproved by SCAP is an iconic case of cultural resistance to an occupying army. And, second, Shōchiku staged a number of new kabuki plays, mostly dances performed in traditional style, in token compliance with CI&E's expectations. This is not what SCAP officials expected. Boruff warned Conde that producers were certain to learn CI&E was essentially powerless and his influence would suffer: "As they begin to untangle the picture of this department in their own minds, they will give less and less attention to my advice. The producers are inclined to go their own way as far as it is in their power to do so. Their way is not ours" ("CR: 31 October 1945," Box 5255). And that seems to have happened.

CCD censors had scarcely finished the final list of approved and disapproved plays when Shōchiku began submitting disapproved scripts to CCD for approval. In 1946, during the first full year of CCD censorship, Shōchiku staged approximately 165 kabuki productions atits major theatres. Some fifty-five productions were of plays on the CCD's approved list, or about one in three. The largest number of productions, about seventy, was of titles not on the list at all.101 Some twenty premiers of new plays were offered that year, one-eighth, rather [End Page 61] than the one-third or one-half, ratio that CI&E had "advised." Five of these new works were set in twentieth-century Japan or presented contemporary interpretations of history, pleasing Americans alert to democratic or liberal themes in kabuki.102 Finally, I was amazed to find that during the first year of censorship, Shōchiku submitted fourteen disapproved titles for twenty-four productions and that CCD passed these taboo titles on twenty-one occasions and rejected them only three times.103 In other words, from the beginning, Shōchiku resisted American cultural policy, challenging it time after time, and almost always prevailed. After all the shouting and gnashing of teeth over "the list of banned plays," Shōchiku was allowed to stage plays on the disapproved list nearly two dozen times during in the first year of censorship. (Almost all of this occurred before Faubion Bowers became a theatre censor.)

This information was so unexpected that I decided to make a rough count of the kabuki titles produced at major theatres in Tokyo and Kansai during the full censorship period, November 1945 to November 1949 (see Komiya 1989 and Nagayama 1996). Although it is difficult to certify an exact count,104 the overall situation is clear. Of approximately 350 kabuki titles staged in those four years, producers chose seventy plays from the approved list, or merely one play in five. Some fifty plays came from the disapproved list, almost as many as from the approved list. And half, more than two hundred, were titles the Investigation Committee did put on the list.105 These figures show a situation that is very different from conventional descriptions of kabuki under American censorship:

  1. Japanese producers suggested doing plays on the disapproved list as early as late December 1945, just weeks after Shōchiku's Investigation Committee, CI&E, and CCD made up the list. And producers suggested disapproved plays without cease throughout the four years of censorship.
  2. CCD censors did not strictly apply their "anti-feudal" policies. They began to release virulently feudal and militaristic plays from the disapproved list almost immediately, beginning in January 1946.
  3. The majority of plays that producers chose were not on the list.

Taking these three points together, we can see that the list fades in significance; it is far less important than we thought.

These figures cast strong doubt on the prevailing myth that kabuki was oppressed by the Occupation. Certainly the CCD ban on such important plays as Loyal Retainers was inconvenient, annoying, and frustrating. Stars such as Kichiemon would have been able to shine in favorite history roles sooner. Audiences might have been larger if all [End Page 62] plays had been allowed. But kabuki theatres were often sold out in the postwar years, so this argument is not very persuasive. When the Occupation ended, Japanese actors, critics, and especially Shōchiku management complained, often bitterly, about SCAP restrictions on the repertory. In fact, theatre censors treated Shōchiku's major kabuki productions more leniently than they did the plays of smaller producers. Overall, CCD censors suppressed 5–10 percent of all play scripts submitted to them.106 The overwhelming majority of suppressed scripts were history plays submitted by small, provincial touring troupes. To cite a typical example, in 1948, chief theatre censor Faubion Bowers recommended that a production of Loyal Retainers by a small troupe in northern Japan should "not be permitted at this time." Yet Bowers had championed and approved an all-star Shōchiku production of the same play at the Tokyo Gekijō the previous November.107

If CCD banned four or five plays in a small troupe's repertory, as sometimes happened, the troupe's livelihood could be jeopardized. But it is unlikely that Shōchiku was harmed economically by CCD suppressions. Their producers had hundreds of other kabuki plays to choose from. Through the four years of Occupation censorship, CCD approved approximately 350 kabuki play titles in Tokyo, Osaka, and other major cities, almost all for Shōchiku.

Contrary to the myth that the Occupation period "was the time of kabuki's winter" (Asahi Shinbun, February 22, 1986), production of kabuki plays flourished as never before. According to Nagata Kayano, an average of eighty-three programs of kabuki plays were staged each year from 1946 to 1949. This is 60 percent more kabuki programs than were produced in the affluent 1980s (average of fifty-three productions per year, 1985–1988). And it is more than the number staged in the intensely patriotic 1930s (Nagata 1990: 32–33). In early 1948, Shōchiku theatres were showing six to eight kabuki programs simultaneously, or as many as thirty kabuki plays a month. Thompson had reason to complain that Shōchiku produced nothing but kabuki plays ("Production of American Plays," March 25, 1948, W. L. Thompson, Box 5305).

Most writers note that audiences were hungry for entertainment after years of wartime sacrifice and hardship. Today kabuki must compete with television, computer games, professional sports, international travel, and a host of other entertainments for audience attention. The vast difference between the perception that kabuki was in danger during the censorship years and the actuality that kabuki was widely performed can be reasonably explained. Japanese civilians had suffered terribly during the war and life in the first postwar years was grim. On top of that, a foreign army was occupying the nation, and the requirements of SCAP were numerous and onerous. Bombed theatres had to [End Page 63] be repaired at great cost, destroyed costumes and scenery replaced, troupes reorganized, and young artists supported. And then there was ravaging inflation: a first-class ticket at the Tokyo Gekijō cost three yen in late 1945, six yen in early 1946, fifty-five yen in 1947, and 350 yen in late 1949 (plus 150–200 percent admission tax). It is not strange that lovers of kabuki would feel that kabuki, too, was oppressed by Japan's defeat and the American Occupation. It can be argued that postwar poverty, near starvation, sundered families, and the loss of self-esteem were powerful motivations for audience members to relish the noble images of Japan's glorious past that Grand Kabuki served to the public so well. Perhaps it is paradoxical, but during the Occupation years a succession of brilliant kabuki productions exploded from the hell of Japan's material devastation.

Five Men Who Saved Kabuki

Perhaps the most persistent myth about Occupation censorship of kabuki is that one SCAP official, Faubion Bowers, single-handedly saved kabuki from American oppression by releasing disapproved scripts for production (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1964; Kawatake Toshio 1995; Okamoto 2001; Onoe et al. 1993). The myth contains a good deal of truth. Major (later WDC) Bowers was enamored of traditional kabuki (and more enamored of kabuki actors). He arranged free kabuki performances to introduce this great art to Occupation troops as part of a propaganda campaign within SCAP on kabuki's behalf. Despising censorship on principle, he urged Ernst and other Tokyo censors to approve important titles for production. His main motive to join CCD as a theatre censor in late 1946 was to release withheld masterpieces such as Loyal Retainers. But Bowers was not the only person among Occupation personnel to help kabuki, nor was he the first. Here lies an untold story that solidly rests on fact.

According to Bowers, the first disapproved kabuki title he released was Revenge on Ōshū Plain, March 1947 (Okamoto 2001: 96).108 Yet before this date, on thirty occasions four other CCD theatre censors—Earle Ernst and Seymour Palestin in Tokyo and Royall Zuckerman and John Allyn Jr. in Osaka—released disapproved kabuki titles. The facts are easily verified by examining production chronologies and censored scripts in Shōchiku files, yet their efforts are never mentioned in Japanese articles, interviews, or panel discussions devoted to Occupation censorship. With the rare exception, Bowers receives (and takes) credit for all SCAP interventions on behalf of kabuki.109

Let us look for a moment at some of the plays censors released before Bowers, that is, between January 1946 and March 1947. In Osaka, Zuckerman released Genta's Disinheritance and Love Suicides at [End Page 64] Mount Toribe for a January 1946 production just weeks after the list had been put together. Together, Zuckerman and Allyn in Osaka passed nineteen productions of disapproved scripts prior to March 1947, including Battle at River Island in Shinshū, Mountain Hag with Child, Osaka Spring Rain, Pulling the Carriage Apart, Tōfū of Ono, Yoshida Palace, and Echoing Pools in the Hatchō River.

In Tokyo the first disapproved play to be released by censors was The Subscription List.110 Credit for the play's release can be apportioned among several people. First of all, Seymour Palestin was the censor who formally released the play for production at the Tokyo Gekijō in June and a special showing for Occupation personnel in July. His personal three-character seal (hanko) is stamped on the cover of the play script along with the date, "3 May 46" (see script in Shōchiku Ōtani Library).111 On several occasions, Ernst has assumed responsibility, and credit, for releasing Subscription List. At the very least, this first release of an important feudal play in Tokyo would require the approval of Theatre Sub-Section's chief censor, Ernst (Ernst letter to Inose Naoki, February 3, 1987, Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i).

Donald Richie, then a corporal in the Occupation army, beat the drums for kabuki by writing full-page spreads on current productions for Sunday issues of the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes. Richie recalls Ernst telling him the circumstances in which the play's release was accomplished:

The Subscription List was the play I worked hardest to release. It was very hard to get the military to do anything. The Occupation found a whipping boy in kabuki because it was based on feudalism. The military didn't want to change. The only way to liberate kabuki was to do it very slowly, play by play. You had to prepare the ground.
(Interview with Donald Richie, July 7, 2000)

Bowers gives himself credit on the grounds that, over time, he was able to persuade Ernst to give up his opposition to the play (Okamoto 2001: 82). As late as March 1946, Ernst was not ready to approve the play: "Although censorship realizes the artistic value of the play, we would, if the script were submitted for censorship, probably disapprove it on the basis of a previous viewing of motion picture [and] a previous reading of the script" (Check sheet, Pictorial to Chief, PPB, "Kabuki Plays," March 23, 1946, KC, Box 8618). By May, Ernst had changed his mind. A fourth person, Onoe Baikō, appears to deserve credit as well. Baikō recalls in his autobiography:

At this time there was a GHQ censor named Ernst. Bowers had been urging the censor, saying he would like plays like Subscription List to be [End Page 65] performed. One time, Bowers invited us over and, in front of Ernst, asked me to explain that The Subscription List is not at all a feudalistic play; it is a drama of humanism. I was introduced to Ernst, gave him just such an explanation, and Subscription List was approved.
(Onoe 1979: 89)

In the same period, Ernst examined and passed eight disapproved kabuki scripts that Shōchiku submitted to CCD, including Ichinotani, Shunkan, Pulling the Carriage Apart, Moritsuna's Battle Camp, The Golden Temple, and Confrontation of the Soga Brothers. Ernst and Bowers wrote a joint memo that released Sugawara, including the Village School scene, for a May 1947 performance at the Tokyo Gekijō (Memorandum for Record, "Approval of Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami," April 15, 1947, EE/FB, Box 8618). Regarding the release of Ichinotani, Bowers tells contradictory stories. He believes he persuaded Ernst to release Ichinotani, and also that his urgings were to no avail: "Ernst would not say kabuki was OK" (Okamoto 1998: 266, 248).112 Ernst was a confident person who held strong opinions. It is simplistic to believe that Bowers, a bystander with no standing in censorship, caused Ernst to release banned plays. Ernst was unquestionably his own man when deciding a course of action to be taken.

Others players, too, were involved. Director-critic Tobe Ginsaku tells a fascinating story of how kabuki scholar Komiya Toyotaka negotiated with Ernst to release Ichinotani in the summer of 1946. The Arts Festival Committee of the Education Ministry, of which Komiya was a member, selected Nakamura Kichiemon's October Tokyo Gekijō kabuki program for inclusion in Japan's first postwar Arts Festival (geijutsusai). Komiya was adamant that this important cultural event should showcase Kichiemon in one of his great roles, General Kumagai in Ichinotani. However, as Tobe says:

At that time, The Battle of Ichinotani was one of GHQ's disapproved plays so Shōchiku had no choice but to substitute [. . .] an unsuitable alternate play. Komiya Toyotaka, a great fan of Kichiemon, negotiated with GHQ from his position as a committee member. He insisted on Ichinotani. Finally, on condition that Ichinotani was "limited to this one production," this "undesirable kabuki play" was approved for production. (Tobe 1995: 94)113

And, after a year and a half of a remarkably peaceful Occupation, the general atmosphere within SCAP had changed. As early as mid 1946, Civil Intelligence Section (CIS) commanding officer Brigadier General Eliot R. Thorpe, to whom CCD reported, agreed that censorship could be relaxed: "We found things were going so well we [End Page 66] could let down the barriers a bit" (Thorpe 1969: 218). Newspapers, magazines, and radio were gradually transferred to post-censorship. When Bowers followed Ernst as chief theatre censor in spring 1947, the relaxed atmosphere allowed Bowers to release a large number of disapproved plays without upsetting the commanding generals upstairs. In line with Bowers' dislike of censorship, he approved all kabuki scripts submitted by Shōchiku.

