Mapping/Zapping ‘J’ Theatre At The Moment

Tadashi UCHINO


The purpose of this article is to draw a cognitive map of what is happening in Japan’s theatre culture at present. For the July 2005 issue of the literary magazine Eureka, in which little theatre was the main feature, I was asked to supervise the structure of the issue, and I decided to present a map, (see below) in which I would select 40 theatre companies (or ‘units,’ as they are often called now), individuals and dance companies. As readers of Performance Paradigm do not necessarily share historical, cultural, and/or political contexts with readers of Eureka, I would like to use the map a little differently, and show the range of Japan’s contemporary theatre culture as I see it now. I am not going to refer to all the 40 companies I have included in the map, but I will discuss some representative groups and individuals for the sake of readers who are not at all familiar with any of the 40 entries I chose here.

This map assumes that what I am going to say is only in terms of how I see what is happening and there is no theoretical reason, for instance, for the chosen number of 40 groups. Japan’s theatre culture per se is now so manifold and compartmentalised, to the extent that nobody can really have a unified image of the field. I was interested in the diversity of performance that we see everyday in Tokyo, and 40 was the number required to give the map a certain degree of validity and reflect my understanding of Japan’s contemporary theatre culture. In addition, I deliberately chose to highlight the younger generation of practitioners, most of who were born after the 1970s. I thought that this choice would enable me to cast a certain light on the future of Japan’s theatre culture. For the sake of greater clarity, I have decided to add three more entries, all belonging to an older generation of theatre makers who are still active in the contemporary scene.

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