Benshi - Ichiro Kataoka

Ichiro Kataoka

Film :

Chasing Ichiro  -  A Silent Film Documentary


Ichiro Kataoka Performance

In the 1920s and early 1930s Japanese audiences often did not go to the theater to see a certain film, they went to enjoy the electrifying art of a benshi. Benshi were stars that commanded huge salaries for their masterful use of voice for both subtle effects and dramatic fireworks of emotion. Due to their immense popularity, the benshi were powerful figures in the early film industry that were partially responsible for delaying the introduction of sound film for several years. To the relief of the increasingly authoritarian government of the 1930s, which was unhappy with the benshi’s ability to co-determine the interpretation of the filmic text and potentially counteract censorship, most of the several thousand active benshi of the 1930s quickly disappeared with the adaptation of sound film. However, even after WWII, a small number of benshi continued to perform and to train apprentices. This included a benshi named Shunsui Matsuda. Matsuda’s students are now among the most prominent performing benshi, including the possibly most famous practicing benshi, Midori Sawato, who provided Ichiro Kataoka with his training and performed at BU in 2004.

Ichiro Kataoka graduated from the Nihon University College of Art and began training under Midori Sawato, in 2002. He is the most well-known benshi of his generation, a rising star that is also the most internationally active benshi, having given performances in countries such as Croatia, Germany and Australia. Performing a broad repertoire of styles, Mr. Kataoka is known for not only performing with the more “traditional” benshi accompaniment of a small ensemble or select Japanese instruments, but also has been open to working with experimental or electronic music. He has appeared as a benshi in various films and also works as a voice actor for animation and video games.


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