Concerned Theatre JapanEdited by David G. Goodman, with a new introduction for the Michigan Electronic Reprint
View/Download pages of the Special Introductory Issue (view/pdf), Issue 1.1 (view/pdf), Issue 1.2 (view/pdf), Issue 1.3 (view/pdf), Issue 1.4 (view/pdf), Issue 2.1 (view/pdf), Issue 2.2 (view/pdf), Issue 2.3-4 (view/pdf), Index (view/pdf)
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The “Special Introductory Issue” issue of Concerned Theatre Japan ( CTJ ) appeared in October 1969 and carried the following two anecdotes on its cover:(1)
Both anecdotes were intended to be acerbic and provocative, to highlight Western intellectuals' inflated sense of their own centrality and to ridicule their antiquated ideas about Japan. CTJ , we wanted to say, would be dedicated to decentering the West and challenging essentialized images of Japan.
By the time we published an “Index” of the full contents of CTJ four years later, we were less subtle:
The title Concerned Theatre Japan announced the magazine's themes. “Concerned” signaled our engagement with the politics of our time. CTJ was published in the context of the worldwide youth revolt of 1968, and identified with the New Left and the anti-Vietnam War movement. It was a response to “modernization theory” and the instrumentalization of area studies as the handmaiden of “American imperialism.” Theoretically, it was postmodern, postcolonial,(2) and “avant-garde.”(3)
The theatre CTJ spoke of was the underground theatre movement (angura) of the 1960s, which revolted against Japan's orthodox modern theatre (shingeki) and precipitated a theatre renaissance that has yet to abate and that has reverberated internationally. Underground directors like Ninagawa Yukio and Suzuki Tadashi have achieved global prominence; and Suzuki's actor-training method is studied worldwide. CTJ was on the cutting edge of this underground movement. Much of its content appeared virtually simultaneously in English and Japanese; many of its articles were published only in CTJ . The magazine made Japan's experimental theatre known outside Japan, and, by privileging contemporary plays, helped revise the established canon of Japanese literature.
The Japan of CTJ was not the Japan of today. It was not yet the economic juggernaut it has become, and its political situation was different. When we started publishing, the Cold War was at its height; Okinawa had not yet reverted to Japanese sovereignty; and the 1970 demonstrations against renewal of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty, which ended in abject failure, had not yet taken place. Japan's New Left was still (briefly) credible, and Japan's alliance with the U.S. could still be questioned.
The mentality was different, too. Much of what is said today about Japan's historical amnesia, its failure to confront the legacy of the Asia-Pacific War, was not true of CTJ . Our contributors were mostly in their late twenties or very early thirties; and, like the first postwar generation in other countries, they were actively interrogating their parents' generation and the aftermath of the war. The plays and articles in CTJ continue to be trenchant critiques of Japan's wartime behavior.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Japanese popular culture was not yet a global phenomenon. No one had ever heard of manga, much less video games and animé. The graphics we published by Akasegawa Genpei, Tsuge Yoshiharu, and Shirato Sampei were, as far as I know, the first manga ever to appear in English. The connections we drew between Japan's contemporary and premodern visual culture have yet to be fully explored.
Concerned Theatre Japan was published in conjunction with Theatre Center 68/69—a.k.a., Theatre Center 68/70 and Theatre Center 68/71—which today is known as the Black Tent Theatre.(4) Between 1969 and 1973, nine issues appeared—four single issues, two double issues, and a slim introductory pamphlet, totaling nearly thirteen hundred pages of translated plays, criticism, and scholarship.(5) There are some less-than-felicitous translations and a few real gaffs. It's occasionally embarrassing to read what one wrote so many years ago. But even after more than three decades, CTJ remains interesting both intrinsically and as a historical document, so I am glad to see it reproduced here, warts and all.
The press conference called to announce the founding of Theatre Center 68/69. Seated at the table, from left to right, are Tsuno Kaitarō, the playwright Saitō Ren, the composer Hayashi Hikaru, myself, and the actor/director Kanze Hideo. (From the Asahi Shimbun, evening edition, September 24, 1969.)
