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A lovely picture! The theater is amazing.
Tomitake-tei (富竹亭, Tomitake Hall) on Bashamichi-dori, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, a stone’s throw from Yoshidabashi Bridge. The theater, which was active through 1912 (Taisho 1), was owned by Takejiro Takeuchi (竹内竹次郎), who ran three other yose theaters in Yokohama.
Tomitake-tei opened in December 1878 (Meiji 11). One of the theater’s first performers included the now largely forgotten Australian born rakugo story teller and kabuki actor Henry James Black (1858-1923).
Black performed as Kairakutei Black (快楽亭ブラック), but was also known as Ishii Black (石井貎刺屈). His father was John Reddie Black (1826-1880), publisher of several newspapers in Japan, among which The Far East and the Japan Gazette.
During the 1880s and 1890s, rakugo was a catalyst in bringing modernity to the Japanese masses, and Black did much to disperse concepts of modernization.
However, with modernization becoming synonymous with Westernization, Black also warned that Japan might loose the unique facets of its culture. As a sample he gave the reforms then occurring in Japanese theater:
Theatre forms in my country England, and in Japan, are fairly different. Above all, there are gentlemen such as Fukuchi Genichiro doing their utmost to reform the theatre. One of the issues is whether it is better to reform by adopting the Western approach, or whether the Japanese theatre is better reformed while retaining its uniqueness entirely.1
Perhaps Japanese theater was the last thing that Black needed to worry about. Although much Japanese culture has been lost forever, most modern audiences will undoubtedly say that at least Japanese theater has managed to maintain its uniqueness.
1 McArthur, Ian Douglas (2002). Mediating Modernity — Henry Black and narrated hybridity in Meiji Japan, 219.