Henry Black

On Stage in Meiji Japan

By Ian McArthur

Unique among foreigners in 19th-century Japan, Australian-born professional storyteller (rakugoka) Henry Black (1858-1923) enthralled audiences with his adaptations of novels by Charles Dickens, Mary Braddon, and Fortune de Boisgobey. These tales, later produced as books, brought notions of European modernity to many ordinary Japanese. Henry Black also acted kabuki roles, managed an orchestra, performed magic and hypnotism, lived with his Japanese male lover, drank heavily, and practiced tea ceremonies. His voice was recorded for the London Gramophone Company on the first disc-shaped recordings made in Japan. In the 1870s, Black joined the pro-democracy movement, promoting equal rights and an elected assembly. His later affiliation with the San'yu guild of storytellers, under the professional name of Kairakutei Burakku, enabled him to promote the movement's aims through his stories. He became a naturalized Japanese and was shunned by his own family. This is the first full-length English-language account of Henry Black. Translating Black's narrated adaptations and drawing on newspapers and diary entries, author Ian McArthur demonstrates Black's individual contribution to the modernization of Meiji-era (1868-1912) Japan.*** "McArthur paints a portrait of a complex period in history and a complex man who was truly 'a Japanese of European descent.' Highly recommended." -- Choice, Vol. 51, No. 8, April 2014 *** "Henry Black's life is colorful enough to inspire a rollicking work of historical fiction, and maybe it will someday - with thanks, no doubt, to this detailed survey, the first in English of an extraordinary life."-- The Japan Times/Culture, January 2014 *** "...elegantly written, absorbing text. ...a wealth of information.... McArthur gives a very interesting, detailed account on the role of rakugo in the creation of modern Japanese literature." -- Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia, Vol. 46, 2014 (Series: Monash Asia Series) [Subject: Biography, Asian Studies, Japanese Studies, Literary Criticism, History]~

286 pages

Publication Date: 7/1/2013
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9781921867507