Overall, between January 1946 and May 1948, when Bowers left Japan, the five mentioned censors approved 140 kabuki productions of plays on the disapproved list: Allyn 71, Bowers 43, Ernst 17, Zuckerman 6, and Palestin 3. These figures shatter the myth that Bowers alone released forbidden plays, thereby saving kabuki from disaster. Okamoto Shirō's recent biography of Bowers, excellently translated and adapted by Samuel L. Leiter, is titled The Man Who Saved Kabuki (2001). With this new information in mind, we can more accurately say that Allyn, Bowers, Ernst, Palestin, and Zuckerman were "Five Men Who Saved Kabuki."114

American Censorship Philosophies

The two main reasons that American censors gave for releasing disapproved plays are quite revealing. First, when Ernst approved Ichinotani on September 26, 1946, he wrote that the play was "feudalistic as all get out [but] I don't think this performance of the play can do any great harm." He confidently informed his superiors that he was acting contrary to CCD regulations:

On this day I approved for production, with some deletion [. . .] one of the most famous of the Kabuki plays. [. . .] Censorship has really raised hell with the Kabuki [. . .]. And so, in a way, we are really stifling one of the two forms of Japanese theatre which have any artistic validity. I don't think this is good—you can't stamp out an established artistic form just because it was used as an instrument of propaganda. [...] If we were to stick rigidly to our regulations, it would mean, literally, the end of Kabuki. I think it's better to exercise common sense and permit the Kabuki as much leniency as our consciences will allow.115

This reasoning was similar to Boruff's back in October 1945. Ernst informally summarized his position: "And so we have arrived at a decision something like this—if a play isn't too damnable (e.g. Chushingura), if it is to be performed by the great Kabuki actors, if the frequency of performance is controlled by us [. . .] we will permit it to be played" ("Memorandum to: AKM, RHK," September 26, 1946, E.E., Box 8618). [End Page 67]

Ernst put the issue in more formal terms in his monthly report of October 11, 1946: "Kabuki plays reflect the feudal world [. . .] and sustain this view of life" but kabuki is also "an established art form, respected by students of theatre throughout the world." Because it is Occupation policy "to protect all forms of Japanese art, it has seemed wise to allow" performance of even undesirable plays on the basis of "artistic merit" (Box 8586).

In late September 1946, Ernst's superiors, PPB District I head Richard H. Kunzman and PPBDivision head John J. Costello, approved Ernst's new policy of "Special Permission" based on artistic merit and limited to major actors (CCD, "Inter-Office District Memo, From RK to JJC," September 30, 1946, Box 8618). The door was now open for censors to gradually release additional disapproved plays.116 The Theatre Sub-Section explicitly described in April 1947 how the new policy was being applied: "Especial consideration" has been given to four "classic masterpieces [. . .] which run counter to the [. . .] Theatrical Censorship regulations [and were], therefore, suppressed" (PPB, Pictorial Section, "Monthly Operations Report," April 20, 1947, Box 8586).117 In sum, feudalistic kabuki was allowed because it was great art.

During Ernst's tenure, CCD eliminated almost all censorship of bunraku puppet plays. Ernst conferred with Allyn in Osaka in late February 1947 and the two censors agreed that in view of bunraku's "extremely limited audience," all plays, with the exception of Loyal Retainers, should be allowed. PPB Division head John J. Costello approved the new policy ten days later: henceforth, Shōchiku could produce any bunraku play, save one, without asking CCD approval (CCD, District II, "Censorship of Puppet Plays, March 3, 1947, JA[llyn] Jr; and PPB Division to PPB District Censor, Osaka, "Censorship of Puppet Plays," March 13, 1947, J.J.C., both Box 8580).

It does not seem to have occurred to anyone, including Ernst, that granting "Special Permission" to kabuki on the basis of art and infrequency of performance constituted a drastic change in Ernst's original policy, laid out in January 1946, of suppressing the worst plays for a time so that new, democratic plays would take their place. Ernst's change in heart was probably influenced by several factors. First, CI&E and CCD theatre officials had optimistically expected producers to give up the old feudal plays, and producers had not done so. Looking back on his first year of theatre censorship, Ernst gave his superiors an honest and rather discouraging assessment: "The percentage of suppressed plays among professionals remains constant. The fact [is] we are still suppressing the same plays we were suppressing a year ago. [. . .] If censorship were abandoned today, tomorrow they would be performing all the plays we have thus far suppressed" (PPBI, December 13, [End Page 68] 1946, Box 8586). Here Ernst is not referring to Grand Kabuki productions in Tokyo or Osaka, but to the hundreds of small, provincial traveling troupes that continued to submit "samurai dramas" for approval and often had them rejected.118

Second, a useful repertory of new, democratic kabuki scripts was not being created. Most new kabuki scripts (shinsaku) were dance pieces that had new music and new choreography, but used traditional themes and settings, or were modern plays written for exceptional joint shinpa-kabuki programs. After attending theatre offerings for a year in Tokyo, Ernst complained that so-called "new" plays were "Simply a reworking of the most hackneyed formula of the Japanese theatre—that of people meeting after a long separation and discovering what changes time has wrought. There is very little in these plays that suggests adjustment to a new Japanese society" (PPBI, December 13, 1946, Box 8586). In kabuki there were not even these formulaic "new" plays. And that was the fault of Keith and Kaneshima in the Theatre Unit, CI&E.

And third, Ernst had fallen under the spell of kabuki's artistry. He had been seeing kabuki productions regularly for nearly a year (perhaps forty or fifty plays), and he was learning about kabuki from discussions with Japanese experts. In the spring and summer of 1946, Bowers hosted several parties at his quarters in the American embassy, where Ernst and other censors mingled informally with kabuki actors. Ernst, Palestin, Calhoun, and Kaizawa began to socialize with Nakamura Kichiemon, Matsumoto Kōshirō, and other actors, occasionally going to their homes and more often eating and drinking together after performance. Kaizawa became good friends with Ichikawa Danjūrō XI, regularly meeting him for drinks and conversation (Interviews with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, June 20, 2000; and Alexander Calhoun, October 5, 2000).

From the start of Ernst's stay in Tokyo, he was learning to embrace and support the art of kabuki. In January 1946, before he knew Bowers, Ernst wrote that kabuki was a great art: "Intellectuals regard it as the most highly developed artistic form of Japanese theatre, which it undoubtedly is" (Unsigned draft "Answer to Gen. Dyke Memo," January 18, 1946, Box 8618). Stanley Y. Kaizawa observed Ernst's reaction to kabuki during 1946:

I wouldn't say that Earle got swayed over by Faub. In a short time, as Earle watched kabuki—he was in control, he was the czar of kabuki—he got intrigued. He and I went to the opening day of each kabuki production. And he wanted to know more. This is just my conjecture: after Earle saw many kabuki plays, he arrived at the same conclusion as [End Page 69] Faub, that this was a great theatre, like Shakespeare or Greek drama, with elements of tragedy and of comedy intermixed.
(Interview with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, June 15, 2000)

By mid 1946, Ernst held a good opinion of kabuki and he knew Bowers' position on kabuki well. When Bowers asked Ernst for a job in censorship in October or November 1946, Ernst hired him as a War Department civilian employee in the Theatre Sub-Section, CCD. Ernst supervised Bowers' work for six months, and when Ernst returned to the University of Hawai'i in May 1947 he made Bowers his successor as chief theatre censor.

 In mid May 1947, Shōchiku hosted a modest farewell party for 1st Lt. Earle Ernst, chief theatre censor, CCD, who was returning to Hawai'i for demobilization. Men in the front row, from left: Ernst's replacement in the Theatre Sub-Section, WDC Faubion Bowers; CCD interpreter Sgt. Edward Wakamiya; 1st Lt. Earle Ernst; and Shōchiku theatre department head Takahashi Tōshio. Back row, from left: Tokyo Gekijō manager Saitō Tetsuo; person unidentified; and the Shōchiku liaison with SCAP, Yoshida Matsuji. (Earle Ernst Papers, University Archives, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i)
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Figure 14
In mid May 1947, Shōchiku hosted a modest farewell party for 1st Lt. Earle Ernst, chief theatre censor, CCD, who was returning to Hawai'i for demobilization. Men in the front row, from left: Ernst's replacement in the Theatre Sub-Section, WDC Faubion Bowers; CCD interpreter Sgt. Edward Wakamiya; 1st Lt. Earle Ernst; and Shōchiku theatre department head Takahashi Tōshio. Back row, from left: Tokyo Gekijō manager Saitō Tetsuo; person unidentified; and the Shōchiku liaison with SCAP, Yoshida Matsuji. (Earle Ernst Papers, University Archives, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i)

Ernst knew his own mind and he would not have hired Bowers if the two men held different views of kabuki. Alexander Calhoun recalls the time in late 1946 and early 1947 when Bowers first came into CCD: [End Page 70]

Earle and Seymour [Palestin] had gotten deeply interested in Grand Kabuki and they were trying to liberalize the presentation of classics like The Subscription List and The Treasury of Loyal Retainers. I guess Faubion was lobbying them, too. But the Occupation was like a great ship: it took a long time to turn it in a new direction. Earle and Faubion were generally in accord, they were very liberal, and they didn't see why the great plays shouldn't be done. I remember them talking about how to get the plays released. But they couldn't just go ahead and do it; it contradicted guidelines. They had to lobby their superiors to get approval on the grounds that the plays were classics, like Macbeth, and kabuki actors were great artists. Earle was an academic, a professor, a specialist in theatre, so the officers over him would have been inclined to pay attention to his opinion.
(Interview with Alexander Calhoun, October 5, 2000)

Bowers held complex views of censorship. When he released Shōchiku scripts, he deleted militaristic dialogue and ordered objectionable scenes or actions dropped. Even in his favorite play, Loyal Retainers, he required Shōchiku to make extensive script changes: first he approved the triumphal vendetta scene, Act XI, and then he suppressed it.119 He allowed CI&E to suppress a production of the samurai drama Kunisada Chūji as "detrimental to the democratization of the Japanese people" without protest ("Cancellation of the Japanese play 'Kunisada Chūji,'" February 13, 1948, W. L. Thompson, Box 5304).120 And, perhaps to counter his release of feudal materials, he vigorously reported to his superiors in CCD violations of the censorship codes, suppressed productions by small provincial troupes, and wrote detailed reports on communist infiltration of theatre.121 But he also believed that censorship was wrong. On June 26, 1947, shortly after he became chief theatre censor, he wrote "Censorship of Kabuki: Policy Regulations No. 5-408." If followed literally, kabuki scripts would be free from any possibility of suppression. The regulation says in part:

To permit preservation and artistic presentation of Kabuki masterpieces [. . .] Performance of kabuki plays [. . .] shall be approved on a pre-censorship basis, provided:
  1. They are performed in their original and complete form after deletion of those passages glorifying the warrior or his code or way of life.
  2. Roles are performed by kabuki artists named in Section II (CCD, "Policy Regulations No. 5-408: Censorship of Kabuki," June 26, 1947, Box 8561).

Bowers had moved only a short step beyond Ernst's position, and yet this is a remarkable statement of policy. According to it, a [End Page 71] kabuki play done by the greatest actors could not be suppressed. In the worst case, a censor could delete militaristic passages but then the script "shall be approved." The policy reveals Bowers' strong personal likes and dislikes. Bowers favored full-length plays (tōshi) over programs of three or four short scenes (midori), and the new policy gives full-length plays a censorship advantage. He abhorred new kabuki plays—note that the policy applies only to "Kabuki masterpieces." Bowers had strong prejudices regarding kabuki actors, as well. In Section II he listed five great actors for special treatment: Nakamura Kichiemon, Matsumoto Kōshirō, and Onoe Kikugorō in Tokyo, and Nakamura Baigyoku and Jitsukawa Enjaku in Osaka. Ernst's "Special Permission" policy is made formal here: if one of these favored actors appears in any classic play, it will be approved. Suppression is not an option. However, if Nakamura Ganjirō, Ichikawa Ennosuke, Ichikawa Jukai, or Kataoka Nizaemon is in the play, to say nothing of younger actors such as Nakamura Kanzaburō, Nakamura Utaemon, or Morita Kanya, the script will be "subject to normal theatrical censorship policy." And of course hundreds of small provincial troupes lay totally outside this policy.

Bowers excluded Loyal Retainers from the 1947 policy statement because the revenge theme of this play worried the "generals upstairs." In July, Bowers began a campaign to release the play, his personal favorite, for one all-star, full-length production at the Tokyo Gekijō in November 1947. He laid out his arguments in a carefully reasoned memo: "A Request for Permission to Authorize a Special Performance of Chushingura." Applying some soft-soap, Bowers told his superiors the play is safe to do because the Occupation's "Overall benevolence [. . .] has freed the Japanese [. . .] from any practical desire or reason for revenge. [. . .] If we permit Chushingura while censorship is in full force, then the performance will be credited to the Occupation's understanding efforts to preserve Japan's classic arts [and] engender lasting gratitude toward the Occupation for its understanding censorship policies" (PPB District I, Pictorial Section, July 14, 1947, AKM/FB, Box 8618).

The request was approved by PPB District I and PPB Division and was passed up the chain of command as far as General Willoughby, assistant chief of staff, G-2, who showed no interest in the matter.122 The production, starring Kikugorō, Kichiemon, Kōshirō, and Baigyoku from Osaka was a tremendous success. As Bowers predicted, it generated much positive publicity in the Japanese press. Santha Rama Rau, who later married Bowers, recalls widespread public elation over the play: "There was in Japan a deep sense of resentment and humiliation over losing the war and enduring the Occupation. Seeing Chūshingura [End Page 72] was such a shot in the arm for the Japanese. This was a wonderful thing that Faubion did" (Interview with Santha Wattles, April 11, 2001).

The hole in the dike led to a flood of other productions. Ignoring CCD's caveat that permission had been granted only for a single production, in 1948 Shōchiku mounted in rapid succession five additional all-day productions of Loyal Retainers: four kabuki versions, with different casts, in Osaka (February), Kyoto (February), Tokyo (May), and Nagoya (September); and the first postwar bunraku production in Tokyo in September (Nagayama 1996: index 50–51).