I conceived Concerned Theatre Japan , coordinated its contents, translated virtually every article, and was its editorial voice, so it is difficult to tell the story of the magazine without telling my own. I first became involved with the troupes that formed the Black Tent Theatre—the June Theatre (Rokugatsu gekijô) and the Freedom Theatre (Jiyû gekijô)—as a photographer during the summer of 1968, when the two troupes along with the Association of Discovery (Hakken no kai) came together as Theatre Center 68. I had spent a year in Japan in 1966-67 and had returned there in the spring of 1968 to work with the photographer Hosoe Eikoh, whose photographs of the novelist Mishima Yukio in the book Ordeal By Roses (Barakei) had fascinated and repelled me. I became distracted by what was happening in the theatre, however, and neglected my work with Hosoe to spend my time taking stage pictures, getting to know some of the leading personalities in the nascent theatre movement, and acquiring some understanding of their motives and aspirations.
In September 1968, I returned to the U.S. to complete my senior year at Yale. The Living Theatre performed at Yale that fall, invited back from their European exile by the Yale Drama School Dean Robert Brustein. I took photographs of their performances and contributed them to Wesker 68, the newspaper being published in conjunction with the visit to Tokyo by the British playwright Arnold Wesker. Tsuno Kaitarô, one of the founders of the June Theatre, was among the organizers of Wesker's visit and the editor of Wesker 68, and we corresponded regularly. I learned through our correspondence of the ambitious program the June Theatre was planning in a new alliance to be called Theatre Center 68/69. The program included a plan to publish a magazine, and I proposed that an English-language sister publication be issued as well. What was needed, I argued, was a vehicle that would allow Japanese artists, writers, and scholars to participate fully in global intellectual discourse that would empower them to engage their peers around the world and be engaged by them. Tsuno responded that it was an ambitious idea, that no one knew the first thing about publishing such a magazine, and that no money was available to support it, but if I was prepared to edit it, I was welcome to do so.
I decided to go ahead. My rationale for publishing an English-language theatre magazine in Tokyo appeared in an article titled “Out From Behind the Screen of Japanese” (Nihongo no byôbu no kage kara) in the inaugural issue of the Black Tent Theatre's Japanese-language quarterly, Dôjidai engeki (Contemporary Theatre).(6) Together, Dôjidai engekiand Concerned Theatre Japan were intended to fulfill the publication and education “pillar” of the troupe's ambitious agenda, which was set forth in “Communications Plan #1,” a “wall newspaper” published in 1969. The other pillars were a permanent theatre, a mobile theatre, and a “wall theatre,” all of which were realized, albeit to differing degrees.(7)
By far the most successful, indeed epoch-making, project was the mobile theatre. Made of rubberized canvas and able to accommodate an audience of up to 500 uncomfortable but enthusiastic patrons, the black tent theatre was inaugurated in the autumn of 1970 and quickly became the troupe's emblem. In 1990, the troupe officially changed its name from Theatre Center 68/71 to the Black Tent Theatre. Along with the red tent of Kara Jûrô's Situation Theatre (Jôkyô gekijô), the black tent became a symbol of the radical changes that took place in Japanese theatre in the 1960s.
CTJ shared editorial advisers and some of the contents of Dôjidai engeki , but it was edited independently. Tsuno, who was in fact the unifying intelligence behind all the activities of Theatre Center 68/69, provided continuous advice and counsel throughout the life of the magazine. Saeki Ryûkô, the editor of Dôjidai engeki, was also a principal adviser. Hirano Kôga designed Dôjidai engeki; Oyobe Katsuhito was our design editor. CTJhad a distinguished editorial board, including the scholar Hirosue Tamotsu and the director Senda Koreya, but their role was minimal. It was clear to everyone that the interests of an English-language readership would be inherently different from those of the readers ofDôjidai engeki, so it was left to me to edit the magazine for this constituency.
Of all those who worked on the magazine, my wife, Fujimoto Kazuko (whom I had met in 1967 while she was attending the Yale Drama School), had the greatest influence next to my own. She had been a student in the political science department at Waseda University in the early 1960s and had been an actress with the Theatre Research Society (Engeki kenkyûkai), one of Waseda's student theatre clubs. After graduation, she had been a founding member with Tsuno Kaitarô and others of the Independent Theatre (Dokuritsu gekijô), which was the predecessor to the June Theatre. Fujimoto's editorial advice and judgment shaped the magazine nearly as much as mine did, and she either wrote or did draft translations of several of our major articles.
