Tokyo theatres in November

It happened. A whole month has passed without me posting any reviews on this blog 😐 The good side of all this is that I did see some very good performances in October – it is only the lack of time that didn’t allow me to write about them. And the other good side (!) is that there will definitely come a time for me to post those reviews. I promise it will be worth your while reading them, so stay tuned 🙂

In the meantime let’s see what the Tokyo stages have in store for November.

Festival/Tokyo, which is THE theatre event of the second half of this year, will be starting on November 9th with a program that promises to keep audiences enraptured. The theme of this year’s edition is “Travels in narratives”, giving us the opportunity to think on stories, on what they mean to us, how they change in time and how they transform us, helping us grow. Any place in the world has stories connected to it and theatre is one medium by which those stories can come to the surface. How will the city look like after its stories will be released from the veil of forgetfulness and will take over the quotidian for some time? It’s just a guess, but we will probably witness a transfiguration of the city through the stories that sleep underneath it – this is what I would call the highlight of this year’s Festival/Tokyo.


For a selection of works that I recommend heartily, please refer to this article on F/T 2013 that I wrote previously. Personally, I’m looking forward not only to the performances themselves, but also to the open events, symposia and talk events, which give us the rare opportunity to hear the artists talk about their works. In other words, I’m seriously considering moving my headquarters to Ikebukuro this month. Too bad that the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre doesn’t allow sleeping in, ha ha ha… 🙂

From the last performances of BeSeTo Festival, which is still going on until November 10th, “Forge/Natsume Sōseki” 『偽造/夏目漱石』of theatre company Jūryoku/Note 重力/Note is worth checking out. Jūryoku/Note’s trademark is the original adaptation for the stage of texts written by established authors. In the past they dealt with Terayama Shūji’s texts in “My job – Terayama Shūji (1935-1983/1983-2012)” or with Elfriede Jelinek’s “Cloud.House.”, a work presented at Festival/Tokyo last year. This time they are turning to a classical figure of Japanese literature, Natsume Sōseki. It will be interesting to see how director Kashima Nobusuke’s special concern towards the text collaborates with the company’s latest experiments with theatrical space in order to project the figure of Natsume Sōseki into our times. “Forge/Natsume Sōseki” will be running from November 4th through 10th at Atelier Shunpusha.

As far as the noh stage is concerned, there will be a rare performance of Ikari kazuki 『碇潜』by the noh study association Tessenkai 銕仙会 at Hōshō nōgaku-dō on November 8th. Ikari kazuki is a play inspired by The Tale of the Heike, focusing on the battle at Dan no ura, where many warriors from both sides, the Taira and the Minamoto clans, have lost their lives. In order to reenact the battle, three boats will be brought on the stage – a rare sight in the case of noh, whose restrained use of props is well known.  A performance of noh Makiginu 『巻絹』and kyōgen Kane no ne 『鐘の音』are also in the program.

Whatever your choice, it is my hope that you’ll enjoy the festive atmosphere of this month with some good theatre 🙂


7 thoughts on “Tokyo theatres in November

  1. Great!:D I’m totally looking forward for your opinion about the performances!:D:D:D
    Keep up with awesome blog work!^-^v greetings~~~!

      • I really I appreciate your work! I graduated theater studies and now I started japanese studies but my japanese is still basic so I’m extremely happy when I can read about contemporary japanese theater in english! I’ve discovered this blog a few days ago and I have to say that it is written fantastically and clearly and gives a reader a good idea of performances! Honestly thank you!:):):)

        I’m a huge fan of Okada Toshiki’s works so thank you as well for your “reports” about performances!:D:D:D
        This year’s F/T’s programme seems so intense and interesting!!! I would be incredibly excited if I could attend it!!:)
        I wish a lot that I could join Takayama’s tour performances in the future. I’ve been following his works for some time and I have to admit he’s totally involving. Because of the style of his performances, Port B is sometimes compared to Rimini Protokoll, if you were so kind to tell your opinion about accuracy of this parallel? I read the interview that Kyoko Iwaki made with Takayama in “Tokyo Theater Today” and he seemed to cut off from such comparasions but what do you think as a viewer who knows both these “gekidan”?
        I can’t wait for Rimini Protokoll’s “Tokyo 100%” review as well!^^ Last month my friend took part in this project in my country (I’m from Poland) and it seemed very interesting, I wonder if idea in Tokyo had some differences!
        Latest Jelinek collaboration with Japanese theater is also very interesting.
        Her works about Fukushima case must give lots food for thought. I wonder if there was any particular reason that she involved in writing about it? Has she ever had some connections with Japanese theater? Maybe you know something about it and would be so kind to share your thoughts?

        Once again thank you very much for your work! If you would be so kind to answer my questions I would be very grateful! Unfortunately it’s not so common to write about contemporary japanese theater so your thoughts mean a lot for me!:)

        Best regards!:)

      • Wow, thank you so much for your thoughts! I’m very happy to know that these blog entries are of some use. Your words are very encouraging. Thank you very much!

        It’s great to know that you got interested in Japanese theatre coming from theatre studies. Okada Toshiki’s work is indeed interesting, embracing new directions with each and every performance.