That November, Bowers drafted a policy statement placing Tōhō productions on "post-censorship" as a first step in ending theatre censorship overall. PPB officers rejected the proposal, "Until all [theatre companies] are transferred to post-[censorship]. Otherwise looks like discrimination" (Draft Memorandum, from PPB district I to PPB Division, November 18, 1947, Box 8618). And so, although suspect plays were being released without hindrance, the formal system whereby all scripts had to be precensored continued without change for two more years. In one of Bowers' last acts as theatre censor, he revised "Policy Regulation 5–408, Censorship of Kabuki" to include Loyal Retainers: "Performances of the classic Kabuki, Chūshingura [. . .] will be approved in all future submission to censorship, provided it isthe version identified as KANADEHON CHUSHINGURA" (Civil Censorship Detachment, "Censorship of Kabuki: Policy Regulations No. 5–408," April 7, 1948, Box 8561).

In 1947, during Bowers' tenure as head theatre censor, similarly lenient policy regulations were written for amateur productions (May 10), bunraku (May 19), solo performance genres (rakugo, kōdan, naniwabushi, buyō, and chalk talks, or manga, July 1), and (December 10).123 All of these forms had been informally exempted, or released, from censorship during Ernst's time as chief theatre censor. Bowers seems to have decided that formal written policies would perpetuate his vision of noncensorship after he was gone ("Chronological Index of PPB History," probably mid 1948, Box 8561). In mid May 1948, Bowers left Japan to study theatre in China and India, and eventually marry Santha Rama Rau.

The next chief theatre censor was WDC Stanley Y. Kaizawa, who continued Bowers' relaxed policy toward kabuki through 1948. Kaizawa recalls that time:

I had been in the Theatre Sub-Section, CCD, all through Earle's and Faub's time and had seen what they approved and disapproved. Faub had mounted a real campaign with the people upstairs to get Loyal [End Page 73]
 Cover of play script with the title, Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Kanadehon chūshingura), in large characters (center) submitted twice to CCD Osaka. This is the '17,327th' script that CCD, District II, Osaka, 'received Jan. 26' and read Jan. 27, 1948' by Japanese national examiner 'Y. Hayashi' (lower right). Shōchiku submitted script alterations of pages 193, 275, and 475 on February 5, 1948 (upper right). Osaka theatre censor Takeo Tada, following the lead of Bowers in Tokyo, approved the script: 'Special Permission, with deletion. This play is to be performed at the Minami-za in Kyoto by Jitsukawa Enjaku and his troupe (Kansai Kabuki), from 1st Feb. to 29th,' signed 'T.Tada' and stamped 'PC, C.C.D.—610' (center right). The same script was resubmitted and reapproved: 'This play is to be performed at the Misono-za, Nagoya, by Bandō Jūzaburō and his troupe (Kansai Daikabuki) from 1st Sept. to 23rd Sept. [1948].' Censorship stamp of approval, 'PC, C.C.D. J—2501,' initialed 'TT[Tada].' Square stamp, 'Approved' (ninka). (Script in Shōchiku Kansai Archives)
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Figure 15
Cover of play script with the title, Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Kanadehon chūshingura), in large characters (center) submitted twice to CCD Osaka. This is the "17,327th" script that CCD, District II, Osaka, "received Jan. 26" and read Jan. 27, 1948" by Japanese national examiner "Y. Hayashi" (lower right). Shōchiku submitted script alterations of pages 193, 275, and 475 on February 5, 1948 (upper right). Osaka theatre censor Takeo Tada, following the lead of Bowers in Tokyo, approved the script: "Special Permission, with deletion. This play is to be performed at the Minami-za in Kyoto by Jitsukawa Enjaku and his troupe (Kansai Kabuki), from 1st Feb. to 29th," signed "T.Tada" and stamped "PC, C.C.D.—610" (center right). The same script was resubmitted and reapproved: "This play is to be performed at the Misono-za, Nagoya, by Bandō Jūzaburō and his troupe (Kansai Daikabuki) from 1st Sept. to 23rd Sept. [1948]." Censorship stamp of approval, "PC, C.C.D. J—2501," initialed "TT[Tada]." Square stamp, "Approved" (ninka). (Script in Shōchiku Kansai Archives)
[End Page 74]
Retainers accepted. Faub knew kabuki and I respected that. When Faub left, I followed his model and did what I thought he would do. I don't think I suppressed any script submitted by Shōchiku.
(Interview with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, February 2, 2002)

Within half a year, Bowers' strategy of setting down kabuki policy in black-and-white backfired. In January 1949, PPB closed its offices in Osaka and Fukuoka as a budget-reducing measure and centralized censorship in Tokyo. The new head of PPB in Tokyo, WDC Robert Spaulding, reviewed policies and operating procedures to see if they were appropriate to the new situation. Apparently Spaulding had disliked Bowers' policy statement on kabuki at the time it was approved, and now he raised the issue of "bias." Spaulding circulated drafts of a new policy statement that did away with away special rules and exemptions. John Allyn Jr., pictorial censor in Osaka for three years, had just been moved to Tokyo to handle theatre censorship for all of Japan.124 In April, he responded to Spaulding's query about kabuki policy, agreeing that differential treatment was discriminatory and improper:

The point to granting "Special Permission" to only the "Big Five" troupes was to guarantee a highly artistic performance before reasonably sophisticated audiences [. . .] Minor and unskilled Kabuki troupes in rural areas were thus prevented from thrilling impressionable audiences with blood and thunder antics. But this practice is inherently undemocratic, regardless of the basis for or results of the distinction, and would seem therefore incompatible with American occupation policy.
(Memo to Walter Y. Miyata, Pictorial, April 22, 1949, JAJr, Box 8603)

On May 14, 1949, Bowers' policy regulations covering kabuki, bunraku, nō, kagura, solo performances, and amateur theatre were all rescinded and replaced by a single, master CCD censorship policy that treated all pictorial media equally. Further, previously approved play scripts were to be reexamined "in detail" in order to "eliminate material contravening the Pictorial Code for Japan." This provided a mechanism to overturn several hundred "Special Permission" approvals given to kabuki scripts from 1946 through 1948 (CCD, "Policy Regulations No. 1–15," "No. 5–400," "No. 5–402," and "No. 5–404," May 14, 1949, Box 8656).

Allyn was obliged to tell a dejected Ōtani Takejirō that the Ernst-Bowers' kabuki policy, favoring Shōchiku's star actors and elaborate urban productions, had been replaced by a new policy of evaluating all scripts equally. "Mr. Ōtani was very upset," Allyn remembers, "I did not tell him that despite the policy change I intended to approve all of [End Page 75] Shōchiku's kabuki submissions, which I did until censorship ended in November" (Interview with John Allyn Jr., October 5, 2000). With some exceptions, Allyn was true to his word.125 In any case, nothing came of the changed policy: First, a study was needed to determine the probable effects on the kabuki repertory of stricter censorship. That occupied Allyn and his staff through the summer. As the cool days of fall came to Tokyo, the generals began to consider the termination of censorship and CCD's dissolution. The treatment of kabuki was put on the back burner, and Allyn and Kaizawa were allowed to continue their lenient ways.

A second major philosophical issue was whether kabuki's acknowledged feudal content was "harmful" or innocuous. Bowers strongly shared the prevailing Japanese view that content is unimportant in kabuki and therefore the plays are harmless. In 1948, halfway through the Occupation period, critic Miyake Shūtarō gleefully explained, "It's old-hat to say it, but kabuki is simply beautiful, color-drenched fun. Logically it's hopeless. Let's just call it 'flop-house art' (nagaya geijutsu) or the 'people's friend' (minshū no tomo)" (1951: 12). Occupation officials found an "art for art's sake" explanation congenial to their political beliefs. The Theatre Sub-Section's 1947 "Special Report" made the same point while putting the issue into historical context: "Kabuki plots serve primarily as a springboard for the actor's art. Ultimately, they carry no practical message. [. . .] Although the texts may have once had contemporary significance, this has been lost through the years" (Ernst [with Bowers] 1947: 11). In this view kabuki has no meaning—it is a classic art without connection to contemporary social concerns. Bowers championed this position within SCAP, questioning the sanity of an Occupation policy that censored harmless plays.

Bowers also held a much more radical philosophic position regarding kabuki. He sometimes argued that kabuki plays did indeed have meaning—but the meaning was democratic and anti-feudal. Bowers cited well-known evidence for this view: kabuki is a creation of the merchant class; Sukeroku shows a commoner killing an evil samurai; and Genzō's famous speech in Village School, "To serve your lord is painful," is an anti-military statement. Bowers also saw anti-militarism in the conclusion of Ichinotani when Kumagai gives up his samurai rank to become a monk as atonement for killing his son (Bowers 1960: 41). If evidence was tenuous for this view, it was comforting to the Occupiers to see glimpses of democracy in kabuki.

Of course Bowers' anti-militarist interpretation was not the way most Japanese saw the play. In 1940, Engei Gahō editors included Ichinotani in its selection of thirty-two history plays that "Strengthen Japanese [End Page 76] Spirit" in wartime. "A shining hero who served under Yoshitsune, Kumagai Jirō Naozane steeled his heart and struck off Atsumori's head in the Suma Bay scene, and then he retired from the world. Kumagai cannot be overlooked as an example of a loyal retainer" (January 1940: n.p.).

Was Occupation censorship of kabuki plays then without logical foundation, simply an absurdity of the military mind? One section of the "Special Report," unquestionably the words of Ernst, gives lurid justification for suppressing some kabuki plays:

There is a provable relationship between the atrocities committed against Allied prisoners of war and identical scenes which appear in Japanese drama. The war criminal who danced about waving his sword, calling it by name as though it were a living being, and then beheading several Americans, did not invent this course of action himself; it was a scene which has hundreds of counterparts in the theatre. [. . .] If such plays are to be prevented from reaching the stage, this can be done only by Allied censorship.
(Ernst [with Bowers] 1947: 18)

That is, there were some plays so imbued with the spirit of Japan's aggressive militarism and so averse to the goals of a democratic society that it was unthinkable that they should be allowed on stage immediately after the war.

Progressive and leftist shingeki artists tended to support the suppression of kabuki. The modern drama director Senda Korya wrote scathingly of kabuki's feudal nature:

[Kabuki] is totally incompatible with the spirit of the new age. Some people defend kabuki saying it is an art of common people of the Tokugawa period and shows the townsman's sprit of resistance to feudal samurai rule [. . .] but such an extremely roundabout form of resistance and sentiments from the past have no hope of nourishing our souls today. Finally, there is absolutely no question that the content of kabuki drama in its entirety glorifies feudalistic loyalty and the family system. [. . .] In kabuki plays human nature does not exist. There is no flow of human feeling. There is no unfolding of the dramatic subject. [. . .] Although kabuki is called feudalistic, in truth it even lacks the ability to portray the feudal world. (Senda 1952: 257)126

One did not have to be a leftist like Senda Korya, a communist like Hijikata Yoshi, or a righteous American, for that matter, to believe this. Looking back at that time, the contemporary critic Watanabe Tamotsu notes that a "cold wind" in opposition to kabuki was blowing through postwar society. Japanese might still have killed Americans, and fear was high on both sides. In that tense situation, "It was absolutely natural [End Page 77] to forbid performances of Loyal Retainers" (Kikuchi et al. 2000: 98). Even kabuki supporters understood that some restrictions on the repertory were inevitable in the wake of Japan's defeat.

It required nimble footwork by the censors to move from "Japan as brutal enemy" to a wholesale release of military-feudal kabuki plays. Both Ernst and Bowers adroitly called on a range of arguments and rationalizations, often mutually contradictory, to buttress their decisions to treat kabuki more and more leniently. For Bowers especially, it was part of his tactics of persuasion to shift, chameleon-like, from one position to another: anything to get Loyal Retainers and other great plays on the stage.127

As noted earlier, the task of relaxing kabuki censorship, begun by Allyn and Ernst in 1946, was made easier by major changes in the national and international situation. When the Cold War began in 1947–1948, Bowers and Kaizawa were instructed to look for leftist themes as well as rightist propaganda. Japan's economy was improving and its social fabric mending. As the Occupation entered its fourth year, the mission of the censors in PPB was significantly redirected from blocking undesirable rightist messages to gathering current information: "Civil Censorship had shifted emphasis from oversight control of [theatre and other] communications agencies to the collection of political, economic and special intelligence" (Headquarters, Civil Censorship Detachment, "Narrative History, Jan 47–Dec 48," undated but probably January 1949, Box 8524). There was precious little "information" to be gleaned from reading traditional kabuki scripts. After Bowers approved Loyal Retainers in late 1947, Grand Kabuki essentially received a free pass until CCD was dissolved November 1, 1949. On that day formal censorship of kabuki ended.128

Conclusion: Shōchiku Constructs a Fossil Art

Let us now return to my original question: why did kabuki not follow Occupation policy and become, even partially, democratic? It can be said that kabuki began its slow slide toward classicism a century earlier when young Japanese theatre artists created shinpa and then shingeki, spoken drama genres strongly influenced by Western theatre. The new genres addressed contemporary social issues more effectively than kabuki. It wasn't necessary for kabuki to handle twentieth-century subjects any longer. Beyond this, I suggest four proximate causes for kabuki's managers to hold aloof from Japan's modern postwar world.

