国際交流基金 The Japan Foundation Performing Arts Network Japan

New Plays 日本の新作戯曲

Jan. 22, 2007



Tokyo Trials Trilogy, Part 1 - 3
Hisashi Inoue

Data :
Yume no Sakeme (A Crack in the Dream)
First Performance: 2001
Performance time: 2hr.10min.
Acts / Scenes: 2 act, 9 scenes
Cast: 9 (5 men, 4 women)

Yume no Namida (Tears of the Dream)
First Performance: 2003
Performance time: 2hr.30min.
Acts / Scenes: 2 act, 7 scenes
Cast: 9 (5 men, 4 women)

Yume no Kasabuta (Scab of the Dream)
First Performance: 2006
Performance time: 2hr.10min.
Acts / Scenes: 2 act, 6 scenes
Cast: 9 (5 men, 4 women)

1. Yume no Sakeme (A Crack in the Dream)

Tensei Tanaka is the head of a picture-card theater group called “ Minshu Tensei Kai ” (The Heavenly Voice of the People) that plays to an audience in an inner city residential section of Tokyo from Nezu to Koishikawa. Using the natural gift of his voice, he first became a professional storyteller and then a silent movie narrator. When silent movies gave way to the talkies, he lost his source of employment but was quick to pick up on the revived popularity of picture-card theater and change professions again. During the War he even took his picture-card plays to Manila and Java to encourage the troops and became something of a star in the entertainment world. In this way he was a model of the common citizen making the best of the difficult wartime years.

One of his picture-card plays is called “ Mangetsu Tanuki Bayashi ” (Moonlight Badger Refrain). It is a tear-jerking story about a badger lord on the island of Shikoku who decides to launch an attack on the neighboring badger fiefdom, only to be defeated by an allied badger army. But, to keep the lord from having to take the blame for the war defeat, one of the badger elders named Taro claims, “I was the one who roused the lord and the common badgers into taking on the war campaign,” thus making himself the scapegoat whose punishment is to be set himself adrift on the Seto Sea.

The setting shifts to the year after Japan’s war defeat. Suddenly Tensei receives an order to appear before an inquiry committee at the occupation forces General Headquarters (GHQ) witness. He is being asked to testify that he had been ordered by the military government to travel around parts of Asia during the War with picture-card plays that promoted the doctrine that Japan was ordained to be the military leader of Asia.

To make sure that Tensei doesn’t get stage fright on his day in court, the family starts doing practice runs of what they expect Tensei to go through in the Tokyo Trials. In the process it gradually becomes clear that it was actually Tensei who approached the military officials with the idea in order to drum up more business for himself. In this way the play begins to ask the audience about the responsibility of the common people in the war effort.

After his day in court it becomes known through newspaper reports that Tensei also did one of his picture-card plays in court along with his testimony. This news arouses a rush of interest in his plays and he is flooded with requests for performances. Every day Tensei reads the newspapers from front to back hoping to see more articles about him. Eventually he realizes that if he simply substituted the Emperor for the “lord” and Hideki Tojo for the “elder badger Taro” in his Mangetsu Tanuki Bayashi play, it becomes a perfect parody of the Japan-U.S. conspiracy to relieve the Emperor and the people of their war responsibility and make Tojo the scapegoat through the Tokyo Trials (International Military Tribunal for the Far East).

When Tensei adds the claim that he had anticipated the holding of the Tokyo Trails, he gets invitations from a number of universities to come and perform Mangetsu Tanuki Bayashi . The plan backfires however, when these performances come to the attention of GHQ and he is taken into custody.

Tensei is finally released from custody when he signs an agreement that he will not perform Mangetsu Tanuki Bayashi as long as the occupation forces remain in Japan. The play ends by once again posing a question about the people’s war responsibility: Were the Japanese people being manipulated by the Emperor and Tojo, or were there people who tried to manipulate themselves for the better by taking up the call of Tenno Banzai! ” (Long live the Emperor) and asserting the validity of Japan’s “Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.”

2. Yume no Namida (Tears of the Dream)

In April of the year after World War II ended, Kikuji Ito and his wife Akiko run a law office in a building in the Shinbashi district of Tokyo that escaped the wartime bombing. They have hired as a legal assistant the son of a local dumpling maker, a young law student named Tadashi Tanaka. When two nightclub singers named Nancy Okamoto and Cherry Fujiyama come to the office both claiming that they are the rightful owners to the song “Oka no Ue no Sakura no Ki” (The Cherry Tree on Top of the Hill),” Tadashi is sent out to investigate the case.