Money was of course a major problem. None of the activities of the Black Tent Theatre were supported by grants or other outside funding, which was unheard of in Japan at the time. The “Little Theatre Movement” (shôgekijô undô), as it came to be known, like modern theatre in general in Japan, was underwritten by its participants through a “troupe tax” (gekidan-zei), an essentially voluntary contribution of up to 60 percent of members' outside income, usually the income from appearances in or writing scripts for radio, television, and films. The most famous example of this self-financing was the Actors Theatre (Haiyûza) in Roppongi, Tokyo, which was constructed in 1954 with funds contributed by members of the acting ensemble. All modern theatre troupes supplemented ticket revenues in this way.
Orthodox modern theatre (shingeki) troupes were also supported by audience organizations like Rôen (Workers' Theatre Council), which mobilized a nationwide audience through labor unions. Rôen was affiliated with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and favored the realistic dramas that were both consistent with the JCP's cultural policy and could be relied upon to fill the large, multipurpose halls that constituted the majority of available venues. By privileging realism, didacticism, and works with mass appeal, Rôenimplicitly discouraged theatrical experimentation. One of the most important motives for building mobile tent theatres in the 1960s was to enable smaller, more radical companies to address a national audience without involving themselves with the JCP, Rôen, or related organizations.
Concerned Theatre Japan was very much a part of this larger picture and was produced under the same financial constraints. Government and corporate support for the arts was unimaginable at the time, especially when it came to dissident and countercultural art, and so a combination of self-financing and advertising revenue was the only way to support the magazine. CTJ was thus financed by a few advertisements; subscriptions and newsstand sales; a subsidy in the form of wholesale pricing from our printer, Mr. Tsuzuki of Asia Printing; and a modest allowance from my grandmother, Sarah Gordon, who paid our rent. The fixed exchange rate of 360 yen to the dollar made the money we received from overseas go a long way, and Fujimoto and I compensated for shortfalls with the income we earned teaching and writing. Needless to say, neither we nor our contributors were paid; our designers were not remunerated; and the friends who helped with the arduous task of typing and laying out the magazine worked gratis. Considering these facts, it was ironic but gratifying when the director of a rival theatre troupe accused us of being in the pay of the CIA.
Technologically speaking, Concerned Theatre Japan was an early example of desktop publishing. After experimenting with manual typesetting and finding it arduous, slow, and expensive—I briefly commuted to a printer to set type for the “Special Introductory Issue”—we decided to invest in an IBM Selectric typewriter. The Selectric had first been introduced in 1961 and enabled a typist to change typefaces by exchanging a ball-shaped typing element. Instead of cloth, the Selectric used a film ribbon that produced perfect, even letters. In 1966, a full typesetting version of the Selectric became available, making proportional spacing and justified margins possible, but we couldn't afford such an elegant machine.
Issues of Concerned Theatre Japan averaged 160 pages. Pages were typed, cut, and pasted onto layout paper that Oyobe prepared for the purpose. Typing went on continuously, but laying out the magazine became a ritual of all-night marathons conducted in our kitchen. Fujimoto would cook a sumptuous dinner of fried rice and then join me, Oyobe, and two or three volunteers to work until the middle of the following morning cutting and pasting the pages. The laid-out pages were then photographed and printed by photo offset, a process that had become inexpensive and widely available in Japan in the 1960s.
Our original plan was to publish the magazine quarterly, and for the first year we adhered to this schedule. Thereafter, we published two “double issues,” roughly twice the length of our quarterly issues, one in 1971, our cartoon special, which was a boxed-set of two magazines; and the other in the spring of 1973, a tome of 336 pages reminiscent of a telephone book.
Distribution was a major headache. At our peak, we probably had about a hundred and fifty subscribers worldwide, and many of these were libraries, so I suspect that many issues wound up in the stacks before anyone had a chance to see them. Initially, we printed 3000 copies, and a small publishing company, Shôbunsha, distributed CTJ within Japan. But even with a Japanese-language cover slip (obi) describing the contents, the appeal of an English-language magazine in Japan was—predictably, I suppose—limited, and many of the magazines Shôbunsha distributed were returned unsold. It quickly became apparent that we could not afford to continue printing such a large number of copies for nationwide sale, and we were forced to abandon this strategy. We subsequently printed only about 500 copies per issue.
Magazines make their money on advertising, not on subscriptions; and advertising revenues are, of course, a function of circulation. Our small circulation made us unattractive to advertisers, although we did carry ads for Honda, NEC, Yamaha, Hitachi, and other major companies. But these were one-shot courtesy ads (tsukiai kôkoku), and could not support us long-term.