First, as we have seen, SCAP was unable to mount an effective program of change. SCAP lacked the will to attack the tightly held world of monopolistic kabuki. American policies were inconsistent, personalized, and affected by rapid turnover of Occupation personnel. [End Page 78] SCAP missions were divided: CI&E "advised" producers to stage new, democratic kabuki plays but lacked the authority to impose its will, and CCD suppressed plays but could not tell a playwright what to write.129 In some sense, the bureaucratic structure of the military Occupation, which coupled American reluctance to fund theatre as a propaganda medium together with a discreet form of censorship from behind, made the call for new scripts a pipe dream that the kabuki establishment had no outside incentive and little internal inclination to follow.

A second reason is that Loyal Retainers, Ichinotani, and Subscription List are magnificent theatre pieces that Shōchiku producers were determined they would not give up. Producers knew audiences hungered to see the old favorites. They didn't care if SCAP liked these plays or not. Without announcing their intentions, producers proposed disapproved classics continually until they were approved. An official Shōchiku history states that in late 1945 and early 1946 Japan embarked on its famous "180-degree turn away from prescribed wartime morality" (Tanaka 1975: 124). For many Japanese this meant a welcome return to the policies of individual freedom and liberal politics they had enjoyed in the time of so-called Taishō democracy before the war. But democracy was not an ideal of the Shōchiku organization. Shōchiku did not execute a 180-degree turn away from wartime morality. Nor did kabuki. Throughout the Occupation, Shōchiku officials said again and again that company policy was to preserve kabuki's traditional form (dentō o hozon).130

In this aim, Shōchiku was singularly successful. As the years passed, kabuki came to be Shōchiku's most profitable business enterprise, based on the company's policy of performing the traditional repertory, mostly in spectacular, multi-play programs starring the hereditary actors it had under contract. Despite paying lip service to a new, democratic Japan, Shōchiku never wavered from its aim of performing the traditional, feudal repertory in all its grotesque glory. From the moment in August 1945 when President Ōtani ordered the recasting of kabuki into the mold of a classic art, with an unchanging repertoire, he set Shōchiku on a course of resistance against the American overlords in SCAP.

A third reason is that it was psychologically difficult to create new kabuki plays about a ruined, poverty-stricken, postwar Japan. Had there been no war or had Japan been victorious, it seems very probable that the long tradition of staging new kiwamono would have continued in kabuki. But the nation had suffered humiliation and defeat. There were no brilliant military conquests or glorious sacrificial deaths to dramatize. Theatre patrons, jobless and living in the rubble of bombed-out buildings, can hardly be faulted for wanting to be distracted from [End Page 79] their unpleasant reality. Would audiences come to see idolized kabuki stars playing the roles of panpan girls, war criminals, and fat-cat black marketers? They wanted entertainment. As the emperor said in the days immediately following his surrender, "Bring light and brightness to the people. Reopen entertainments as speedily as possible" (Asahi Shinbun, August 22, 1945). Kabuki producers had no confidence that audiences would pay to see gloomy plays about a miserable present. As Japan strove to recover from calamitous defeat, representation of a glorified national past through kabuki served as a crucial counterweight to an objective reading of history that spoke of national failure. A frozen, familiar repertory represented in itself a useful image of Japanese singularity and strength at a time when almost everything else in society was indeterminate, challenged, out of favor, or undependable.

 At dawn, in the summer 1947, a solitary man walks out of an obliterated urban landscape that was once Hiroshima City. Was it possible to place the devastation of atomic explosions on the kabuki stage? Kabuki producers did not think so. (Photo: Courtesy of Sheldon Varney)
Click for larger view
Figure 16
At dawn, in the summer 1947, a solitary man walks out of an obliterated urban landscape that was once Hiroshima City. Was it possible to place the devastation of atomic explosions on the kabuki stage? Kabuki producers did not think so. (Photo: Courtesy of Sheldon Varney)
[End Page 80]

A final reason kabuki did not modernize is that American theatre officials were quick to embrace traditional kabuki and call it a great theatre art. They did not, personally, want to be responsible for harming kabuki by banning plays. Alexander Calhoun, the youngest of the theatre censors in Tokyo, told me, "We all leaned over backwards to approve kabuki plays; we did not want to hurt kabuki" (Interview with Alexander Calhoun, October 5, 2000). Once the censors were willing to release plays with inappropriately feudalistic themes, this reinforced the desire of audiences to see these well-known kabuki pieces. In turn this strengthened Shōchiku's decision to resist Occupation entreaties for a new repertory. Japan's American masters in the Occupation commanded all else, but before an unchanging kabuki they were powerless and in the end accepted kabuki on Shōchiku's terms. The adulation that Bowers, Ernst, and Allyn developed for kabuki found expression when the Occupation was over. Soon there were translations of classic plays, and books, university classes, and television specials that highlighted traditions of continuity. This reification of the traditional mode of kabuki by highly regarded foreigners strongly contributed to classicizing (koten-ka) and aestheticizing (bijutsu-ka) the art in the decades that followed the Occupation.

Occupation officials might have followed a different course regarding kabuki. In a punitive frame of mind they might have closed theatres or banned performance completely. Or they might have acted creatively by commissioning kabuki playwrights—Gōda Toku, Kikuta Kazuo, Uno Nobuo—to compose new kiwamono that spoke to contemporary social concerns. CI&E could have subsidized Shōchiku's productions of these new kabuki plays. This would have fit normal CI&E practices. During the Occupation years, CI&E paid for hundreds of radio programs and instructional films designed to convey democratic themes (Interview with Albert Raynor, April 5, 2001). And this would not have gone against Japanese practice: kabuki playwrights and producers were used to creating new plays to suit Japanese government policy. For years the Cabinet Bureau of Information commissioned kiwamono plays in support of the war. So it would have been a small step for CI&E to take the place of the Bureau and commission plays with postwar, democratic themes. The CCD pictorial censor on Shikoku Island requested just such new scripts: "Distribution of [. . .] complete plays with a democratic theme [is] a constructive way of filling in the gap resulting from deletions and suppressions in theatrical scripts" (CCD, Pictorial Sub-Section, District II-b, "Theatrical Survey of Shikoku Island," April 27, 1948, J. Frank Sheehan, Box 8656). This was CI&E's task, and it seems that Boruff and Keith failed to conceive of the possibility. Undoubtedly their imaginations were limited by their [End Page 81] experiences in America, where theatre was a self-supporting entertainment and government tended neither to fund nor to unduly censor the art.131

 Radio officers in CI&E commissioned and produced dramatic programs on democratic and liberal themes, such as this Japanese-language radio broadcast of Macbeth in March 1947. Kabuki-style music and kabuki costumes were used for atmosphere and for publicity photographs. Theatre officers in CI&E never considered commissioning new kabuki plays. (Photo: Courtesy of Albert Raynor)
Click for larger view
Figure 17
Radio officers in CI&E commissioned and produced dramatic programs on democratic and liberal themes, such as this Japanese-language radio broadcast of Macbeth in March 1947. Kabuki-style music and kabuki costumes were used for atmosphere and for publicity photographs. Theatre officers in CI&E never considered commissioning new kabuki plays. (Photo: Courtesy of Albert Raynor)

Similarities abound between wartime Japanese censorship of kabuki and American censorship after the war. But there is at least one glaring difference: Japanese citizens were motivated by patriotic duty to accept censorship for the national good. It was a small sacrifice to lose a few decadent kabuki plays in order to achieve victory in war. But no one suggested in 1946 that Japanese should accept CCD's ban on traditional plays as a "small sacrifice" for the sake of democracy. During the war, kabuki playwright Kimura Kinka wrote that it was natural to withhold old plays unsuited to Japan's wartime needs and "from now on, new plays must replace them" (Kimura 1940: 2). But in 1946, no Japanese said it was a playwright's patriotic duty to replace Loyal Retainers with a democratic play.

The biggest change that occurred in kabuki after the war was that kiwamono disappeared and kabuki became a "classic" theatre. Of [End Page 82] course this was contrary to CI&E's and CCD's aim of encouraging new plays to replace the old plays. Boruff and Thompson in CI&E had begged kabuki producers for new kabuki plays. But Shōchiku moved in the opposite direction, toward enshrining tradition, and SCAP's plans for a new, democratic kabuki proved fruitless.

We need to recall that president Ōtani determined Shōchiku's reactionary course of conserving traditional kabuki before the Occupation began. Those who came to censor and to introduce democratic content saw themselves as liberating kabuki from tradition. In the contest, it was the Occupiers who were liberated from the narrow Occupation cause and changed forever by the encounter.132 The Occupiers came to love the harshly feudal repertoire they had come to destroy. But the only way kabuki changed was to withdraw completely from the modern world. Today, more than half a century after America's experiment in social engineering petered out, kabuki still delights audiences. But kabuki in the twentieth-first century is not a living theatre. Thanks in part to its protectors, it is a gloriously flamboyant fossil, an artifact of a past world that has nothing to say about today.

Play Titles (English–Japanese)

Appeal for Lord Keiki's Life (Keiki inochi goi)
Barrier Gate, The (Seki no to)
Battle at River Island in Shinshū (Shinshū kawanakajima gassen)
Battle Camp Debate (Senjin mondō)
Bell of Nagasaki (Nagasaki no kane)
Benkei Aboard Ship (Funa Benkei)
Benten the Thief (Benten kozō)
Book Binding Shop (Ningen seihon)
Broken Dish, The (Banchō sara yashiki)
Chronicle of the Battle of Ichinotani (Ichinotani futaba gunki)
Confrontation of the Soga Brothers (Soga no taimen)
Cormorant Fisherman's House, The (Ushō no ie)
Daibosatsu Pass (Daibosatsu tōge)
Death of Toyoshige, The (Toyoshige no shi)
Echoing Pools in the Hatchō River (Yamabiko shio no hatchō)
Ferry at Yaguchi, The (Yaguchi no watashi)
Genta's Disinheritance (Genta kandō)
Ginza Reconstructs (Ginza fukkō)
Golden Temple, The (Kinkakuji)
Gorozō the Gallant (Gosho no Gorozō)
Ground Spider, The (Tsuchigumo)
Hell of Snow (Yuki jigoku)
Hidden Image of Two Masks, The (Futa omote shinobu sugata-e) [End Page 83]
Kakiemon the Master Artist (Meikō Kakiemon)
Kiyomasa at Nijō Castle (Nijōjō no Kiyomasa)
Kunisada Chūji
Last Hours of Commander Kanō, The (Kanō butaichō saigo no hi)
Lord Sakazaki of Dewa (Sakazaki dewa no kami)
Love of Takiguchi Nyūdō, The (Takiguchi Nyūdō no koi)
Lovers' Evening Suicide (Shinjū yoigoshin)
Lovers' Suicides at Mt. Toribe (Toribeyama shinjū)
Maiden of Dōjō Temple, The (Musume Dōjōji)
Man From the Mountains (Yama kara kita otoko)
Map of Loyalty to the Emperor, A (Kinnō fūdoki)
Martyr of Sakura, The (Sakura giminden)
Mirror Lion (Kagami jishi)
Miyamoto Musashi
Moritsuna's Battle Camp (Moritsuna jinya)
Mountain Hag with Child (Komochi yamamba)
Narukami the Thundergod (Narukami)
Ono of Tōfū (Ono no Tōfū)
Orange Ship, The (Mikan bune),
Osaka Spring Rain (Naniwa no harusame)
Pearl Harbor (Shinju wan)
People in a Storm (Arashi no naka no hitobito)
Picture Scroll of the Taikō (Ehon taikōki)
Pulling the Carriage Apart (Kuruma biki)
Puppet Sanbasō, The (Ayatsuri sanbasō)
Regimental Flag (Rentaiki)
Revenge on Ōshū Plain (Ōshū adachi ga hara)
Rokusuke of Keya Village (Keyamura Rokusuke)
Ryokan and a Nurse Maid (Ryokan to Komori)
Sadato and Muneto (Sadato Muneto)
Scarface Yosaburō (Kirare Yosa)
Scroll of Mii Temple, The (Miidera emaki)
Sequel to Nezumi the Rat (Nezumi kozō dangi)
Snow Prostitute (Yuki jorō)
Souvenir from Nagasaki: The Tale of a Chinese, A (Nagasaki miyage tojin banashi)
Souvenir of Jōshū: A Valuable Head, A (Jōshū miyage hyaku ryō kubi)
Strife in the Date Clan (Meiboku Sendai hagi)
Subscription List, The (Kanjinchō)
Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy (Sugawara denju tenarai kagami)
Swordsmith Kokaji, The (Kokaji)
Tale of Sanemori (Sanemori monogatari) [End Page 84]
Temple Gate and the Paulownia Crest, The (Sanmon gosan no kiri)
Tokijirō of Kutsukake (Kutsukake Tokijirō)
Three Glorious Human Bombs (Nikudan sanyūshi)
Treasury of Loyal Retainers, The (Kanadehon chūshingura)
Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety (Honchō nijūshikō)
Two Lions (Renjishi),
Two Shinbeis (Ninin Shinbei)
Universal Military Conscription (Kokumin kaihei)
Village School, The (Terakoya)
What Shall We Do? (Nani o nasu beki ka)
Wisteria Maiden, The (Fuji musume)
Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees (Yoshitsune senbon zakura)
Yoshida Palace (Yoshida goten)

Initials of CCD Correspondents

AKM WDC Arthur K. Mori, head, Pictorial Section, PPB District I
ALD Major Alfred L. Dibella, head, PPB Division, CCD
EE Lt. Earle Ernst, head, Theatre Sub-Section, PPB District I
FB WDC Faubion Bowers, head, Theatre Sub-Section, PPB District I
JAJr. WDC John Allyn Jr., head, Pictorial Section, PPB District II
JG Lt. Joseph Goldstein, censor, Theatre Sub-Section, PPB District I
JJC Major John J. Costello, head, PPB Division, CCD
KC Lt. Kenneth Cameron, head, Pictorial Section, PPB District I
PJB WDC Patrick J. Malloy, head, PPB District I
RHK Capt. Richard H. Kunzman, head, PPB District I
TT WDC Takeo Tada, censor, Pictorial Section, PPB District II
WBP Colonel William B. Putnam, commanding officer, CCD

Military Acronyms

CCD Civil Censorship Detachment, CIS/G-2, SCAP
CI&E Civil Information and Education Section, SCAP
CIS Civil Intelligence Section, SCAP
G-2 General Staff Section for Intelligence, SCAP
GHQ General Headquarters, SCAP
IDS Information Dissemination Section (later CI&E), SCAP
JCS Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C.
MIS Military Intelligence Service
MP Military Police
MPTD Motion Picture and Theatrical Division, CI&E
PC Passed Censorship, stamp used by CCD [End Page 85]
PPB Press, Pictorial, and Broadcasting Division, CCD
SCAP Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers
SCAPIN Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers Instruction to the Imperial Japanese Government
TI&E Troop Information and Education section, army unit
WDC War Department Civilian employee (later Department of the Army Civilian, DAC)
James R. Brandon, professor emeritus of Asian Theatre at the University of Hawai'i and visiting professor at Harvard University (2005), is founding editor of ATJ. He has been writing about kabuki for fifty years. His most recent books are Kabuki Plays On Stage, volumes I–IV, and Masterpieces of Kabuki: Eighteen Plays On Stage, co-edited with Samuel L. Leiter.


