(Mai Yoshikawa’s article appeared in the Japan Times, 9/5.)

While many junior high school boys spent their summer vacations on the beach in their swimwear, Ichikawa Fukutaro III got very little fun in the sun, spending much of his day in a kimono in the backstage dressing room of a kabuki theater.

But he feels his role as apprentice to one of the most popular and talented kabuki actors alive today is such a privilege that having classmates to hang out with is not at the top of his agenda.

“I don’t have close friends at school but that’s OK. It’s always been that way,” Fukutaro says.

The well-mannered 15-year-old has set out on a unique career path, training under Japanese kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo and hoping one day to shoot into the limelight and take center stage himself.

But for now, he is happy to take a back seat to Ebizo, dubbed the “Prince of Kabuki” in Japan, who is his idol as well as a father figure.

Fukutaro made his debut in the entertainment industry as a kindergartner appearing in TV programs and commercials, unaware at the time that the public exposure he gained would separate him from his peers and land him in the glamorous world of kabuki, a traditional form of stage drama with a 400-year history.

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