Akiko and Kikuji have been asked to take on the defense of one of the accused war criminals in the Tokyo Trials, Yosuke Matsuoka. Akiko is determined to win the innocent verdict from the fact of the triple alliance he was in charge, but she is then told by one of her father’s former law colleagues, the lawyer Takeyama, that the American prosecutors surely intend to pursue Matsuoka’s guilt back to the events leading up to the start of the War. This would include the string of violations of the Pact of Paris, including the Manchurian Incident, the attacks on Shanghai, Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations, the 2nd Shanghai Incident, etc.

Kikuji learns that they will not receive and legal fees from Matsuoka or the Japanese government and decides to begin collecting donations from the citizens on the street. He is told, however, by the legal attach? of the Allied General Headquarters, Bill Ogasawara, that collecting donations on the streets is forbidden, because there will be trouble if the people become too interested in the trials. If the people become interested in the trials, attention will come to focus on the war responsibility of the Emperor. Ogasawara informs him that it has already been decided that he Emperor must not be punished. Eventually it is decided that the American Department of Justice will pay the legal fees, but Akiko can’t get over the absurdity of the fact that the Japanese government will not pay for the legal fees.

Around the same time, a turf war is heating up between the Ogata-gumi yakuza gang that is behind the Japanese black market and the Kataoka-gumi yakuza that control the Korean black market. The leader of the Kataoka-gumi, Ken Kataoka, comes to Akiko’s daughter by another marriage, Eiko, to ask if there is a way to sue the police for always taking the side of the Ogata-gumi in their conflicts. When Akiko, Kikuji and Takeyama tell him that he just has to lay low and bide his time, Ken erupts with anger, saying that Japan has turned its back on him and the other citizens who are enduring hardships.

Nancy and Cherry come to Tadashi again with their suit. They both have husbands who are presently in the hospital and happened to be in the same company when they were in army, and both claim that they were the rights to the song by the composer Kobiyama, who was a lieutenant in their company. Their company was sent in to do rescue and clean-up work just after the Hiroshima atomic bombing, and Kobiyama is also in the hospital suffering from poor health.

Eiko visits Ogasawara’s office and asks if Japan has in fact turned its back on them. Ogasawara explains that it was the same for Japanese-Americans like him and begins telling her about the discrimination and prejudice they were subjected to during the War. He goes on to stress that as long as we have to obey the laws of our societies, the citizen’s have to keep an eye on the lawmakers to make sure that they don’t make irresponsible laws.

In her search for documents to help prove Matsuoka’s innocence, Akiko is shocked to learn that many documents were deliberately destroyed in the closing days of the War and that what remained was taken away by the American forces. At one point a telephone call is received saying that Matsuoka has been hospitalized with a probably terminal disease and that his legal staff has been dismissed as a result.

Eiko comes back from visiting Ken in the hospital. He was wounded in a confrontation between the two yakuza gangs. She says, “I guess we deserve to be tried by the Allies … or by anyone for that matter. But it is us that should be judging ourselves. The Japanese should be thinking about these things and deciding the verdicts. …It seems like those of us who have been discarded and the big-wigs who turned their backs on us are both trying to run from the truth. By putting all the blame on the people sitting in the defendants’ seats in the Tokyo Trials. …I can’t express it well, but that’s just the way I feel …”

3. Yume no Kasabuta (Scab of the Dream)

It is two years after the War. The setting is the home of the Sato family, an old established family in a town in Japan’s Northeast. The play looks at the question of war responsibility through the eyes of Tokuji Miyake, a former staff member of the war council and now an antique dealer, and Kinuko Sato, a daughter of the Sato family and a teacher of Japanese grammar. Taking the backdrop of the townspeople’s practicing for the ceremony to welcome the Emperor when he comes through the town on his nationwide tour to encourage the citizenry, the play also looks at the common people as they struggle to put the past behind them.

The antique dealer Tokuji Miyake is patiently working to repair a set of screen paintings of the Sakubei Sato, one of the wealthy, influential men of the town. The mild-mannered, hard-working Tokuji was a senior staff member of the wartime military headquarters and had attempted suicide once after the defeat. He still lives with a thorn in his heart, knowing that he was one of the ones who turned the country into a burned wasteland and forced the Emperor to endure it all. It is this Tokuji who has a tearful reunion with his daughter Tomoko, who has just been repatriated from Manchuria and the hardships of the Japanese settlers left there at the end of the War.