1. Some material in this article was published in 2004 as "Kabuki o sukutta no wa dare ka?—America senryōgun ni yoru Kabuki ken'etsu no jittai," Engekigaku Ronshū 42 (November): 145–197, edited by Mōri Mitsuya andtranslated by Suzuki Masae. I want to thank the staffs of the Shōchiku Ōtani Library, Shōchiku Kansai Archives, Waseda University Theatre Museum Library, and Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i, for allowing me to examine Occupation-censored kabuki scripts in their collections. Sakaba Junko and Itoh Kazue provided valuable research assistance. Former chief theatre censor Stanley Y. Kaizawa shared his deep personal knowledge of Occupation censorship in continuing interviews. My research in 2000 and 2003 was supported in part by grants from the Japan Foundation and with the assistance of the Waseda University Theatre Museum.

2. The question of whether censorship was an appropriate tool to create a "democratic" society in Japan is important but it lies beyond the scope of this paper. Etō Jun (1980, 1982) has written eloquently that Occupation censorship stifled and twisted Japanese democracy. The prevailing view of the occupiers was that censorship was a short-term, necessary evil: "This may be undemocratic but we are not in a democracy, we are running a school for democracy [and] theatre is one of the most important teachers" ("Consolidated Report of Civil Information and Education [CI&E] Section Activities [hereafter cited as CR]: 1 November 1945," National Archives, Record Group 313, Box 5255 [hereafter the Box number only will be cited]). In this paper the extensive archival material, interviews, newspaper, and web sources will be cited in the text rather than given full separate citation in the bibliography. Please see glossaries of Abbreviations Used in Citations, at the end of the notes, and Initials of CCD Correspondents and Military Acronyms, preceding the notes.

3. Japanese play titles are listed at the end of the text.

4. Occupation censors shunted aside kabuki scripts deemed harmful to Japan's democratization in two ways. First, as noted, censors rejected (suppressed) a handful of scripts that Shōchiku submitted for approval. Second, and more important, Shōchiku created a "list" of several hundred overtly feudalistic plays that Shōchiku "voluntarily" withdrew from the repertory for a time. Hence, the American side was able to maintain the position that the latter plays were not banned or suppressed by the Occupation. The "list" will be discussed in detail. [End Page 86]

5. The cable advised post-censorship of radio and print media, a policy the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) initially followed, and a total ban on showing motion pictures, which was not done (Washington to CINCAFPAC, "Initial Policy for Control of Japanese Information Services," August 22, 1945, Bonner F. Fellers Collection, Box 13).

6. By August 1948, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East had charged 515 high Japanese political and military leaders with committing war crimes: 485 were convicted (including former prime minister Tōjō Hideki) and thirty were acquitted (see "Occupied Japan" 1948). In early April 1946, General MacArthur reported that 60 percent of the members of the wartime Diet and other high government officials had been removed from their positions by the purge that he announced on January 4, 1946 (Nippon Times, April 4, 1946). By early 1948, a total of 717,415 men and women who had occupied leadership positions in government, the military, nationalist organizations, industry, banking, and information media had been screened and 201,815 were purged, that is, forced to resign from their institutional positions. Among purged officials, twenty-two were from entertainment companies such as Shōchiku (Political Reorientation of Japan 1948: 553, 556).

7. SCAP's authority superseded that of the Imperial Japanese Government and SCAP frequently ordered the Japanese government to carry out specific structural reforms, often against Japanese wishes. SCAP officials wrote a new constitution (while pretending not to) that the Japanese cabinet frantically opposed. SCAP ordered abolition of the dreaded Thought Police and the end of Home Ministry censorship. It ordered equal rights for women, release of political prisoners, creation of new educational materials compatible with democracy, and the sale of farm land to tenant farmers. These were issues SCAP cared about. But I argue that Occupation directives did not add up to "indirect rule" of the nation as is usually said (e.g., Dower 1999: 27). The Imperial Japanese government ruled the nation according to its own laws and procedures except in those areas where SCAP chose to exert its authority. In the case of kabuki, Occupation officials did not attempt to supplant, or even disturb, Shōchiku's capitalist ownership and monopolist control of theatres and troupes. As a result, SCAP's censorship restrictions through CCD and democratic exhortations by CI&E were totally inadequate tools to bring about substantive change.

8. Shōchiku managed the six large kabuki troupes led by Onoe Kikugorō VI, Nakamura Kichiemon I, Matsumoto Kōshirō VII, Ichikawa Ennosuke II, Ichikawa Jukai III, and Sawamura Sōjūrō VII (CCD, Theatrical Section, Special Report, "Shochiku Co., Ltd. (Shochiku Kabushiki-gaisha)," December 3, 1947, Box 8618).

9. Ichikawa Ennosuke's production at the Tokyo Gekijō that opened September 1 is usually called the first postwar production (Nagayama 1995: 327), but it opened a week after the program in Osaka.

10. I have taken most production information (play title, author, theatre, cast, and dates) from Nagayama 1996.

11. Numbers written in red pencil in the right margin of English-language synopses of these two plays indicate they were the first and second [End Page 87] kabuki items that Shōchiku submitted to Occupation censors. Dated October 19, 1945, they reached censor Charles B. Reese halfway through their October run at the Dai Ichi Gekijō, too late for Reese to take censorship action (Shōchiku Script Collection, Waseda University Theatre Museum Library).

12. See Mayo (1984) for a detailed narrative of how officials in the State, Navy, and War Departments in Washington gradually developed a censorship policy during 1944 and 1945 appropriate to Japan and how SCAP officials implemented that policy in the field.

13. Originally CCD was placed under the Civil Intelligence Section (CIS), an independent intelligence unit in MacArthur's headquarters. In May 1946, after CIS commanding officer Brigadier General Elliot R. Thorpe left Japan, CIS (and CCD) were absorbed into the General Staff Section for Intelligence (G-2) (Thorpe 1969: 95–96; Operations 1949: preface, n.p.). In practice, as Robert Spaulding, a former CCD division head, succinctly explains: "CCD was part of the vast G-2 empire under Brigadier General Charles A. Willoughby" (Spaulding 1988: 5).

14. "Spot examination of mail [. . .] has been generally recognized as one of the most direct and reliable sources of public information" (Operations 1949: 18).

15. CCD grew from around four hundred personnel in late 1945 to a high of 8,736 in August 1946. Almost all of the increase was Japanese national employees. The number of Americans in CCD declined from a high of 780 in 1946 to 416 in mid 1949 to zero in November 1949 (Operations 1949: insert 31).

16. Japanese national translators and examiners made up 90 percent of CCD personnel and Americans around 10 percent (see, for example, CCD, "Monthly Report: 1 August 1949–31 August 1949," Box 8532).

17. In addition to having censorship authority, CIS was the unit charged with identifying and arresting war criminals, investigating crime, assuring the emperor's safety, and releasing political prisoners (Thorpe 1969: 192–193).

18. CCD policy toward amateur productions (including kabuki) was ambivalent: groups were encouraged to submit scripts but not required to do so.

19. Each censor was issued his own numbered stamp: Ernst, J-2036; Palestin, J-2038; Calhoun, J-2037; and Kaizawa, J-2034 (PPB District I, "S.O.P. for the Theatrical Department," September 17, 1946, Box 8580). In practice, a censor used any stamp that was handy.

20. My description of CCD organization and procedures draws heavily on interviews with former American censors and Japanese national employees of PPB: Stanley Y. Kaizawa, John Allyn Jr., Alexander Calhoun, Vincent Mercola, Albert Seligmann, Robert Spaulding, Ko Sameshima, Takeshi Teshima, Tanamachi Tomoya, Yamachi Kyuzō, Harry and Ethel Uchida, Louise and George Hanamura, Kazuo and Emi Nekota, Misao Sakamoto, and others.

21. At first PPB in Tokyo had few personnel, so Reese and Ehlers were responsible for censoring all pictorial media: motion pictures, lantern slides, paper plays for children (kamishibai), and theatre. By December 1945, enough [End Page 88] personnel were assigned to PPB that Ernst and those following him censored only theatre, while other censors in the Pictorial Section were assigned films, kamishibai, or lantern slides.

22. No major kabuki troupes were based in Kyushu, which comprises most of District III, and therefore I do not discuss the operation of kabuki censorship in that district. See Tanamachi et al. (1988) for a detailed discussion of theatre censorship in District III.

23. I want to thank Donald Richie, Santha Wattles, Jane Gunther, Dallas Finn, and Harriet Harvey for sharing their recollections of people who worked in CCD from 1946 to 1949.

24. For descriptions of CCD censorship of other media not cited in the bibliography, see Marlene J. Mayo and J. Thomas Rimer, ed., War, Occupation, and Creativity: Japan and East Asia 1920–1960 (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001); Jay Rubin, "From Wholesomeness to Decadence: The Censorship of Literature under the Allied Occupation," Journal of Japanese Studies 11, no. 1 (1985): 71–103; and William J. Coughlin, The Conquered Press (Palo Alto, CA: Pacific Books, 1952), among others.

25. A June 1947 draft proposal would have placed all press, pictorial, and broadcast media, including live theatrical performances, on post-censorship. The proposal was not approved and was not put into effect (Chief of Staff to G-2, "Modification of Civil Censorship Controls in the Occupied Area," June 6, 1947, Box 8517). And in August, plans to place theatre on post-censorship were so far advanced that letters to producers were written and ready to be mailed. But the letters were never sent ("Draft of Letters to All Censored Agencies," August 1, 1947, Box 8568).

26. A skeletal staff closed offices and disposed of files through November 15, but otherwise the entire CCD operation, employing around five thousand American and Japanese personnel, was terminated within two weeks of General MacArthur's decision to end censorship.

27. On the day Japan surrendered, Brigadier General Bonner F. Fellers, military secretary to the supreme commander and director of the Psychological Warfare Branch, presented to MacArthur a written plan to place SCAP's censorship and democratization activities in a single organization staffed mostly by people from Psychological Warfare. This organizational structure was not accepted, and censorship of media and promotion of democratic principles were assigned to CCD and CI&E, respectively. However, in their internal organization, both CCD and CI&E set up sections to handle the four media that Fellers had identified for control: publications, radio, movies, and theatre (Memo, "Dissemination of Information in Japan," August 15, 1945, Bonner F. Fellers, in Bonner F. Fellers Collection, Box 13).

28. By coincidence, the author was assigned to the TI&E section of the 45th Infantry Division when drafted in 1950 during the Korean War.

29. Other CI&E divisions were Arts and Monuments, Religion, Press and Publications, Radio, Plans and Operations, and Research and Information. The Research and Information Division contained its own Motion Picture and Theater Unit that provided research reports and statistical data on Japanese theatre for MPTD's use. [End Page 89]

30. The Motion Picture and Theatrical Division was earlier called the Motion Picture and Visual Media Section and later the Motion Picture and Theatrical Branch and the Motion Picture and Stage Department. The Theatre Unit was sometimes called the Theatre Branch, the Theatrical Department, and the Stage Department. Functions and activities were not affected by name changes.

31. Much of the information about CI&E organization and operations comes from interviews with former CI&E officers and staff, and their families and friends. I am especially grateful to Eddie Kaneshima, Wilton Dillon, Albert Raynor, Edwin Bock, Floyd Matson, Joan Cleveland, and Barbara Boruff.

32. From Theatre Sub-Section, PPB, and presumably written by Ernst.

33. Kaizawa says that Ernst's superiors asked him to write the report: "I remember Earle sitting at his desk in the Kantō Electric Building day after day, back to the window, licking a pencil tip and writing the report on a ruled yellow tablet. As he finished each page he tore it off and handed it to Sgt. Harry Uchida to type" (Interview with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, June 20, 2000). Ernst submitted the report on April 25 and returned to the United States in May. When Bowers lent a copy of the report, classified "Secret," to Kawatake Shigetoshi in September 1947, Kawatake assumed Bowers was the author (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1964: 154; Kawatake Toshio 1995: 218). Okamoto, too, presents Bowers as its author (1998: 293). A PPB District I monthly report, perhaps written by Bowers, includes a copy, described as "the result of collaboration" between Ernst and Bowers (PPBI, May 20, 1947, Box 8586). Some sections reflect Bowers' interests and may have been written by him, but there can be no doubt that Ernst was the special report's main author.