Without an advertising budget, we could not expand our circulation. We relied on reviews and news articles to publicize what we were doing, but these did not appear consistently enough to have a sustained impact. We placed a few ads, including one in The New York Review of Books that generated a subscription from the Broadway choreographer Jerome Robbins, and we did some direct mailing, too; but print ads and direct mail are expensive, so we entered a vicious cycle: no advertising budget, no increased circulation; no increased circulation, no advertising budget.
From a purely commercial point-of-view, therefore, Concerned Theatre Japan was never viable. We were, however, part of a long and proud tradition of “little magazines” that includes such well-known publications as The Paris Review and The Partisan Review. We had everything we needed to produce an important magazine, we felt: something worthwhile to say, talented writers and designers, and the willingness to work hard. Each issue of the magazine was a victory. To be widely accepted and read would have been nice, but we were too busy producing the magazine to be bothered with selling it. In order for us to have survived long-term, we would have had to obtain the institutional support of a university or foundation, but that was outside the realm of possibility in Japan at the time. And in any event, the thought of compromising with “the establishment” was anathema to us in the 1960s.
We decided on the title Concerned Theatre Japan one summer afternoon in 1969 at the office of the June Theatre in the Sakuragaoka section of Shibuya in Tokyo. The word “concerned” was borrowed from The Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (since 2001 retitled Critical Asian Studies), which was published by American Asianists opposed to the war in Vietnam. Physically, the magazine was size B5, which was as close as we could come to the dimensions of The Drama Review (TDR) published by New York University.
The Little Theatre Movement in Japan had grown out of the struggle against renewal of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty in 1960 (Ampo tôsô). The Black Tent Theatre was the most overtly and self-consciously political troupe, and we identified closely with the struggles of our anti-Communist, New Left contemporaries in Paris, Prague, and Berkeley for whom 1968 was also a fateful year.
Theatre was central to the New Left movement in Japan. Theatre Center 68 (the forerunner of Theatre Center 68/69) had been named after Arnold Wesker's Centre 42 in London, and we felt a strong affinity with Brecht's Berliner Ensemble and Giorgio Strehler's Piccolo Teatro among other left-leaning companies. Theatre was so closely identified with youth rebellion in Japan that when Ôshima Nagisa made a film about the 1968 student unrest in Tokyo titled The Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (Shinjuku dorobô nikki), he chose Kara Jûrô's Situation Theatre to be its centerpiece. The antiwar activist Oda Makoto was right when he admitted to Thomas Havens that “the underground playwrights were probably even more revolutionary than we were in Beheiren [the antiwar movement],” because, as Havens writes, “they had broken through questions of democracy and individualism to discover even newer ways of expressing identity.”(8)
One of the most significant issues in the controversy over renewal of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty in 1960 was whether Japan could truly be a sovereign nation if the Treaty allowed American forces to be stationed on Japanese soil. When the anti-Treaty movement failed, further overt political activity seemed pointless to many, and a substantial number of the young demonstrators channeled their prodigious energy into achieving cultural autonomy where complete political sovereignty had been placed out of reach.
Ironically, this quest for cultural autonomy was facilitated by the high-growth economic policies of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which the younger generation despised. Immediately after the Security Treaty had been safely renewed, the LDP announced in July 1960 an “Income-Doubling Plan,” which was so successful that industrial production did not double but tripled between 1962 and 1975; and the red-hot economy helped sustain artists in many fields with part-time work in the media, construction, hospitality, and other industries. Indeed, fueled by this economic boom, the artistic efflorescence that took place in the late 1960s was a renaissance with few parallels in Japanese history.
We were hostile, not just to the LDP, but to the whole notion of “modernity.” It seemed to us that imperialism, the Vietnam War, and the other distortions and atrocities of our century had resulted from the pervasive and dehumanizing power of modernity. Modernity had to be transcended in order to effectively address the political issues of our time. Powerless to directly influence the course of political events—to block renewal of the Security Treaty or end the war in Vietnam—the best we could do was create a politically effective kind of theatre capable of transcending the modern. The succinct slogan that articulated this view was, “Use the premodern imagination to transcend the modern” (Zenkindai no sôzôryoku o motte kindai o norikoero). What we had in mind was not an atavistic retreat into some imaginary golden age such as the one Mishima Yukio and his predecessors in the Japan Romantic School ( Nihon romanha ) conceived, but a forward-looking, “dialectical” return to the past for the purpose of accessing the energy and methods needed to transcend the modern. We were attempting an imaginative reappropriation of fundamental elements of Japanese culture that were vital and constitutive, not the frozen relics of some preordained “Japanese tradition.”
