The Great Dragon Troupe 1867-1889


In Britain August 1867 – October 1867, May – July1869, then Paris, then returned to Britain in September 1869.

1871 Merged with Tannaker’s troupes – continued with Great Dragon name until 1878. Then reappeared in Britain in July-Sep 1889.

24-25 in troupe in USA/Britain in 1867. Combination of Baldwin & Gilbert troupe of 14 people and Lenton & Smith troupe of 11-12 people.

13 in troupe after return to Britain in September 1869

Proprietors initially Baldwin & Gilbert, then Edward Bert, then William Grant, then Tannaker Buhicrosan


1867 April – Baldwin & Gilbert obtain passports for 1 year for 14 people to perform in France via USA – Chojirō, Kinjirō, (Kagami) Godayū, Kosaburō, Kurakichi, (Ogawa)Torakichi senior, Fudekichi, Shintarō, (Hasegawa) Harukichi, (Hasegawa) Kanekichi, Kawaji Marukichi, Kanematsu, (Kondo)Torakichi junior, Moto.

1867 March? May? – Lenton & Smith section of 12 people leave Japan and tour Hong Kong, the Philippines, Java, Singapore, Penang, Calcutta – Isokichi, Mitarō, Katsujiro, Chiyokichi, Tomo, Bunjiro, Chonosuke, Genjiro, Ohatsu, Seijiro, Shichigoro (dies in Java), Yasuke. 1 year passports apart from Isokichi and Mitarō (1 month) although the contract with the troupe is for two years.

1867 May – JW Smith with Lenton & Smith troupe in Java and Singapore

1867 June – combined Great Dragon Troupe arrive in San Francisco on the Stanley (renamed from the Sanglier) – 24-25 members: Kawaji Marukichi (B&G), Kikumatsu (Kanematsu from B&G?), Jōshūya Matsunosuke, Torakichi senior (B&G), Torakichi junior (B&G) Kosaburō (B&G), Kinzō and Gorō (1 person, Kinjirō B&G?), Godaijirō (Godayū B&G), Isokichi (L&S), Oshin, Chojirō (B&G), Shintarō (B&G), Kurakichi (B&G), Kanekichi (B&G), Harukichi (B&G), Fudekichi (B&G), Bomji gore, Masakichi, Mitarō (L&S), Kars kee, Omotu (Tomo or Moto, L&S and B&G?), Ohatsu (L&S), Shingoro, Shinada Saboro, Ohta Gensaboro.

1867 July – combined troupe leave New York

1867 August – combined Great Dragon Troupe arrive in Dublin, tour Britain

1867 October – combined Great Dragon Troupe in Newcastle

1867 October – Baldwin & Gilbert section tour Hamburg, Europe

1867 October – 4 from Lenton & Smith Great Dragon Troupe in Penang, Malaysia – Genjirō, Chōnosuke, Katsujirō and Chiyokichi

1867 December – Lenton & Smith Great Dragon Troupe (11 or 12 – 8 men, 3 women, 10 year old boy) arrive in Melbourne, Australia: Isokichi, Mitarō, Genjirō/Gengero, Chōnosuke, Katsujirō, Chiyokichi, Omato/Tomo, Bungaro/Bunjiro, Ohatsu, Seijiro, Yasuke.

1868 Jan-Oct – Lenton & Smith Great Dragon Troupe tour Australia

1868 Oct – Lenton & Smith Great Dragon Troupe start tour of New Zealand

1869 Feb – Lenton & Smith Great Dragon Troupe end tour of New Zealand

1869 May – Great Dragon Troupe (mostly Baldwin & Gilbert group) in Portsmouth, then Brighton Concert Hall, Crystal Palace, London – Oide, Omotu(o), Ki-kou(n)-matsikee (Kikumatsu), Tora/Torra (Torakichi), Yarra/Tassa (Yasokichi), Professor Tjoze (Chojirō), Little Tommy, Haro-san (Harukichi), Godai (Godayū )

1869 May – claimed to be leaving Britain en route for Japan in June, having just concluded a successful continental tour, and that it was the troupe’s first time in Britain. Any resemblance to Risley’s Imperial Troupe which appeared in June 1868 is “a very curious instance of the similarity of Japanese physiognomy.”