34. Bowers himself actively promoted the myth, it seems to increase his own importance. He denigrated theatre colleagues in CCD and CI&E, calling them "little men," "those kids," and "youngsters who know nothing about Japan, who know nothing about theatre" (Bowers 1960: 42–44; interview with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, June 15, 2000).

35. Bowers was a Julliard-trained pianist who became enamored of kabuki when he happened to stop in Tokyo, fell under the spell of kabuki, and remained for a year in Japan (1940–1941). At the beginning of the Occupation he was one of four officers attached to the Office of the Military Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief headed by Brigadier General Bonner F. Fellers (September 1945–February 1946). Bowers, in a small anteroom on the sixth floor of the Dai Ichi Building, greeted MacArthur's nonmilitary visitors and coordinated appointments. Bowers told everyone he was the personal aide-de-camp (fukkan) to General MacArthur (e.g., Bowers 1960: 41; Sanuki 1975: 27), a minor fudging of the truth that raised his status a notch. When Fellers returned from a speaking trip in the United States during which, it is said, his name appeared in American newspapers more often than MacArthur's, Fellers was demoted to colonel and banished from MacArthur's inner circle in the Dai Ichi Building. In January 1946, Fellers and his staff, including Bowers, were transferred to the Meiji Building and reorganized into the Secretariat of the Allied Council for Japan (ACJ), a watchdog organization that MacArthur [End Page 90] despised and ignored. Bowers' was council documents officer, a kind of glorified file clerk (January–October 1946). Thoroughly bored with his work, through the summer Bowers campaigned to rehabilitate kabuki's good name. He wrote magazine and newspaper articles praising kabuki and he lobbied CCD censors to release "banned" plays for production. In October 1946, Bowers' service time in the Army was completed, kabuki actor friends gave him a farewell party, and his departure for the United States for demobilization was imminent. In what appears to have been a sudden change of heart, he asked Ernst for a civilian position in Theatre Sub-Section, CCD, and Ernst hired him. Loquacious about most events in his life, Bowers spoke selectively about this transitional period (his most candid remarks are in his early oral history [1960]). He seems to have kept even his closest friends in the dark about his assignment with the ACJ, his exile to the Meiji Building, his planned departure for the United States, the fact that Ernst was the person who brought him into CCD, and his six-month apprenticeship in CCD under Ernst's direction. For Bowers' own narrative of this period, as remembered in later years, see Bowers 1960, 1970; Okamoto 1998, 2001; and Sanuki 1975.

36. In 1961, the critic Toita Yasuji credited Boruff, Keith, and Thompson of CI&E for helping theatre recover in postwar Japan. He thought that Bowers, who deserved much praise, should not be made into a god (Andō et al. 1961: 46). Recently, Bowers' contributions have been placed in a larger perspective by younger critics and scholars Kikuchi Akira, Fujita Hiroshi, and Watanabe Tamotsu (2000: 97).

37. On September 22, SCAP's information section, the Information Dissemination Section (IDS), was renamed the Civil Information and Education Service (CI&E). Conde intended the memorandum to be sent to the Japanese government, but it was never issued. CI&E and CCD guided and censored Japanese theatre for four years without any SCAP directive to the Japanese government regarding theatre. Nor did theatre officers send written directions to Shōchiku, except in one or two instances. They operated informally, mostly in face-to-face meetings, as Conde did here. Kawatake Shigetoshi preserved a copy of the Japanese translation of Conde's statement that CI&E provided that day. I thank Kawatake Toshio for sending me a copy from his father's files (Letter from Kawatake Toshio to the author, July 11, 2000).

38. For example, in Okamoto (1998: 151), Conde's comment means that all kabuki plays are feudal and hence should be banned: "Kabuki drama, with its feudalistic code of loyalty and its treatment of revenge, is not suitable for the modern world" (retranslated into English by Samuel L. Leiter, in Okamoto 2001: 48). But it was never SCAP policy to ban kabuki.

39. A list of initials of CCD correspondents follows the text.

40. Broad-brush comments that speakers offered on a recent panel discussion are typical: "Revenge plays were out," "You couldn't do sword fights," "Everything was forbidden," "Bit by bit kabuki became impossible to perform" (Bowers et al. 1999: 121).

41. Conde's published remarks are often quoted in Japanese sources and it may be that his bald condemnation of gangster and gambler heroes discouraged producers from suggesting certain plays. Nonetheless, CCD censors [End Page 91] approved submitted scripts of bandit plays (shiranamimono) scores of times: Benten the Thief was staged twelve times and Scarface Yosaburō eight times between 1945 and 1949 (Nagayama 1996: index 174, 204).

42. After his CI&E assignment, he returned to New York. His best known play, The Loud Red Patrick, opened in New York in 1956 with David Wayne and Elizabeth Montgomery playing leads. In the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote daytime television dramas in New York and Chicago (Telephone conversation with Barbara Boruff, March 20, 2002).

43. At the Tokyo Gekijō, The Village School, The Martyr of Sakura, the dance scene from Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees, and The Hidden Image of Two Masks; and at the Dai Ichi Gekijō, Scarface Yosaburō and The Broken Dish (Nagayama 1996: 656, 677).

44. The Martyr of Sakura was the twenty-fifth play script logged into CCD in October, so Reese had at least that many scripts of various genres to evaluate before the plays opened in November (Shōchiku Ōtani Library). He postponed to the last minute acting on the six kabuki scripts, so it is reasonable to assume the other scripts were waiting his decision as well.

45. As late as 1993, Faubion Bowers incorrectly laid the onus for the 30 percent request on Earle Ernst, saying, "It was Ernst's idea" to require one modern play in three. Onoe Baikō also blamed Ernst for the idea (Onoe et al. 1993: 135). However, Ernst had not arrived in Japan when Boruff conceived and broached his plan.

46. SCAPIN 16 also established Occupation censorship of publications and radio: "The Supreme Commander will suspend any publication or radio station which publishes information that fails to adhere to the truth or disturbs public tranquility." CCD wielded the same power over theatre: it could close a production.

47. A major exception was when CCD closed Tokyo's largest variety theatre, Tōhō's Nihon Gekijō (Nichigeki), for two weeks in May 1946 for deliberately failing to submit for censorship "material that was highly critical of the conduct of the Occupation Forces." CCD called this "the most serious censorship violation yet discovered" (PPB1, May 21, 1946, Box 8586).

48. In fact, producers were required to send scripts to both CI&E and CCD. CI&E did not censor the kabuki scripts it received; only CCD had that authority. Mentioning only CI&E here is probably the result of poor translation from English to Japanese.

49. The notice in Engekikai incorrectly says "Reese of CI&E." Japanese observers constantly confused CCD with CI&E.

50. An article in the Tokyo Shinbun, November 9, 1945, gives a slightly different account of the meeting.

51. Articles "a" and "the" are often dropped in military writing to achieve brevity.

52. Sugai calls the order to not stage the play again "a rumor" (1975: 40). Occupation records show it was a fact.

53. Shōchiku's translation of the scene title, Repayment of Debt at Great Sacrifice, is used in the report. I have substituted the more common title, The Village School. [End Page 92]

54. Some hypothesize that Reese was working from a brief English synopsis that did not make clear the significance of Kotarō's beheading (Kawatake 1964: 136). However, I think Reese received a full translation of the play script. Shōchiku's two-page synopsis, dated October 15, 1945, and fifteen-page translation are bound together with string, and rust marks from a paper clip show through all seventeen pages, showing that the synopsis and translation existed together. Lines in the translation make the child sacrifice obvious: "I have just decapitated Kanshusai," "I have sent in my son, Kotarō, to have him sacrificed as our little Lord's substitute," and "a noble sacrifice to have thus requited our Lord's favour" (Shōchiku Script Collection, Waseda University Theatre Museum Library). It seems probable that Reese was unable to visualize the grotesque head inspection (kubijikken) scene from the written word and only in performance was its impact realized.

55. The Japanese script shows Reese's signature, approving the production, dated October 31, 1945. The script does not contain CCD's suppression of the play on November 20, 1945, because it had been returned to Shōchiku at the beginnng of the run. This same script was resubmitted to CCD in April 1947 and was stamped approved for May production at the Tokyo Gekijō (Script in Shōchiku Ōtani Library).

56. Boruff liked Martyr of Sakura, "a work of art and a worthwhile play showing a man's individual effort to better the conditions of the poor around him," when he saw it November 21, the day Village School was withdrawn. Martyr is the type of "good kabuki" that Shōchiku should choose in the future, he told Yoshida a few days later, because it directly criticized the feudal system ("CR: 21 November, 1945" and "CR: 23 November 1945," Box 5255). Unfortunately, there were no other kabuki plays like Martyr for Shōchiku to stage.

57. The line is "semajiki mono wa miyazukai," spoken by Genzō before he kills the innocent child, Kotarō. in order to preserve the life of Sugawara's son, Kanshūsai. In the Meiji period and the1930s, the line appeared weak and was "nervously" changed to the more patriotic "this is truly the way to serve one's lord" (omiyazukai wa koko ja wai na) (Motoyama 1944: 25).

58. As early as 1959, Kawatake Shigetoshi published a description of the play's closing essentially the same as the CCD/CI&E account related here: around November 15 CCD ordered the play closed within five days and Shōchiku complied on November 21 (1959: 960–961). Presumably Kawatake related this correct account to Bowers. As noted, the "police on stage" story appears for the first time in Bowers' 1960 Columbia University oral history.

59. Bowers' character is elusive and enigmatic: friends say he was witty and cruel, charming and arrogantly self-centered. In CCD, he treated with ill-disguised contempt Shōchiku liaison Yoshida Matsuji, who later became the first director of the National Theatre of Japan (Interview with Stanley Y. Kaizawa, December 12, 2001). Bowers' published comment that General MacArthur was a "cultural barbarian" is well known (Okamoto 1999: 1). Bowers was also warm and generous with his kabuki friends. He provided constant gifts of food and medicine that literally saved some of their lives in the trying postwar years. Albert Seligmann, PPB censor in District III, remembers that Bowers asked him to provide milk and bread for the elderly, toothless Matsu [End Page 93] moto Kōshirō when the latter toured Kyushu, "Which I gladly did" (Letter from Albert Seligman, December 1, 2003). In the office, Bowers was considerate toward Japanese employees of CCD (Okamoto 1998: 281–282).

60. Bowers' "police on stage" story was most recently retold in a Yomiuri Shinbun article (Takagi 2000) and in a kabuki television special ("Nippon o Shirō" 2004).

61. The story may be an amalgamation of similar tales from that time. Boruff describes a performance of Ginza Reconstructs at the Teikoku Gekijō when he saw a demobilized soldier and a student jump onstage and harangue the audience for twenty minutes. The interruption ended only after police came to the stage and conferred with them ("CR: 22 October 1945," Box 5255). And Ichikawa Jukai writes that American military police stopped a performance of Broken Dish at the Dai Ichi Gekijō in November 1945 (Ichikawa 1960: 102). Perhaps Bowers heard these stories and conflated them, consciously or unconsciously, with the Village School Incident.

62. The thirteen prohibited film topics were advocacy of vengeance, nationalism, untruthful history, racial or religious discrimination, feudal loyalty, militarism, suicide, subjugation of women, cruelty or evil, anti-democracy, illegal treatment of children, personal loyalty to the state or emperor, and opposition to the Potsdam Declaration or orders of the supreme commander.

63. Conde devoted the morning of the following day, November 17, to a meeting with film producers in which he explained that all copies of these films must be turned over to SCAP and must not shown in public again ("CR: 17 November 1945," Box 5255). Later Conde denied having created the list, saying he was given a list of wartime films by the Japanese Film Corporation to which he made only a few additions and deletions (Hirano 1992: 40–43), a process uncannily parallel to the way Boruff made up his list of plays.

64. It happened that CI&E offices were on the fourth floor of the Radio Tokyo Building and CCD offices on the fifth floor, a coincidence that facilitated informal consultation in the early months of the Occupation. In mid 1946, Theatre Sub-Section, CCD, moved to the Kantō Electric Company building nearby.

65. All Japanese writers say Boruff's words constituted a direct command (shirei) (Kawatake Shigetoshi 1964: 137; Kawatake Toshio 1995: 213) of "extraordinary strictness" (Okamoto 1998: 165). Had producers known that Boruff intended to summarily ban all the plays that they would judge "vicious," they would have been infinitely more distressed. But Boruff kept his intentions secret and no one on the Japanese side caught wind of his plan to ban.

66. Ironically, these cruel and bloody scenes of sacrifice (gisei) and ritual suicide (seppuku) are not kabuki creations. They were written for bunraku puppets.

67. However, when the Investigation Committee discussed the list with CI&E and CCD in December, it is quite clear that horse trading did not occur.

68. Here is one such comment by Shōchiku president Nagayama Takeomi, [End Page 94] written in 2005: "On the 14th [of November, 1945], CI&E theatre head Naval Lt. Boruff and censorship head Ernst, suddenly (totsuzen) appeared to inspect" the production of Village School (Nagayama 2005: 338). By this date, Boruff had seen perhaps twenty-five theatre performances in Tokyo and his appearance at the Tokyo Gekijō was routine. It is also sobering to realize that the current president of the Shōchiku Company still incorrectly places Ernst at the scene, just as Bowers did forty-five years before (Ernst arrived in Japan three days after the event).