This kind of dialectical return to the past was a formidable undertaking. More than a century separated us from the premodern past, a century during which Japan had assiduously worked to redefine itself as a modern society and self-consciously eschewed its premodern roots. Considerable spadework was required, therefore, before the authentic premodern could be excavated, and that is why we devoted a large number of pages in Concerned Theatre Japan, a magazine ostensibly dedicated to contemporary theatre, to the theatre's premodern roots.
The work of Hirosue Tamotsu, a professor of Japanese literature at Hôsei University, was crucial to us in this regard. Hirosue had written influential monographs on the seventeenth century literary giants Chikamatsu, Bashô, and Saikaku, but we found two collections of his essays particularly suggestive. One was Another Japanese Aesthetic(Mô hitotsu no Nihonbi), which argued that, contrary to Japan's modern myth, “beauty” was not the only or even necessarily the most significant principle operating in the premodern imagination; that religion and eros, cruelty and the grotesque were at least as important principles governing premodern Japanese art. The other was The Idea of the Place of Evil (Akubasho no hassô), where Hirosue developed the idea that in the premodern age, when actors were treated as pariahs and theatres were quarantined in specially licensed quarters, the theatre and its environs functioned as concentrations of antinomian “evil,” where the strictures of daily life did not apply and could be transgressed.
We carried three of Hirosue's articles: “The Blind Kagekiyo,” about the evolution of a Heike warrior in the twelfth century into a transhistorical antihero; “The Secret Ritual of the Place of Evil,” about the complex subliminal dialogue that took place in kabukitheatres during the Edo period between the audience and the sexually ambiguous male actors who played female roles (onnagata); and an introduction to the little known but astonishing tempera paintings of the nineteenth century artist Ekin that had recently been discovered in Shikoku, which reflected the authentic popular experience of kabukieroticism and violence in the premodern era.
These notions of an alternative aesthetic and of the theatre as a locus of transgression were central to what Japanese theatre was about in the 1960s. The Little Theatre Movement opposed with equal vehemence what it considered the concessive reinvention of kabuki as wholesome family entertainment in the Meiji period and the naturalistic style of orthodox modern theatre, which it regarded as two different but equally pernicious expressions of the same rationalistic modern mindset. In place of these emasculated forms, the little theatre troupes invented styles of performance and playwriting suggested by kagura, nô, and kabuki but deriving also from Bertolt Brecht's epic theatre, which had itself been suggested in part by premodern Japanese forms. Kara Jûrô's Situation Theatre in particular conceived itself as a latter-day “place of evil” and defined its actors as itinerant pariahs and “riverbed beggars” (kawara kojiki), the term once applied pejoratively to kabuki actors. Kara's John Silver: The Beggar of Love, Senda Akihiko's “Red Tent South,” and other articles on Kara's theatre illustrated these trends inCTJ.
Among the most important rules of everyday life that the little theatres suspended was the commitment to monolithic history and linear time. In most of the seven plays published in CTJ , cyclical time predominated, and transhistorical characters—immortals over whom history had no hold—routinely appeared. In Akimoto Matsuyo's Kaison the Priest of Hitachi, which we published in our final issue, for example, the penitent priest Kaison, who had presumably died in the twelfth century, appears not once but four times, in four different guises; and local prostitutes claim in all seriousness to be married to the Soga brothers, who had also perished eight hundred years ago.
Modernistic conventions concerning space were also challenged. “The Little Theatre Movement” was so named precisely because the troupes performed in alternative spaces—in coffee shops like Suzuki Tadashi's Waseda Little Theatre, in basement rooms like the Freedom Theatre, or in tents like the Situation Theatre and the Black Tent Theatre. Theatrical space was a major preoccupation, and we documented the wide variety of premodern theatre spaces in a series of articles by the architect Soeda Hiroshi, which treated the nô stage, the mobile stages used in Kyoto's Gion Festival, and the collapsiblekabuki stage dating from 1819 that stands in the remote farming village of Kami-Miharada in Gunma prefecture.
No one embodied the tensions, frustrations, and possibilities of trying to reconcile modern and premodern theatre more acutely than Kanze Hideo, the scion of a major nô family and brother of famed actors Kanze Hisao and Shizuo (Tetsunojô). Kanze (later rehabilitated) had been banned from performing nô by his family in retaliation for his participation in the 1960 demonstrations and for his work as a director and actor in modern theatre. (He was one of the founders of the Freedom Theatre and Theatre Center 68/69.) Our interview with Kanze illustrated these tensions and possibilities; and our interviews with the popularkabuki actor Nakamura Kichiemon and with the pioneering actor and director Senda Koreya also gave a human face and personality to life in Japanese theatre, new and old.
