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German Photographer, Yoram Roth, Pays Tribute to Yukio Mishima’s Noh Opera Adaptation

A sullen geisha sitting alone at a station, Hanako waits, For years, she has waited every day in the same place, gripping a treasured fan in her hand.

Such an exquisite beauty, she was noticed by all. The world wondered how she could be so passively obsessive. The conclusion was that she must be mad.

What her spectators didn’t know was that the fan she held was the embodiment of a vow she had made to the man who possessed her heart. Hanako had promised to love Yoshio eternally. When he had to depart, he had given her a fan to represent their love, which would be requited upon his return. And so she had sworn that she would wait.

The story continues with Hanako being purchased from the geisha house by Jitsuko, a painter who is unsuccessful in profession and love. Jitsuko wants to live vicariously through Hanako’s radiance. When a newspaper article appears about the geisha who waits eternally at the station, Jitsuko flies into a rage and panics that her muse will be taken from her desperate grasp.

Such is the premise of Hanjo, a 15th century Noh opera, famously revised by Yukio Mishima in 1952. Hanjo is a tale about the universal human tendency to place the key to one’s own happiness in the hands of another. It is the tale’s realistic and unhappy end − thematically consistent with present genres − combined with the traditional use of multifaceted characters, that inspired German photographer, Yoram Roth. His photographic novel and exhibition pay homage to this work, which is both classic and currently relevant, in this era of post-narrative motifs, in which aesthetics and substance are too often abandoned.

The sets, most costumes and decorative stage-props were all created specifically for this ambitious project – one which intertwines the language of fashion photography with story elements to engage the viewer. The images require a certain level of personal interpretation and reference Meiji era, 19th century, hand-colored Japanese photography.

The photo book is available through Camera Work. Roth’s work has been exhibited throughout Europe and Asia, including at Tokyo Photo 2013. tj

The complete article can be found in Issue #274 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.

Written By:

Elena Encarnacion


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