Jump to: navigation, search

Katsutarō (Showa)

Geisha katsutarou showa 01.jpg
Romaji Kouta Katsutarō
Kanji 小唄勝太郎
Kana こうた かつたろう
City Tokyo
District Yoshicho
Okiya  ?
Year Born 1904 (Meiji 37)
Audio Coming Soon
Kamon {{{9}}}

Commonly referred to when discussing Ichimaru, as they were rival vocalists in the 1930s. She was a practicing geisha from approximately 1925-1933.

Real name: Shinno Katsu (眞野かつ)
AKA: Yoshicho Katsutarō (萱町勝太郎)
Born on: November 6, 1904 (Meiji 37); died June 21, 1974.


Katsutarō was born in Niigata Prefecture in Nakakanbaragun's Nutari block, which is presently part of Niigata City's Chuuou Ward. From childhood, she worked as a helper in a relative's restaurant, where she became acquainted with kouta. By the time she was 15, she was basically working like a geisha in the establishment. Her voice was high-pitched and cheery.

She had a fondness for kiyomoto style performance and wanted to become a master, so at the end of the Taisho Period (around 1925), she moved to Tokyo. She became a member of Yoshicho and changed her name to Katsutarō. The recording industry was booming, and a geisha from the same hanamachi, Fumikichi, had several big hits with Odeon Records. Despite Katsutarō's beautiful voice, she strained it and Odeon didn't sign her. In 1931, Katsutarō was signed by Victor Records and made her debut.

In 1932, she had several hits. That same year, on New Year's Eve, composer Sasaki Shunnichi composed 島の娘 (Daughter of the Island) and had Katsutarō record it. It launched in 1933, and sold 350,000 copies in 3 months, which was unprecedented success. At the height of her popularity, she retired from being a geisha to focus on her singing career. In 1934, she received the name Kouta Katsutarō at an open exhibition at Kabukiza in Tokyo. After the name change, she released more music, and became an even bigger star. Around the same time, another geisha singer, Ichimaru, was also very popular, leading to the music era around 1935 being called the 勝市時代 (Katsu-Ichi Jidai [era]), in which the two shared equal popularity and rivaled each other in both kimono and appearance fees. Meanwhile, songwriter Mikihiko Nagata dubbed them "Emotional Katsutarō and Intellectual Ichimaru".[1] Katsutarō became known for minyo style songs, popular at Obon festivals.

In 1936 (Showa 11), she starred in a movie called "Katsutarō's Lullaby". She was also involved in performing for the Japanese military and visited the front lines and did sympathy calls as the recording career was put on hold because of the war. In 1938 she met military physician Shinno Ryouichi (眞野遼一), and the two became a couple. They married in 1949.

In 1946, she transferred record labels, from Victor Records to Columbia, and in 1948 to Teichiku Records. In the post-war period, she, along with other artists, went as friendship ambassadors to Hawaii, Los Angeles, and San Fransisco, in addition to Brazil, where she received warm welcomes from the local citizens of Japanese descent.

She transferred to Toshiba Recording Company in 1961, where she continued to record mostly minyō (folk songs). In 1965, the current music boom went bust, and she regularly appeared on Tokyo12Channel's "Nostalgic Voices" (なつかしの歌声) until just before her death. In her later years, for her devotion and dedication to her art and service, she received several awards. Victor Recordings wanted to re-record her first two hits, but she was diagnosed with and died from lung cancer in 1974 at the age of 69.


  • Rivalry with Ichimaru, another geisha-singer signed by the same record label at the same time
  • Married Shinno Ryouichi (眞野遼一) in 1949


  • 1931 - signed to Victor Records as a singer in 1931
  • 1933 - her song, Daughter of the Island, sold an unprecedented 350,000 copies in 3 months
  • 1971 - received 紫綬褒章 (Shijyu Hōshō) Imperial Order of the Purple Ribbon
  • 1974 - received 宝冠章 (Hōkanshō) Orders of the Sacred Crown


Monument photo Copyright Siriusplot

On the 100 year anniversary of her birth, a stone memorial consisting of a statue with an engraved stone was erected in her honour at her birthplace in Chuuou Ward in Niigata City. As well, a local Nutari butcher's shop sells a "Katsutarō Sandwhich", a variation of a hamburger (bun, roast pork cutlet, cabbage). It is just one way for the locals to carry on her name. [Note that fried cutlets are called "katsu" in Japan.]

Arts & Media


  • 1932:『島の娘』
  • 1933:『大島おけさ』,『東京音頭』共唱:三島一声,『佐渡を想えば』
  • 1934:『さくら音頭』共唱:三島一声、徳山璉,『祗園囃子』
  • 1941:『瑞穂踊り』共唱:鈴木正夫、市丸、一色皓一郎、山本麗子
  • 1942:『明日はお立ちか』
  • 『大島情話』
  • 『佐渡おけさ』


  • 1936: 『勝太郎子守唄』

References in Media

In Print

  • The Kimono of the Geisha-Diva Ichimaru, by Barry Till, Michiko Warkentyne, and Judith Pratt. ISBN:0764935135.
  • Arts of Asia, May-June 2003, Vol 33, No 3. p56. Article written by Barry Till, Michiko Warkentyne, and Judith Pratt.

Select Images

None yet.

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

  • None Currently


  • The Kimono of the Geisha-Diva Ichimaru, by Barry Till, Michiko Warkentyne, and Judith Pratt. ISBN:0764935135.
  • Arts of Asia, May-June 2003, Vol 33, No 3. p56. Article written by Barry Till, Michiko Warkentyne, and Judith Pratt.
  1. Tokyo-Edo Radio Project, Prof. Sepp Linhart
  2. Wikipedia (jp)
  3. Wikipedia (jp)

Image Credits

  • Photo of the memorial monument Copyright Siriusplot.