Endo’s Kesho Mawashi Celebrates Kumadori

By now, y’all have discovered that I like to track sumo wrestlers’ ceremonial kesho mawashi. Yamaguchi Embroidery Company’s (山口刺繍加工点) Instagram account posts great pictures of some of the kesho mawashi they made. Before Harubasho, they posted pictures of makuuchi mainstay Endo’s eight kabuki-themed kesho mawashi. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see them all at Haru because of Endo’s mid-basho kyujo.

These mawashi are sponsored by Nagatanien, a company known in Japan for noodles, soups, and toppings and spices and its kabuki theme. All of them feature the same kumadori called Shibaraku, an iconic kabuki image, which is actually trademarked by Nagatanien and a Nagatanien pop-up restaurant. These mawashi also feature unique gold leaf detailing. Nothing but the best for the golden boy, I tell you what.

What’s kumadori (隈取), you ask? Well, I guess you may not have asked…I’m going to tell you, anyway. Actually, I’ll find out for myself…then report back.

<…50 days pass…>

OK, I’m back. You still here? Good! Now, where was I?

Oh, right. Kumadori. Let’s look at the term, first. You may already recognize the second kanji character, ‘tori’ (取), as in sekitori and torikumi, etc. That’s a well known character I’ve discussed before. But how many of you recognize the first character, (隈)? Here’s a hint:

Takekuma (武隈) Oyakata

That’s right! The “kuma” in Takekuma is the same as the first character in kumadori, as opposed to the character for bear — which I usually think of when I hear “Kuma”. It has to do with the boundary between light and dark. Clearly, this means that Takekuma oyakata will be the stable master who will usher young recruits to the dark side…but I digress..

That brings us to the meaning of kumadori, where the artisan accentuates the lines of the face, blurring the lines between light and dark to represent and exaggerate emotion. So, in other words, Kumadori is the makeup of kabuki, which is applied with a brush and then stylistically smoothed and blurred with the finger. The funny thing is, the word for “makeup” in Japanese is kesho (化粧), as in kesho mawashi. So, Endo’s kesho mawashi of kumadori kesho seems to be a glorious pun…which means I love them even more.

[Hmm… a kesho kesho mawashi. Does that mean, kesho x kesho mawashi = kesho2 mawashi?]

Sujiguma pattern

There are several different styles of make-up patterns in kabuki. The one that is featured on Endo’s mawashi is the sujiguma (すじぐま) pattern on Umeomaru (梅王丸) and in the famous play “Shibaraku” (暫) on Kamakura Gongoro.

In this case, Yamaguchi.Shishu said it is from Shibaraku which has been associated with Nagatanien. Shibaraku is a Nagatanien trademark. It even appears there is/has been a Shibaraku restaurant featuring miso soup and ochazuke.

Kumadori Styles

Occasionally, I find myself enjoying new experiences in Japan without really knowing what’s going on. If I were dropped into a Kabuki theater before today, I’d be totally lost. To prevent that from happening on my first visit to a Kabuki theater, I’ve decided to explore a bit more and share what I learn with you all. According to the Japan Arts Council’s “Kabuki for Beginners” website, there are a number of kabuki makeup themes, of which they have highlighted ten:

“Eyes Full of Shellfish”
  1. Mukimi-guma (むき身隈): This style’s name comes from the shape of the design, which resembles shucked shellfish. These characters symbolize youth, sexiness, and justice. You know, terms synonymous with scallop flesh and oysters and clams. Think Clint Eastwood in “Fist Full of Dollars.”
  2. Ippon-guma (一本隈): Uncontrollably violent and mischievous characters are portrayed with this style, noted by a dark line, looping vertically from the scalp on each side of the face, and a double chin.
  3. Nihon-guma (二本隈): This style is noted by two lines giving the impression of rising up. It has a blue beard and conveys a strong, dignified adult.
  4. Suji-guma (筋隈): This is the style used by Nagatanien’s kabuki-styled brand and featured on Endo’s mawashi. These characters are powerful heroes, full of anger, denoted by streaks of red across the face, a triangle on the chin (look at the Nagatanien one again), and at the corners of the mouth.
  5. Kagekiyo-no-guma (景清の隈): This “style” is named after the character, Kagekiyo. He’s a general of a defeated army, hunkered down at a shrine. Drama ensues. Physically, the upper half is red, like the Suji-guma we see above. But the lower half of the face is blue. As we see with in the next style, Kugeare, the blue conveys a coldness, often associated with villains. Kagekiyo is consumed with vengeance and tries to kill the deputy of the General who defeated him, as that deputy is coming to work on a construction project. Personally, I think this makes him less hero, more villain…and likely why he’s both?
  6. Kugeare (公家荒れ): As mentioned above, this form features blue streaks instead of the red ones we have seen above. That conveys a coldness, rather than the hot anger of the red — and is used by villains.
  7. Akattsura (赤っ面): Instead of a base of white, the base makeup here is red. These characters are usually the assistants of the villain characters
  8. Chaguma (茶隈): The base makeup here is a tea-brown, featuring heavily distorted facial features. These are bakemono and evil spirits, the yokai.
  9. Saruguma (猿隈): The comedic samurai Kokkei features “egg-plant” shaped eyes, evoking a figure-eight.
  10. Namazuguma (鯰隈): The “catfish” theme here is like Kagekiyo, with the red on the top and blue on the bottom. But the shape of the blue, making round arcs around the mouth, seems like the comedic shape like a catfish.
  11. Andy-guma (アンディー隈): A recent innovation featuring those seductive, just, and youthful shellfish eyes and characteristic comedic, clown-like orange mouth evoking golden fried-catfish. Lately, it has been portrayed with streaks of white on the chin, indicating advancing age Nordic heritage.

There’s a cool little tool here where you can make your own color schemes to use in these different patterns. I hope you all enjoy learning a bit about Endo’s kesho mawashi.