Sakubei’s eldest daughter, Kinuko, who teaches grammar at a women’s college, suffered the tragedy of having her lover, who was an outspoken supporter of freedom of thought and speech, be sent off to one of the worst war zones, where he was starved to death. Seeing the irony how the ideals that her lover was killed for are now being celebrated shamelessly in the postwar, She proposes that this unprincipled nature of the Japanese might be due to the ambiguity of the subject in Japanese grammar. In this way she uses her academic specialty to think about the meaning of the country’s defeat, the nature of the Japanese and the role of the Emperor.

Sakubei is anxious to have his daughter Kinuko get married, but she doesn’t like the newspaper chief editor named Akira that he introduces to her as a prospective husband. On the occasion of a sudden visit home by Kinuko’s younger sister Mayuko, who is studying to be a painter and working as a model in Tokyo, Akira meets Mayuko and her friend Takako.

At this point Kinuko comes in with big news. It has been decided that the Emperor will stay for a night at the Sato family’s detached villa. Tokuji, who happens to be there at the time, is chosen to lead the practice for a ceremony to receive the Emperor, because he had met the Emperor before in his role as one of the senior military chiefs of staff.

The next day, in the final stage of the rehearsal for the Emperor’s arrival, Tokuji take the role of the Emperor and has the people practice the proper etiquette when in the presence of the Emperor. Meanwhile, Mayuko and Takako visit the newspaper office and find Akira wallowing in regret that during the War the characters for “democracy” had disappeared from his newspaper’s type set and it had become a paper full of missing characters. Kinuko sees a newspaper proof with blanks where the missing type should be, saying “Now is the time for …” and she realizes that … changes with the times.

The next day, Tokuji is absorbed in his role as the Emperor. Kinuko’s search for answers goes on. In the grammar of most foreign languages a subject is essential for each sentence. But, in Japanese the subject is filled in by the atmosphere or the situation. The Japanese are a people for whom if the room’s folding screen is changed the atmosphere changes. But, what can be done?

Meanwhile the final rehearsal for the Emperor’s arrival has begun. Kinuko is questioning the war responsibility of Tokuji’s Emperor. Fully absorbed in his role as the Emperor, Tokuji says the final lines of the formal apology. Then he goes on to say that he will abdicate. Shocked at these words, Kinuko has a moment of enlightenment. Meanwhile, Tokuji has returned to his senses and realizing what he has said, makes a desperate exit.

On the day that the Emperor was supposed to arrive, news comes that his visit has been cancelled. The reason that Mayuko and her friend had tried to raise money to buy new types for Akira’s newspaper by holding a nude photography session, and they had ended up in jail. In the meantime, Tokuji was getting ready to flee for Tokyo, having lost all face by becoming so absorbed in his role as Emperor that he went overboard and declared his abdication. But, he is found by Tomoko and Kinuko. Thanks to the words Tokuji spoke in the passion of his Emperor role-playing, Kinuko has been able to come to terms with her past. And now there is a previously unexpressed affection in her words as she asks Tokuji if he won’t stay and help her with the thinking she intends to do about the ramifications of Japanese grammar. There is warmth to this shared understanding born amidst the extreme mental anguish Tokuji and Kinuko have been through, and it embraces them. The presence of Kinuko and his daughter Tomoko has given Tokuji the strength to begin to turn his eyes to the future.


Born in 1934 in Yamagata prefecture in northeastern Japan. Inoue graduated Sophia University, Tokyo. He wrote the radio drama scenario, Up Pops Gourd Island , with Morihisa Yamamoto; the novels Double Suicide in Handcuffs , The People of Kirikiri , Forty-seven Unfaithful Ronin , Forty Million Steps , and Seven Roses of Tokyo ; the drama collection "The Complete Works of Inoue Hisashi (5 Vols.)" as well as nine other plays, including Kamiya Cherry Hotel and Drumming and Fluting .

A prolific writer, he has also written essays, such as "Inoue Hisashi\'s Essay Collections 1-10, Japanese Grammar Private Edition," "A Homemade Literary Reader," The Story of Rice," "The Destiny of Books," and "Inoue Hisashi\'s Lectures on Agriculture," "Roundtable Discussions on Showa Literary History (co-authored)", and others. In 1984, the Writer\'s Block Library was opened in Kawanishimachi, Yamagata prefecture, thanks to Inoue\'s donation of his book collection. Inoue opened a School for Consumers at this library in 1988. In 1994, the Writer\'s Block Library was moved into the newly inaugurated Kawanishimachi Friendly Plaza, which has a performance hall.

His newest work is Dream Tears , written for production at the New National Theatre in Tokyo. Inoue is also Japan Pen Club President, head of the Sendai Literary Library, head of Komatsuza Theatre Company, etc.