        Let me try to answer your questions. I’m not surprised by the comparison between Port B and Rimini Protokoll. However, what they have in common is the only the “documentary” quality of their performances. They work with real people, interviewing them and trying to render real, living facts as accurately as possible in a theatrical setting.
        In spite of Takayama’s closeness to the German speaking theatre, I don’t think there is a direct connection between them. I attended some post-perfromance talks with him and was impressed by his genuine attachment to “reality”, to facts – he really thinks into the depth of things and doesn’t seem to feel the need of fiction in his works.

        Documentary theatre is actually in vogue right now in Japan. From what I’ve seen until now what comes in mind right away is for example the work of Murakawa Takuya – a young and very promising artist. His “Zeitgeber” brought some fresh air on the contemporary stage. I wrote a review on his work “words” last year in F/T:
        Also last year there was the performance by Marebito no kai (review here: ), which also had a documentary character.

        I will see Rimini’s “Tokyo 100%” on November 29th and will definitely report on it on this blog. I also hope to attend Port B’s tour performance.

        As what regards Jelinek’s work, her plays dealing with the nuclear disaster really impressed the Japanese artists and audiences. From what I’ve read on her blog (her original scripts can be found there), her concern is with the nuclear disaster itself, with the damage that nuclear power plants create to the people and the environment. Such a powerful reaction to Fukushima coming from someone living outside Japan really gave food for thought to the Japanese, especially because there was nothing compared to it in Japan. She was invited here at last year’s F/T, but I don’t think she has any other deeper connections to Japanese theatre. Her plays are actually open enough to be staged anywhere in the world (they have actually been performed in Germany), so their reach is rather universal, but, due to the circumstances at Fukushima, Japanese directors deal with them more fondly than others, I guess.

        I hope my answers are of any help. Please do let me know if there are performances you are especially interested in – I’ll be more than happy to report on them 🙂
        I’m looking forward to more thought exchanges on theatre with you.

  2. Oh, I’m so sorry for late reply!!!

    Yes, this blog is very useful!!!!:) I’m truly glad I found it!:):):):) Thank you as well for the answers!! Your really helped me a lot and broadened my mind:)

    About Takayama – yes excactly. Unfortunately I have only read about his performances but from the reviews and interviews it seems that he chose his own way of creating art and although he spent some time in Germany observing and researching their scene he didn’t want to continue creating theater in that way. Hmm if he’s into “reality” of facts and Port B’s texts are often based on authentic words spoken maybe it could be said that his works are made in verbatim style of theater??? What do you think?
    Thank you for the links!!! Very intersting texts and works as well. I think the tendency in East Europe in kind of similiar right now? I guess first was the inspiration from Moscow’s Theater Doc and it infected lots of theater groups. Involved artists who are into social projects and are trying to engage the audience into problems often try documentary style. Sometimes the effects are very intersting indeed!:)

    Thank you for the explanation on Jelinek. I made a little research and discovered that at Wien Festival Takayama made a “tour” inside of Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant. The history of this plant was very interesting because the construction of it was prevented by the people who lived there and chose in referendum that it should not be opened. I guess you have known about that before but it makes an interesting line between Jelinek (who is Austrian) herself and Takayama. Here are his words on the project: In some article there was said as well that the “Zwentendorf case” inspired Takayama to make a “Referendum Project” in 2011. Back then he thought: “hmm what would happen if we made a referendum in Japan?” and that’s how the project was born.

    Actually I’m interested in all performances that are created in Japan now so please just keep on with hard but amazing work with the blog!^^
    I’m particulary interested in Okada and Takayama, but also for instance in Daisuke Miura’s or Shu Matsui’s works. Thoughts on Hideto Iwai’s works would be appreciated as well!:) He seems an interesting person. After all he used to live as hikikomori fo 4 years and now turned his experience into theater. I’m curious about his works.

    Btw I’m going to Tokyo in forthcoming February and of course I’m looking forward to go to the theater, would you be so kind to recommend me any performances or theater events? Clues and guides would be welcomed as well!!! Thank you in advance!^^

    • I’m very sorry for replying so late…
      Thank you so much for your response and the links. The exchange between Japanese and European artists is really interesting to follow.

      I’m also very grateful that you mentioned the directors you are interested in. I saw a work by Matsui Shu recently (for the first time, actually!) – it was indeed very intriguing. I plan to write about it on this blog during the winter holidays!

      It’s nice to know you’ll be here in February. I’ll do some research and see if I can be of any help with some hints 🙂 I’m already looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the performances you’ll see in Tokyo.

    • Hello, Alice. I hope the preparations for your trip to Japan are going well.
      I’m back with some suggestions on theatre 🙂 I’m sorry it took so long.
      If you will be in the Tokyo area in February, it will be worth going to Yokohama for some of the TPAM stages:
      I would definitely recommend the performances of mum&gypsy, momonga complex, Saito Kino, the Kitamari version of “Re/Play” and, if you happen to be a courageous person with an interest in noisy pop-culture, Miss Revolutionaru Idol Berserker (I warn you, though – it’s going to be very noisy and audience involving 🙂 ). Actually, anything in the TPAM program promises to be very interesting.
      That’s it for now. Please let me know if you need more detailed information on anything theatre-related.
      I wish you a great time while you’re in the area, and please take care of your health – February is the coldest time of the year around here.

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