Monkey King

Ishiyama Yuta: Emergence of Japanese Monkey King

Ishiyama Yuta has become the one and only foreign professional actor in Peking opera circle in China and his most frequent role is monkey king. He has not only put on performance across China, but also worked to promote performance cooperation between China and Japan.

Photos by Zhou Xiaogeng. Some photos provided by Ishiyama Yuta, Kimura Takeshi & Wu Min

By Cheng Ye
本刊记者 程也
Japanese Peking opera actor Ishiyama Yuta was preparing for his stage performance at the dressing room of the opera theatre early in the morning. After drawing colored paints on his face, he looked into the mirror and turned his head suddenly. His serious expression disappeared immediately, only leaving monkey king winking and making signal with the lips.

Monkey King
Ishiyama yuta has never loosened in exercise and is always lost in thought because weighing and considering figure when having a rest.

Ishiyama Yuta’s affinity with monkey king shall be traced back to the time when he attended the primary school. It’s an accidental meeting. He was immediately attracted and impressed by the monkey king on the TV with his golden cudgel brandished up and down. He hadn’t seen the modeling of a monkey as such in Japan. He goggled at the monkey king and was totally fascinated with the painted face, bright and colorful costume typical of Chinese Peking opera. Since then, he has become an ardent audience once Peking opera was staged and even aspired to “act the monkey king”.

Monkey King
Despite of the complicated and long makeup process, Ishiyama yuta always treats it meticulously. Before entering on the stage, he sits quietly at the backstage for several minutes to recall the story he has known thoroughly.

He came to Beijing alone and was admitted by the high school affiliated to the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts at the age of 17 and then studied the regular college course at the Academy, becoming a Japanese people who can speak fluent mandarin with rich Beijing dialect. He has lived a lonely and tough life in exercising voice exercise, spoken parts and basic skills of figure, but he hasn’t given up and his family in Japan has supported and encouraged him for long.

Monkey King
Although he can play many military comedians, the “monkey king” has been his most favorite figure.

At this point, he has become the one and only foreign professional actor in Peking opera circle in China and his most frequent role is monkey king. “How many times have I performed the monkey king? I haven’t figured it out. For me, every performance is unique and solely. There are many masters who perform well the monkey king, benefiting me a lot,” said Ishiyama Yuta. He has not only put on performance across China, but also worked to promote performance cooperation between China and Japan.

Monkey King
The days when he studied in Beijing are important in Ishiyama Yuta’s life experience.

And this year, thanks to his bridging role, a joint performance held by Japan Beijing Opera Study Society and China National Peking Opera Company in Tokyo witnessed a rarely high attendance and was closely followed by local media. “I made some adjustments to the performance based on the different angles of appreciation by Chinese and Japanese audiences. Wherever I put on performance, I hope to act the most outstanding monkey king.”

Monkey King
China’s famous Peking Opera artist Liu Xizhong, is the leading teacher of Ishiyama Yuta. Every time they meet, they compare notes with each other.

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pdfPublished in Confucius Institute Magazine
Magazine 22. Volume 5. September 2012.
View/Download the print issue in PDF

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