1869 June-August – Paris, Cirque Napoleon

1869 September – Great Dragon Troupe return to London. Proprietor switched from Baldwin and Gilbert to Edward Bert of San Francisco. Same line up as May 1869.

1869 October – November – Hanley, Chester, Crewe, Congleton

1869 December – January 1870 Dublin

The Great Dragon Troupe in the late 1860s? Hasegawa Harukichi, Hasegawa Kanekichi, Kagami Godayū, Hotaka Kinjiro, Kondo Yasokichi, Kondo Fudekichi, Ogawa Mankichi, Ogawa Torakichi, Omoto, Oiye, Hotaka Joji? Director (Pernille Rudlin’s private collection)

1870 April – Hotaka Joji and Oie pickpocketing case in Belfast, Blekman acts as interpreter

1870 May – Glasgow (three years since last appearance) then tour of Scotland to November – William Grant is now proprietor and interpreter “has been resident many years in Japan”

1870 December – Newcastle “The Tycoon’s Great Dragon Troupe” 13 in number

Great Dragon Troupe in Perth, Scotland, November 1870, Dr Robert H Sayers Collection. Kondo Fudekichi (standing at the furthest right), Kondo Yasokichi second from left standing), Ogawa Torakichi seated in the middle dressed as a woman), Godayu seated with a fan? Hasegawa Harukichi (seated on right?), Hasegawa Kanekichi (one of the children)

1871 January – William Grant, proprietor/ investor in Great Dragon Troupe in 1870 is declared bankrupt

1871 January – Great Dragon Troupe in Britain have 5 week engagement with Hengler’s Circus in Glasgow

1871 February – advertisement in The Era that Hasingawa Harosan (Hasegawa Harukichi) and Tannaker Buhicrosan are co-proprietors of the Royal Tycoon and Dragon Troupe

1871 April – staying in a Luton boarding house with Kondo Yassokitchi aged 18, Kondo Torrokitchi aged 13, Kondo Fudekichi aged 35, Hasegawa Harukichi aged 38, Hasegawa Tomikichi aged 11, Kagami Godayu aged 27, Kagami Katsugoro aged 45, Ogawa Torakichi aged 18, Frederick Blekman and Omoto.

1871-1876 Tannaker continues to use the name of the Great Dragon Troupe, “Tycoon Dragon Japanese Troupe” but without Harosan after January 1873.

1872 January – William Grant, former proprietor of the Great Dragon Troupe tries to abscond to Yokohama as a chef on the Ocean Chief but is apprehended

1872 March – Blekman splits with Great Dragon Troupe/Tannaker

1872 April – advertised as 12 performers – 2 ladies, 3 boys, 1 girl, 6 men. Little Allright, Tommy the Wolf. Rope and wire walking, tub and door spinning, ladder balancing, Crystal Palace, only troupe that has appeared before Royal Family by Royal Command. Share or salary. Manager 122 Wardour Street.

The Wonderful Japanese Troupe—The advent of these performers in St. George’s Hall, which we merely mentioned in last week’s Leeds Times, have during their three evenings, ending on Monday night, been remarkably successful, not only in drawing excellent houses, but in the singular dexterity and accomplished ease with which they went through their juggling exercises, and acts in which, for nerve-shaking, daring and danger, it is next to impossible to surpass.

All the performers appeared in their national costume, and this gave a singular aspect to all their proceedings, which was again heightened by frequent change of dresses, all of them apparently rich and imposing. On their very first appearance in bending their bodies backwards into semi circles, and throwing somersaults each with a sword in his mouth, their highly finished skill and ease became at once conspicuous.

The balancing and twining of the paper screen, five feet long on his bare feet, by Harrosan, was dexterously done, whilst the long pole balancing on the shoulder by Godaion, while little “Allright,” with the agility of a monkey, ascended to the very top, about twenty feet in height, and there went through several of his gymnastic tricks, caused many to avert their eyes. The tub-trick also was marvellous, Harrosan on his back, balancing, twirling and tossing it about with his feet, while Allright mounted to the inside, after which, one by one it was elevated by seven small tubs, the boy still maintaining his position, and then climbing outside, performed some strange deeds, when he afterwards crept back to his den inside, and then all the small tubs were kicked away, and the boy still in the huge tub, which alone weighed 63lbs, again dropping steadily upon the soles of Harrosan’s feet. The total weight thus sustained by the ” legs ” of the man, was said to be 135lbs.