69. Ernst became the first head of Theatre Sub-Section shortly after he arrived in Tokyo, November 17, 1945. Ehlers continued as a film censor in the Pictorial Section, PPB, until he was demobilized in January or February 1946 (PPBD, "period 21 January–20 February 1946," Box 8586).

70. The name "Keith" on the back cover of the kanji list of 507 play titles was written by a Shōchiku scribe (Shōchiku Ōtani Library). When actor Onoe Kuroemon met Keith in New York in 1961, Keith told him he had not been involved in making the list (Interview with Onoe Kuroemon, June 19, 2000). SCAP reports of the meetings do not mention Keith. Probably the Shōchiku scribe mistook Goldstein of CCD for Keith.

71. Boruff's affable demeanor appears to have been deliberate, because his intention was extremely harsh: to expunge all "vicious" plays from the kabuki repertory.

72. We can understand now why Boruff and Ernst say three hundred plays were discussed, even though the list contained five hundred titles: Boruff accepted the list of nearly two hundred "possible" plays without discussion ("CIEWS, period 1 December–15 December, 1945," Box 5351; Ernst 1956: 266). When Ernst says the meetings were spread over several weeks, he is probably including follow-up meetings within CCD and CI&E and perhaps further meetings with Shōchiku officials (Ernst letter to Inose Naoki, February 3, 1987, Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i).

73. Several sources suggest the three-way discussions produced a list of 174 "possible" titles (Kawatake Toshio 1995: 215; Okamoto 1998: 170; Tanaka 1964: 168). However, the definitive kanji list, written by Shōchiku on or around December 7, 1945, contains 187 "possible" titles. One explanation is that 174 is the number of "possible" titles on the Investigation Committee's original list.

74. Toita Yasuji, who attended one or more meetings, says plays were placed in three categories: allowed, forbidden, and not good but not forbidden (1979: 61). Perhaps he is recalling discussions of borderline cases but in the end all plays were placed in one of the two categories.

75. Benten musume meoto shiranami and Benten kozō are alternate titles for the same play and both are listed.

76. The changes were: approved kabuki, two titles dropped and two added; disapproved kabuki, no change; approved new-history, five dropped and fourteen added; and disapproved new-history, two dropped and three added.

77. During the Occupation years, only one of the added plays was [End Page 95] staged, Yamamoto Yūzō's Lord Sakazaki of Dewa. It is a popular "new kabuki" (shin kabuki) play, often performed since its premier in 1921, so its exclusion from the original list seems to have been an oversight.

78. Kawatake Shigetoshi, in his 1959 account of the play list meetings, says that Boruff told the Investigation Committee he intended to publicize the list of approved plays "throughout the length and breadth of Japan" (965). In his 1964 account, Kawatake quotes Boruff saying he intends to publicize the list of both approved and disapproved plays (141–142).

79. Because a number of errors were made in copying the titles from kanji into Roman letters, CCD thought it was issuing a list of 518 plays. Summer Festival: Mirror of Osaka is listed as two plays. A Souvenir from Nagasaki: The Tale of a Chinese is listed as two plays. A Souvenir of Jōshū: A Valuable Head is listed as A Souvenir of Jōshū on the approved list and A Valuable Head on the disapproved list. Lovers' Evening Suicide and The Temple Gate and the Paulownia Crest, which follow each other on the list, are run on as one play title. Hell of Snow and The Cormorant Fisherman's House, which follow each other on the list, are run on as one play title. Lord Sakazaki of Dewa is on both the approved and disapproved list. Ernst was dead right when he insisted it would be folly to approve or disapprove plays based on a list of titles ("Memorandum to: AKM, RHK, JJC," February 26, 1947, E.E., Box 8618).

80. Ernst's draft, unchanged, was approved by PPB District I head, Dibella, January 19 (Box 8618) and was sent to CI&E on January 22 under the signature of General Eliot Thorpe, commanding officer, CIC (CIS) (Box 8520).

81. Kawatake Shigetoshi quotes Boruff saying either "three years" (1959: 964) or "four or five years" (1964: 142).

82. The play titles that SCAP provided reporters are those on the kanji list produced by the SCAP–Investigation Committee meetings. Although that list had been superceded for a month by CCD's final list, Keith, who prepared the public statement, did not use CCD's Romanized list. Keith may have thought it more efficient to give Japanese reporters a list written in kanji. Or perhaps he did not have a copy of the CCD list, which was intended only for CCD censors in Osaka and Fukuoka. According to Ernst, there was no formal exchange of information between the theatre sections of CCD and CI&E (Ernst 1956: 258).

83. Miyake Daisuke's Snow Prostitute was inadvertently left out, so the published new-history play list contained 107 titles.

84. In later years, Sugai reprinted the list of "possible" plays, divided by author (1975: 40–42), and Kawatake Toshio, using his father's notes, published the titles of forty-three "possible" and eighteen "not possible" plays, kabuki and new-history titles intermixed (1995: 215).

85. In July 1946, a Japanese news agency obtained the list of seventy "disapproved" kabuki titles from the Osaka CCD office and wrote a story listing sixty-nine titles (Two Shinbeis on the CCD list was dropped, apparently by accident). The article was suppressed by the Press Section, PPB, Tokyo, for revealing censorship practices and was never published (Pictorial to PPB Dist I, "Publicity of Theatrical Censorship," July 29, 1946, A.K.M., Box 8618). [End Page 96]

86. Forty-seven playwrights are represented. There are plays by the author of popular literature (taishū bungaku) Hasegawa Shin (eight possible, seventeen not possible), novelist-playwright Tanizaki Junichirō (five possible, one not possible), and, the most prolific kabuki author of the era, Okamoto Kidō (eighteen possible, thirty-seven not possible), to cite three well-known authors in addition to Mayama Seika previously mentioned.

87. To cite a not unusual case, the Investigation Committee put on the list ten new-history plays by kabuki playwright Yoshida Kenjirō written between 1925 and 1939. Only one, Kiyomasa at Nijō Castle, was well known to audiences; it was revived every two or three years by Nakamura Kichiemon (Komiya 1989: 140; Nagayama 1996: index 145). Nine scripts are inconsequential and were never restaged after their premiers. The Investigation Committee judged all ten plays "not possible" for performance. Nonetheless, the Committee included the titles among those that Shōchiku said it was likely to produce.

88. Unfortunately Boruff's "Final Report on Japanese Theater," which would tell us more about his actions, cannot be found (it is quoted in "Theater and Motion Pictures" 1952[?]: 16, fn.).

89. We will never know exactly what Keith said in the meeting because none of the participants, Japanese or American, wrote about it. Kawatake Shigetoshi's reconstruction of Keith's statement (four sentences) is based on conversations he had with Shōchiku staff members who were present (1964: 144).

90. Colleagues say Keith was moderate, artistic, and morally decent, which is at variance with the Japanese view. Kaneshima remembers pleasant times interpreting for Keith at kabuki performances. Keith enjoyed The Subscription List and did not object to its feudal theme. Keith would not accept blandishments of free liquor and women offered by some theatre petitioners (Interview with Edward Kaneshima, December 4, 2001). And Keith served modestly in the background under Boruff, playing no part in Boruff's grand plans to reform kabuki. In short, Keith's 50 percent remarks seem to be an aberration.

91. Rumors floated that because Keith overstepped his authority "his name disappeared" from CI&E rolls (Okamoto 1998: 248). Keith was not removed or demoted; he continued to head the theatre section of CI&E until his demobilization in June or July 1946 (see Keith's "Weekly Report of the Theatrical Department of the Motion Picture and Theatrical Division," February–May, 1946, Box 5304).

92. CI&E had no authority to practice censorship. Nonetheless, to some extent new plays and film scenarios were subject to "double censorship," first by CI&E and then by CCD. In early 1946, CCD screamed that when David Conde's Motion Picture and Theatrical Division personnel "checked" each new play script and film scenario for "compliance" with CI&E suggestions, this was de facto censorship. We can read the twenty-two-page transcript of the CCD-CI&E brouhaha that followed: "Relations With CI&E in Censoring Motion Pictures." The conference resulted in CI&E abjectly promising to "withdraw from its former close supervision and control" of new films ("Notes [End Page 97] on Conference," March 11, 1946; and CCD, Memorandum for Record: "Pictorial Censorship," May 15, 1946, W. B. P[utnam], Box 8520).

93. I have found Japanese and/or English scripts of three plays on CCD's approved list that were suppressed in 1946 by Goldstein or Ernst: Gorozō the Gallant (March) for "justification of feudal system; glorification of samurai"; The Ferry at Yaguchi (May) for "clan warfare, is highly feudalistic, no value placed on human life"; and Rokusuke of Keya Village (July) for "revenge motivation" (Shōchiku Ōtani Library; Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i).

94. Bowers knew nothing firsthand about the events leading to the articles. Nonetheless he spread an explanation that cruelly maligned two SCAP colleagues: "I was appalled. CIE—Hal Keith, I think—and CCD—Earle Ernst —summoned Shochiku together and said, 'Kabuki is feudal, bloodthirsty, vengeful, and we forbid it. You cannot do anything except harmless kabuki dances'" (1988: 203). As we have seen, this is not the course of action Keith or Ernst followed and Bowers presents no evidence. One can only conclude that Bowers was engaged in deliberate character assassination when he delivered these remarks in a public forum. (See also Bowers 1970: 39.)

95. The count of plays varies slightly in different sources. This is a result of miscounting, conflation of titles, and other clerical errors.

96. Bowers floated the idea that the reason SCAP went public was because he vigorously defended kabuki in an interview published in the Tokyo Shinbun (Sanuki 1975: 29). However, SCAP released its denial a month before Bower's remarks were published (see Tokyo Shinbun, February 23, 1946).

97. The president of Tōhō and six board members were also present. Because "Tōhō has cooperated with this Unit 100% in the past," Thompson directed his remarks especially to Shōchiku's conservative agenda.

98. In fact, six Shōchiku theatres featured kabuki programs in March 1948: the Tokyo Gekijō, Shinbashi Enbujō, and Mitsukoshi Gekijō in Tokyo, the Osaka Kabuki-za and Naka-za in Osaka, and the Minami-za in Kyoto. Ōtani did not suggest to Thompson that he had miscounted, perhaps because Shōchiku was planning to open kabuki productions in seven of its theatres the next month (Memorandum, "Policy of Shochiku and Toho Companies," March 15, 1948, W. L. Thompson, Box 5305).

99. Thompson fumbled an opportunity to bring contemporary themes into kabuki. He encouraged the young kabuki actors to perform modern plays (shingeki) or translations of American plays, such as Of Mice and Men (1950), but he saw no place for modern plays in kabuki because kabuki was a "classic theatre" to be preserved (Memorandum, "Production of modern plays performed by young Kabuki stars," March 31, 1948, W. Thompson, Box 5305).

100. For two years, CIE had supported efforts to roll back the admission tax, without success (MPTD, February 9, 1946). The income generated by the tax was too large for the government to give up.

101. Among them were Narukami (originally on the "possible" list but dropped from the final CCD list), several new-history plays, and famous dance classics such as Benkei Aboard Ship and The Ground Spider. [End Page 98]

102. Namely Kakiemon the Master Artist, a revival of a 1912 dramatization of Samuel Smiles' Self Help (1859); Mayama Seika's Fukuzawa Yukichi, about an enlightened, democratic Meiji-era reformer; People in a Storm, which concerns the misdeeds of Japanese secret police during the war; What Shall We Do? about demobilized soldiers; and The Love of Takiguchi Nyūdō, in which the high-ranking hero "comes to loathe his samurai world" (Nagayama 1996: 360). The latter three, however, were written for performance by joint shinpa-kabuki casts and are not true kabuki plays. Even these kinds of new plays disappeared by the end of 1946.

103. Disapproved titles that CCD censors passed were The Subscription List, Battle at River Island in Shinshū, and Shunkan (three productions each); Battle Camp Debate, Lovers Suicides at Mt. Toribe, Pulling the Carriage Apart, and Ono of Tōfū (two productions each); The Battle of Ichinotani, Mountain Hag with Child, and Osaka Spring Rain (one production each); and Strife in the Date Clan (approved but not staged) (see Nagayama 1996).

104. For example, Village School and Pulling the Carriage Apart are two scenes from Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy. When they are staged together, do you count them as one or two plays? I have counted each script that was separately submitted to CCD, whether it is a scene or a full play. Kabuki troupes toured extensively after the war when big city playhouses were not available, but data on these performances is too fragmentary to include (i.e., Nagayama 1996: 892).

105. This figure includes traditional kabuki and new-history plays not on the list, as well as new plays. As a further analysis, it would be useful to separate the three types of plays. It is interesting to speculate why Shōchiku chose so many off-the-list plays for production. Perhaps producers looked to lesser-known plays to replace the classics that were forbidden. Or perhaps they believed unknown plays would not raise warning signals and so pass censorship more easily. One certain reason is that the Investigation Committee had not put some excellent plays on the list.

106. For example, see PPBI between 1947 and 1948, Box 8591.

107. Superiors in PPB District I, PPB Division, and CCD overruled Bowers and approved the production: "If the production was unobjectionable for metropolitan Tokyo, it should likewise be unobjectionable for the provinces" (Memo "From PPB District I, To PPB Division," PJM[alloy], with attached endorsements, undated but after February 1948, Box 8618).

108. According to the critic Toita Yasuji, who was friendly with Bowers, on this occasion Bowers was more than censor: he appropriated the role of producer and theatre manager. He telephoned president Ōtani and told him, "Next month, I want to see Kichiemon do Revenge on Ōshū Plain" (Toita 1979: 68).

