Jakuemon made his stage debut (hatsubutai) in 1927, at the age of seven, and after returning to kabuki following WWII, took part in the opening ceremonies for the National Theatre in 1966. He was named a Living National Treasure in 1991, and was, I am sure, present for countless major moments in the modern history of kabuki.
Right: Nakamura Jakuemon in 1954, in the film Uwasa no Onna.
I was fortunate to see the celebrated onnagata in January 2008, at Kabuki-za, where he performed alongside Nakamura Tomijûrô and Shikan in Kakuju Senzai, an auspicious New Year’s dance. His loss, I am sure, is strongly felt in the kabuki world.
Right: A scene from Chinsetsu Yumihari tsuki, from an illustrated book by Katsushika Hokusai.
The play is based on Takizawa Bakin’s 1807-1811 novel, based on historical myths already circulating in Japan since at least the 17th century; it tells the story of 12th century samurai warrior Minamoto no Tametomo who, after being exiled, finds his way to Okinawa, and ends up siring the first king of Okinawa.
Mishima (d. 1970) is a whole complicated phenomenon unto himself – a very different thing from Edo period (1603-1868) kabuki – and so not necessarily something I want to get involved in researching. But, as the only kabuki to take place in Okinawa, I’d be really really interested in seeing it. A shame I won’t be in Japan this May to see it.
An English translation of the play can be found on Google Books.