Tomio Umezawa (born November 9, 1950) is an entertainer who represents part of the face of Japanese entertainment.
Raised in a “TAISHUU-ENGEKI” household, he started participating in actual stage performances at the age of 15.
In his early 20s, “ONNAGATA” dance shows?in which male actors perform in the roles of female characters?were becoming popular, and Umezawa was catapulted into stardom through these performances.
He made his singing debut in 1983 with the hit song “Yumeshibai.”
In addition to appearing in Japan’s best-known music show, “KOUHAKU UTAGASSEN(#1),” he has also received a wide variety of music awards.
Currently, in addition to over 100 stage appearances per year as the director of the Tomio Umezawa Theater Company, he also performs in a variety of roles as a movie and television actor. He is also very popular for his witty conversational style and unique character, which has also led, outside of the world of drama, to a plethora of performances on TV variety shows.
Born as the fifth son (out of eight children) to father Kiyoshi Umezawa, a HANAGATA-YAKUSHA(#2) active in the golden age of TAISHUU-ENGEKI, and mother Ryuchiyo Takezawa, a MUSUME-KABUKI(#3) actress, he first set foot on the stage at the age of one year and 7 months, participating in his first real performance at the age of 15 as a member of the “Takeo Umezawa Theater Company,” directed by his elder brother Takeo. In 2012, he inherited the group from his brother, becoming its director.
Moving into larger and larger-scale projects, he took on a wide variety of roles, becoming a fascinating ONNAGATA, a script writer, a director and a choreographer.
Of these varied roles, the most famous ability of Tomio Umezawa is as an “ONNAGATA.”
His ability to bring out an unimaginably bewitching beauty from the normal “fierce look” is that of a true virtuoso.
In addition to his transformation through makeup, his stance and movement and the beauty of SHOSA is more than worth a trip to the theater to witness.
It was in 1982 that TAISHUU-ENGEKI star Tomio Umezawa entered the world of music.
“Yumeshibai,” with music and lyrics written by Kei Ogura, was a major hit. With sales of 30,000 copies giving a song “hit status” at the time in Japan, the tune sold an incredible 480,000 copies. He appeared on “34th KOUHAKU UTAGASSEN” in 1983 with the same song, expanding his status as a top star to the music industry. A complete contrast to his fascinating appearance as an ONNAGATA, his deep voice is full of masculine charm.
He also participated as a vocalist in “Hana wa Saku” (“Flowers Will Bloom”) the NHK song released in 2012 to provide encouragement to those struggling after the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
In recent years, he has also been active as a commentator on several variety shows.
The stubborn father-like character, with his outspoken invective and dislike of twisted situations, has become a true fixture of the living room.
He is also a top-notch cook, having been tasked with cooking for his theater company as a youngster and also having trained at a sushi shop.
Recently, he has begun to show his cooking skills on TV, and this ability of his is a recent hot topic.
Knowing by heart all kinds of recipes by heart, from Japanese to Chinese and even Italian, he has an amazing ability to quickly come up with a dish even when restricted to certain ingredients. He has even published a collection of recipes in the past.
When speaking of traditional Japanese theater, the first thing that comes to mind to most is surely “KABUKI.”
It is said that TAISHUU-ENGEKI was derived from kabuki. While they share the same origins, TAISHUU-ENGEKI evolved into a form of entertainment for the common people.
Japanese theater began with the performance of kabuki by IZUMO no OKUNI during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (at the end of the 16th century).
During the Edo Period (1603-1868), kabuki became popular as a form of “popular theater” to provide entertainment to the people, but entering the Meiji Era (1868-1912), as Japan began to deepen its relationships with foreign countries, kabuki came to be seen as a type of “Japanese drama,” playing a role in representing Japanese culture to the rest of the world and with more of an emphasis on tradition and form.
The price of admission to kabuki performances increased, and kabuki ceased to be accessible to the common people.
It was against this background that travelling theater groups were born, with the goal of bringing cheaper and more interesting entertainment to the masses. Rather than upper-class, specialized kabuki, these groups focused on delivering fun, easy-to-understand performances featuring elements such as comedy, romance and flashy sword fighting, gaining great popularity all over the country.
In addition, song and dance shows had their beginning as free shows during play intermissions starting in the Showa Period (1926-1989).
The “spirit of service” in these performances, always working to keep the audience entertained, is one of the charms of TAISHUU-ENGEKI.
Derived from KABUKI and adapted through the ages while always striving to provide audiences with real entertainment, TAISHUU-ENGEKI is “theater for the masses,” a precious cultural element that has provided entertainment for the common people of Japan.