This is in contrast to the vast majority of kabuki actors, who specialize in only playing women, heroes, villains, or other particular types of roles. Like most kabuki actors, Kikugorō went by a number of different stage names over the course of his career. He debuted as Onoe Eizaburō I, and spent time as Ōgawa Hashizō I, Onoe Baikō III, and Onoe Matsusuke II, before taking the name Onoe Kikugorō in 1815.
He also used the poetry names (haimyō) Baiju, Gachō, Sanchō, and Baikō.
Kikugorō made his debut on stage at the age of four in 1789, as Onoe Eizaburō I.
By 1810, he had already become acquainted with Tsuruya Nanboku IV, and had seen his first son"s stage debut. Kikugorō played the lead role of Oiwa, wife of Iemon, in the 1825 premiere of the now-famous ghost play Tōkaidō Yotsuya Kaidan.
The role was written specifically for him by his playwright friend. Among his many roles over his career were those of Ōboshi Yuranosuke, Kō no Moronao and Tonase in Kanadeon Chūshingura, Sugawara no Michizane in Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, and Shizuka Gozen and Itami Gonta in Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura.
His rivalry with fellow actor Ichikawa Danjūrō VII added to the excitement and appeal of their many performances together.
He entered retirement in September 1847, after a final performance at the Ichimura-za, in a program called "Onoe Baiju Ichidai Banashi" after him. In his retirement, he took on the name Kikuya Manbei, and ran a mochi shop called the Kiku-ya. Kikugorō returned to the stage, however, the following year, performing under the stage name Ōgawa Hashizō I, in Edo and on a short tour in Nagoya.
Settling in Osaka towards the end of 1848, he fell ill the following year and died at the Kakegawa station on the Tōkaidō post road.