109. An exception in Japanese writings is Yoshida Matsuji's statement that "Bowers was not the only benefactor of kabuki. Boruff and Ernst were two men who shielded kabuki through thick and thin" (Kawaji 1986: 15). Also, see Mayo for a balanced description of how Ernst and Bowers worked together in CCD to release disapproved plays (2001: 288–290). [End Page 99]

110. Earle Ernst passed the disapproved new-history play, Sasaki Takatsuna, for a December 4, 1945, opening at the Tokyo Gekijō, writing on the title page of the Japanese script, "Reviewed, 2 Dec, Lt. Ernst" (script in Shōchiku Ōtani Library). This action occurred several days before the list was created, but Goldstein and Ernst knew the play had been disapproved when they wrote on the title page of the English play translation "JG, Approved, 7 Dec 45" followed by "Lt. Ernst." I do not count this the first "released" play, although one could reasonably do so (see script in Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i).

111. In November 1946, Palestin also released Strife in the Date Clan, although Shōchiku chose not to stage the play (see script in Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i).

112. Both versions of events, moreover, support Bowers' claim that he alone saved kabuki.

113. Even if we set aside Subscription List and Ichinotani, Ernst released six plays on his own initiative in 1946 and early 1947. Previous writers have generally accepted Bowers' narrative of censorship events. It is necessary to use other sources of information as well. The October 1946 program at the Tokyo Gekijō illustrates this. Ernst released three disapproved plays for that program—Pulling the Carriage Apart and Shunkan as well as Ichinotani—but in Bowers' telling, only Ichinotani is mentioned (Okamoto 1998: 266). Did Bowers not know that Ernst released the other two plays? Or did he deliberately omit Ernst's actions from his narrative in order to enhance his own importance? In either case, Bowers' story is incomplete and misleading if taken alone.

114. In fact, more censors were involved than these five. WDC Takeo Tada, Takeshi Teshima, and Kiyoko Hamamura in Osaka and Stanley Y. Kaizawa in Tokyo approved theatre scripts in 1947–1948 under the supervision of chief censors. In Tokyo, Joseph Goldstein and Alexander Calhoun may have released disapproved plays but we cannot be certain. A number of scripts lack a censor's name or initials; I credit their release to the respective chief censor at that time, John Allyn Jr. in Osaka and Earle Ernst or Faubion Bowers in Tokyo.

115. It was good strategy for Ernst to lay it on thick to his superiors, painting a dark picture of kabuki's sad state, to encourage the higher military officers to feel they were acting magnanimously. Certainly Ernst believed that strict CCD censorship was no longer necessary or useful.

116. In 1946 and 1947 the approving censor often wrote "Special" on the script next to the PC stamp of approval.

117. The four plays mentioned are Subscription List, Ichinotani, Revenge on Ōshū Plain, and Omori Hikoshiki, all plays that Bowers was interested in. The titles of four other plays that Ernst had released and in which Bowers was uninterested are not mentioned. I surmise that Bowers was the author of this monthly report.

118. Censor Alexander Calhoun recalls special efforts that they took to help small, provincial troupes survive: "All the censors tried to be reasonable and helpful. The many small troupes had only old samurai scripts filled [End Page 100] with loyalty, sword worship, and sacrifice. That's all they had. We threw up our hands: how could we help them? We didn't want to put the poor troupes out of business—there weren't many films then and lots of theatre troupes—so we tried to salvage scripts as much as we could. We'd ask them to delete something and let them go. Only the worst examples were suppressed" (Telephone conversation with Alexander Calhoun, July 14, 2000).

119. When Bowers released Loyal Retainers in November 1947, he stamped the script of the vendetta scene, Act XI, approved (stamp number: PC, C.C.D. J-2039), but in the end he did not allow the act to be performed. Going far beyond CCD's mandate, he required Shōchiku to submit lengthy revisions of Act III, when Hangan is taunted by and strikes Moronao, and Act IV, Hangan's ritual suicide. Bowers wrote "good" on the inserted revision of Act IV. Scripts of Act I and III are marked with the CCD receipt number 14,406 (August) and Acts IV, V, VI, and XI with number 15,721 (October), indicating the process of revision extended over at least three months (see scripts in Shōchiku Ōtani Library).

120. This is one of a dozen times between 1947 and 1949 that CI&E theatre officers usurped CCD's censorship authority and illegally told producers not to stage a play that CI&E staff found objectionable.

121. For examples, see: PPBI, July 1947, Box 8585; PPBI, August 1947, Box 8561; and "Further Clarification of 'Report on Communist Theatrical Troupes,' date 29 Sept 47," October 21, 1947, Box 8581.

122. To cover themselves in the event of criticism, Bowers and his immediate superiors in PPB drafted an informational memo under General Willoughby's name to Chief of Staff Lt. General Richard Sutherland, laying out the reasons they had approved Loyal Retainers, slyly noting that the only criticism of the play came from the communist party press. Willoughby returned the draft without sending it to Sutherland (G-2 to Chief of Staff, "Performance of Chushingura," September 28, 1947, Box 8578).

123. The first written policy regulation, exempting Shinto shrine dances (kagura) from censorship, was adopted January 17, 1947, when Ernst was chief theatre censor.

124. Allyn told me, "Although Stanley [Kaizawa] had more experience in Tokyo and should have been kept on as chief censor, they made me chief theatre censor. It was a case of racial prejudice" (Interview with John Allyn Jr., October 5, 2000).

125. Allyn suppressed at least two of Shōchiku's new-history play submissions in 1949: Appeal for Lord Keiki's Life, intended for Tokyo production, and Okamoto Kidō's Sadato and Muneto, planned for Osaka production (Theatre Sub-Section, "Daily Report," April 19 and May 16, 1949, Box 8649).

126. Two outspoken critics were Senda Korya and Hijikata Yoshi. They despised the abhorrently feudal nature of kabuki art, believing the reactionary content of kabuki drama was extremely harmful to the development of democracy in Japan. They wanted SCAP to suppress kabuki plays, not approve them, and reduce Shōchiku's monopoly control of kabuki production. See Okamoto for further details (2001: 103–105).

127. It seems that Bowers did not believe kabuki was as innocent as he [End Page 101] claimed when he worked in SCAP. Within months of leaving Japan, in a startling volte-face, Bowers trashed Japanese theatre for being grotesque, feudal, and military in spirit. Writing in Theatre Arts, he railed, "Not since Elizabethan drama has the world known a major art form which is as blood curdling, horrifying and grotesquely cruel as Japan's theatre. It abounds in harakiri, torture scenes, murders, beatings, violence, dissevered arms and heads. [. . .] Japan is today involved in a mass of theatrical claptrap unparalleled in the world; [...] despite her postwar individual thought and collective social changes, she remains emotionally caught in the feudalism of her history and the militaristic spirit of her ancestors fostered since Meiji" (1948: 45–46).

128. Even after CCD's dissolution, censorship in SCAP was not wholly dead. With CCD out of the picture, kabuki producers turned to CI&E. In November 1949, Shōchiku officials asked Willard Thompson, head of the Theatre Unit, CI&E, if he would approve three kabuki plays not previously staged. Professing that "we do not censor," Thompson noted the plays were "the ultimate in feudalism, revenge, and sword play." Thompson recommended dropping one play and rewriting a second, which Shōchiku agreed to do (November 14, 1949, Box 5305). In February 1950, Shōchiku officials asked Thompson to provide them with a list of desirable and undesirable kabuki plays, apparently in response to criticism that they were staging previously disapproved plays now that CCD was closed (MPTD, February 16, 1950, Box 5304). That May, Thompson complained to Shōchiku that Kikugorō's July program of Village School, Subscription List, and Tale of Sanemori was crammed with beheadings and war propaganda. Shōchiku producers dropped all three plays and came up with a substitute program (MPTD, May 11, 1950, Box 5304; Nagayama 1996: 798). CI&E was involved even more deeply in shingeki censorship. Thompson constantly gave shingeki authors advice and guidance to "improve the content" of the scripts they were writing. This constituted a kind of censorship. He "advised" cancellation of an atom bomb drama Bell of Nagasaki (April 28, 1949), he "required" rewriting Daibosatsu Pass (May 14, 1949), he "required" revision of a play containing an "offensive" medical procedure (May 17, 1949) and one containing "extremely salacious scenes" (May 24, 1949), and he "recommended" that "feudalistic sentiments not be glorified" in Miyamoto Musashi (June 4, 1949, all Box 5305). Japanese considered Thompson's suggestions to be SCAP commands that had to be obeyed. When directors of the Experimental Theatre approved communist playwright M.Suzuki's Book Binding Shop, Thompson forced them to withdraw the approval "in adherence to this Unit's recommendation" (July 21, 1949, Box 5127). And when the Zenshin-za troupe members joined the communist party en masse, CI&E Theatre Unit supported an Eighth Army initiative to prosecute the group for tax evasion as "the most logical procedure to take to prevent tours by Zenshin-za" (Memo, "Road Tours by Zenshin-za Theatrical Company," June 30, 1949, E. Kaneshima, Box 5305). SCAP censorship of kabuki truly ended only when Theatre Unit, CI&E, was dissolved in August 1950 (MPTD, August 17, 1950, Box 5304).

129. It is not possible in a short space to discuss the vagaries of CI&E [End Page 102] legal authority. In practice, CI&E's influence depended on the situation. Sometimes Japanese officials welcomed CI&E suggestions, as for example, CI&E's initiative to register national treasures and protect cultural sites. Other times Japanese were afraid to reject CI&E advice, fearing unknown consequences. In publishing and filmmaking, CI&E had some control over allocation of paper and film stock, which lent considerable clout to CI&E advice. Despite the letter of the law, CI&E wrote SCAPINs that ordered the Japanese government to abolish the secret police, to eliminate Japanese theatre censorship, and to forbid 236 wartime propaganda films, among other things. In the case of kabuki, CI&E's advice that Shōchiku should do some plays with socially relevant themes was strongly opposed by those who controlled kabuki production, and consequently the advice was avoided and evaded as much as possible.

130. Precedents for Shōchiku's policy of "preserving kabuki" can be found in the war years. In 1941, Shōchiku's in-house Kabuki Investigation Committee selected certain kabuki classics to be "Citizens' Drama" worthy of government support. Full houses were assured by "concentrating on famous plays performed by all-star casts" (Tanaka 1964: 156). In 1943, When Japan's war situation worsened, Kawatake Shigetoshi proposed that troupes should be placed under "state control" (kokka kanri) to assure kabuki's protection and preservation (Kawatake 1943).

131. CI&E commissioned shingeki plays on current social topics (the elections, the constitution, labor, economic goals, and so forth) for production by the League of Touring Theatres (Idō Geinō Renmei), but never kabuki plays.

132. Following their stint in the Occupation, Earle Ernst, Faubion Bowers, and John Allyn Jr. continued their study of kabuki, becoming in the process articulate spokesmen for the art in the United States. Takeshi Teshima lives in Japan and Stanley Y. Kaizawa worked there for thirty years; both men retain close ties to kabuki actor friends. Alexander Calhoun, born in Shanghai and raised in Asia, came back to Tokyo to practice law for a number of years. John Boruff and Hal Keith returned to professional careers in theatre and television in the United States. Joseph Goldstein studied at the London School of Economics and later taught law at Yale University. After earning a degree in literature at Columbia University, Seymour Palestin was a teacher in New York City. The twin brothers Shirai Matsujirō and Ōtani Takejirō continued to run kabuki as their private fief until their deaths in 1951 and 1969.


Abbreviations Used in Citations

CIEWS     Civil Information and Education Section, "Weekly summary" report
CR     "Consolidated Report of CI&E Section Activities" or "Consoli- dated report for activities of this unit," Civil Information and Education Section, daily report [End Page 103]
MPTD     Motion Picture and Theatrical Division (Branch or Department), Civil Information and Education Section, "Weekly Report"
PPBD     Press, Pictorial, and Broadcasting Division, Civil Censorship Detachment, monthly operating report
PPBI     Press, Pictorial, and Broadcasting, District I, Civil Censorship Detachment, monthly operating report

Archival Sources

Bonner F. Fellers Collection, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, contains sixty boxes of letters, memoranda, and documents, in part pertaining to the Occupation. Brigadier General Fellers was General MacArthur's military secretary and, later, secretary-general, Allied Council for Japan.

National Archives, Suitland, MD, Modern Military History, Record Group 313, contains hundreds of boxes of memoranda, daily reports, monthly reports, and letters from the files of CCD and CI&E as well as several hundred English-language translations of kabuki plays submitted to CI&E by Shōchiku and Tōhō. Items can be located by their box number. Microfiche copies of Occupation documents can be viewed at the National Diet Library, Tokyo.

Shōchiku Ōtani Library, Tokyo, and Shōchiku Kansai Archives, Osaka, each retain several hundred Japanese-language kabuki production scripts submitted to CCD in Tokyo and Osaka, respectively, marked with CCD censorship action and returned to Shōchiku.

Shōchiku Script Collection, Waseda University Theatre Museum Library, contains Shōchiku's file copies of 220 English-language translations of kabuki plays intended for CCD censorship. Red marginal numbers indicate the order in which they were prepared.

Stanley Y. Kaizawa Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i, contains photographs, censorship documents, and 119 English-language translations of kabuki plays submitted to CCD, marked with censorship action, and kept as CCD file copies. Sergeant Kaizawa, later a War Department civilian, was the longest-tenured member of CCD, Theatre Sub-Section, Tokyo, and a former chief theatre censor.

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