Still more wonderful than that we considered the remarkable double ladder feat, also by Harrosan and Allright, in which the weight sustained by the former was 196lbs., and all on the soles of his feet, the horizontal near the top of the vertical ladder being the principal theatre where the comparative child carried out his dangerous physical manipulations, to the tenor of many witnesses.

Another excellent scene, Harrosan and the boy being the principals, was the transformation scene, in which the boy ascends the papered screen in a gay dress, and having broken in through and crept behind, again appears before the audience in the skin of a wolf, with a strange switching tail. The juggling and umbrella spinning by Godison, the butterfly fanning, and the bamboo swinging by Fudie, and many other scenes and performances, were equally excellent.

But by far the most thrilling feats were those of Miss Ottorasan, who, with courage and confidence equal to that of Blondin above Niagara, appeared on a telegraph wire stretching from the north and south galleries, and on that, without balance pole, but with the indispensable fan in one hand and the Japanese umbrella in the other, she time after time walked steadily across, returning backwards, then knelt, laid down on her back, swung easily and on one foot, and then wheeled round, and walked away as if on terra firma. Her feat of walking up the slanting rope at an angle of 45 degrees, and stretching from the platform to cross trees high above the front of the west gallery, seemed equally as dangerous as the wire. She, however, ascended slowly and carefully, and having reached a considerable altitude, went sliding backwards at a stretch, and, on Monday evening, when close to the platform, her foot slipped, but she caught the rope with her extended arm and was saved from injury. On the whole these acts of the lady may be said to be almost courting danger and death for the sake of lucre and sensationalism, and in much too high a degree.

The manager, who said he was of English descent but – naturalised in that far-off land, gave each evening a humorous explanation of the manners, fashions and customs of the Japanese, as compared with those of the English We understand that the troupe will return in a short time to Bradford, when they will be certain of a hearty reception as in this town they have never been equalled, though several such companies have preceded them. (Leeds Times, 4th May 1872)

1872 May – 12 performers including Tommy the Wolf, Otakesan, Harrosan, Otorranese/Ottorasan, Torrakitchie, Otanny, Yasso, Godia/Godaiou, Tommysan, Bungrosan, Fuideson.

1872 June – December – clash between Tannaker’s Japanese Great Dragon Troupe and Siamese Great Dragon Troupe of juveniles.

1873 February – Godayu and Omoto’s son Little Godie dies in Sunderland.

Great Dragon Troupe, after it merged with Tannaker’s troupe, taken by William Vick of Ipswich. The woman in the middle is probably Omoto rather than Otake. Possibly Godayū, Kondo Torakichi, Ogawa Torakichi, Bunjirō/Bungaro, Kondō Yasokichi, Fudekichi and Harukichi? Taken in May 1873? From the Dr Robert H Sayers Collection.

1873 April – Tannaker’s Japanese, also known as the Great Dragon Troupe.

1873 September – advertisement in The Era ” JAPANESE (TANNAKER’S) LITTLE ALL RIGHT AND TOMMY THE WOLF TROUPE as well as Tannaker’s Great Dragon Troupe of Japanese. Tannaker has only two troupes of real Japanese in this country. Claims both names are registered and that Tannaker’s New Entertainment “will shortly arrive”

1874 February – December – Great Dragon Troupe touring England

1875 January – February – Touring England

1875 March – May – Great Dragon Troupe touring Ireland

1875 October – November – Great Dragon Troupe touring Britain

1876 September – Tannaker advertises “Great Dragon Troupe” as 6 males and females, alongside the Great Jackitschy Troupe, 12 in number, Tannaker’s Little All Right and Tommy the Wolf Troupe 8 in number, Tannaker’s Japanese New Entertainment

1877 August – October – Great Dragon Troupe touring Sweden (Tannaker)

1877 December – 1878 April – The Great Dragon Troupe now performing on the Continent (advertisement in The Era, from Tannaker’s agent)

1889 July – August – Tannaker’s Great Dragon Troupe of Japanese at the Alexandra Palace. Tamamoto Chiyokechie (tight rope walker), Torra the Great feet balancer, Little All Right, Misuhara Gintarro block manipulator

1889 September – Woolwich – Great Dragon Troupe. Last mention of the troupe in the British press.