Takezawa Troupe 1897 – 1900

1897 December – at London Olympia with Barnum & Bailey’s Circus from America. Takezawa, Nanasuki (umbrella posturing), Fukukita & Toku (high bamboo shoulder perch), Sampei (hand posing), Unoski (contortionist) Kinjiro (curious capers)

1898 May – Aston with Barnum & Bailey and then touring Britain to October

Japanese Acrobats.—Takezawa does a very remarkable feat. With his umbrella and fan—by the way, nearly all their tricks are done with fan in hand—he walks up a steeply inclined rope forwards or backwards, and slides down on his feet either way with a speed that no boy ever attained on the longest stair banister. He does it—and the remark applies to all the performances of every member of the troupe—with a grace and precision that are quite lacking from English exhibitions of acrobatic skill. The spectator wonders how it is done.

According to Takezawa, Japanese acrobats can do it by reason of the manner in which they clothe the feet. Their stockings are like mittens—the great toe like the thumb in one compartment by itself. Then they wear a species of pattens, in which there is still a separate compartment for the great toe. The result of this is to give the great toe freedom for independent movement, and the result of this freedom, again, is that it has developed into something of the nature of a prehensile organ like the thumb. Thus, when Takezawa walks up the inclined rope, he grasps it with his great toe, and in his lightning slide down , these great toes act as the flanges on the wheels of a railway carriage act, and give him his unerring direction.

The foot is a prominent feature in Japanese acrobats. With the feet they do the clever tricks our professors do with their hands, balance and spin umbrellas, barrels, tubs, screens— anything, in short, no matter how awkward. It is the prehensile power of the toes, just explained, that enables them to tread the slack wire with such ease and composure that the most nervous spectator can look on and admire.

The effect of Japanese acrobats upon ours is seen in what we call the Risley school. Risley was a traveller, and. having in his travels seen what the Japanese could do with their feet, introduced a modified form of foot-acrobating into this country about half a century ago. Instead of inanimate objects, such as umbrellas and barrels, the Risley acrobats balance and throw about boys and girls. But there is a great difference between our acrobats and the Japanese —even when they do similar things. Our acrobats seem to be always striving to ” show off ” in some way or other—chiefly displaying muscular power and agility. They are always alert, eager, straining ; and one usually associates a din and a racket with their exhibitions. They possess skill, no doubt, but their skill is more or less concealed by their robust and boisterous style. The blood runs high in their veins, and to follow their vigorous displays is often a severe dram upon the spectator’s nervous system. How different the Japanese ! Not an unnecessary movement —not even a facial expression. They are so quiet, too, so precise, so direct. They seem to be saying all the time : “It is nothing.” Yet it is the purest aerobating one can witness, and. instead of trying the spectator in any way, it refreshes him, as it is the nature of all true art to do – Cassell’s Magazine November 1898

1899 April – Barnum & Bailey in Bristol then touring Britain to September

1900 May – just arrived from Continent, Takezawa Imperial Troupe, 6 in number, magnificent costume, new to England. EB Smith/Harry Cradle. Tour Britain to October.