Kondo and Hanako 1923 – 1940

Totaro Kondo b 1889 in Japan

Kondo started as a contortionist, aged 6, in Japan.

Toured Siberia and Manchuria as a child

1904-5 Kondo’s father Chokichi dies in the Russo-Japanese war

1917 Kondo comes to England

1919 with a troupe in Glasgow

1921 April – marries Ethel Grant, aged 25, daughter of William Grant, a joiner, and also an artist, in Manchester. Witness is Seishu Watanabe, another music hall artist – possibly of the Fukushima Troupe.

1923 April – Royal Kondo and Hanako – Paisley

Perform as “smart Japanese speciality act through to 1927


NOT EVEN A HEADACHE TO-DAY. Japanese Acrobat Who Had Awkward Fall on the Stage Last Night. A dapper little man. with thick black hair dark, eves, had not even the suspicion of a headache to-day, despite the fact that last night he narrowly escaped breaking his neck on the stage of the Leeds Hippodrome.

He is Kondo, a Japanese acrobat and juggler, who cannot count the times he has been knocked unconscious through doing tricks. One of Kondo’s feats is a pole trick. Last night he climbed two poles, gripping with each hand and the toes of a foot, and after moving about on the stage with them, though were walking on stilts, he did a somersault at a height of 12ft. Somehow or other, in alighting on the stage, he miscalculated the drop and fell heavily on his head.

Kondo lay still: the curtain fell immediately but an ambulance man soon restored him consciousness.

“Nine Lives” of a Cat

This remarkable little man, weighing only eight stones and standing 4 feet 10 inches, seems to be possessed of more than the proverbial nine lives of a cat.

It is true that in childhood he was taught the art of falling lightly as a cat and the right way up but the best acrobats miscalculate at times. Apparently Kondo holds the view that a periodic knock on the head the kind of blow that would put many a six foot man to sleep forever is merely a pleasant reminder to acrobats that they must take care, and be a trifle more wary.

“Over confidence is not good for anybody,” said Kondo, smilingly, in his dressing room at the theatre to-day. “An occasional knock on the head does no harm; but you must be vere, vere  careful, that knock get too hard.”

By now Kondo should have a thick skull, thoroughly hardened to knocks of this kind, because he gave a “Yorkshire Evening Post” reporter a few details of the occasions when he has been in a sublime state of unconsciousness.

“About 13 years’  ago in Glasgow I was doing the same feat as at the theatre last night” said Kondo. cheerfully. “I fell very badly then, and dislocated my right thumb. I had to cancel a three weeks engagement.”

Kondo talked happily of an occasion when, in jumping and somersaulting from one man’s shoulder another, he fell his head. That meant four hours sof ound, blissful slumber, during which the doctors did their best awaken Kondo.

” Vere, vere much worse than last night,” said Kondo. ” That was a bad fall.”

A hard school

Kondo was six years old when he took to acrobatics in Japan. He was trained as a contortionist. For several years he toured Siberia and Manchuria with a small touring company, and he has many recollections of long journeys by sleigh over the snowy wastes of Siberia. He was trained in a heard school.

During the Russo-Japanese war, in which his father was killed, he was stranded, without money.

He has spent the past 15 years in England, and has grown to like the English people. Still his ideal diet is essentially Japanese. Here is his recipe for a good dinner. ½ lb of rice, 1/4lb of meat, a few vegetables, with Japanese sauce.

Yorkshire Evening Post 18 Feb 1932

1933 April – Kondo the Japanese – standing on his head he drinks a glass of wine; lying on his back, with feet in the air, he tosses a closed sunshade on to his toes, opens it, juggles with it, and closes it again: taking two ten or eleven feet poles he climbs up them and then walks around the stage on these improvised and risky looking stilts. Moreover every feat is performed with perfect accuracy and ease.

1934 Kondo and Hanako Japanese duo through to 1940 “Eastern speciality”

1939 Totaro and Ethel Kondo living in Manchester.

1940 May – last appearance as Kondo and Hanako at Cheltenham opera house.