Finally, our publication of Frank Hoff and Willi Flindt's “The Life Structure of Noh,” a lucid synopsis of Yokomichi Mario's brilliant analysis of the musical structure of nô, was one of our most important achievements. The forty-seven-page document, which was later off-printed and sold as a separate pamphlet, remains an invaluable resource for the study ofnô drama to this day.
Our interest in the premodern was not so much scholarly as strategic, however. Our primary focus was emphatically on the present. As I noted earlier, our interest in the premodern differed radically from reactionaries like Mishima Yukio, so when, on November 25, 1970, Mishima took the commanding general of the Japanese Self-Defense Force hostage in his own office at SDF headquarters in Tokyo, harangued the troops to overthrow the democratically elected government, and demanded the restoration of the emperor to power, we were appalled. Fujimoto Kazuko analyzed Mishima's suicide in our spring 1971 issue, concluding that the novelist had died, ironically, as a representative of the very modernity he decried.
Our vision of what Japan had been and could be were very different from the mythical monolith Mishima and other cultural conservatives envisioned. We saw Japan as a diverse, pluralistic civilization to which women as well as men, non-Japanese as well as Japanese had contributed and would continue to contribute. Especially noteworthy in this regard were the five essays by Morisaki Kazue that we published in 1973. Morisaki's lyrical, often moving essays concerned women and labor in Japan, the concepts of death held by diverse Japanese ethnic groups, and her personal struggle to maintain her identity as a multiethnic, polyglot Japanese born and raised in Korea. Fujimoto's long, outraged introduction described the historical background of Morisaki's work and underscored its importance.
If Concerned Theatre Japan was not primarily a scholarly magazine, neither was it essentially a political journal, however. It was concerned in the first instance with contemporary theatre, and it was part of a larger arts scene that had emerged in Japan in the 1960s. The iconoclastic, “neo-Dadaist” Akasegawa Genpei epitomized this scene, and he contributed cartoons, documents relating to his arrest and trial for counterfeiting in the celebrated “Thousand-Yen Bill Incident” (Sen-en-satsu jiken), as well as an English installment of his manga, Sakura Illustrated. The essays of Tsuno Kaitarô and Saeki Ryûkô spoke directly to the struggle of contemporary Japanese theatre to transcend the modern and differentiate itself from European models.
Like many such experiments, however, Concerned Theatre Japan was short-lived. The last issue appeared in March 1973; Dôjidai engeki came out with its final number the following November. There were many reasons why we stopped publishing. The first was that we had basically accomplished what we had set out to do; the novelty and revolutionary fervor of our enterprise had worn off. The strain of having to support the magazine financially while translating and writing its contents had taken its toll. We prefaced our final issue with a statement saying, “We hope that in the future we will be able to reinstate this magazine and continue the work we have begun with it,” but that was not to be. The Arab oil embargo of October 1973 brought inflation and recession, altering the economic conditions that had made it possible for us to publish. With increased costs and a changing marketplace, in the next few years, even major publishing houses like Kawade Shobô were forced into bankruptcy, and venerable magazines likeTenbô (Perspective) were terminated, so the prospects for a little magazine likeConcerned Theatre Japan were bleak indeed.
The political situation was also changing. By the early 1970s, the Japanese New Left had degenerated into warring terrorist sects. The Revolutionary Marxist Faction (Kakumaru-ha) and the Nucleus Faction (Chûkaku-ha) attacked each other in literally hundreds of homicidal incidents each year. In 1970, members of the Japanese Red Army (Nihon sekigun), which had emerged from a factional split in the student movement the previous year, hijacked an airliner to North Korea; and in May 1972, three other members attacked disembarking passengers in the Tel Aviv airport, killing twenty-six people, most of them Puerto Rican tourists. In February 1972, leaders of the United Red Army (Rengô sekigun), a domestic offshoot of the same group, were found to have murdered a dozen of their sect's own members in an ideological purge; and the bloody police siege of their hideout on Mt. Asama, broadcast live on national television, permanently blighted the image of the New Left in the minds of the Japanese public. The open, eclectic, optimistic politics of the 1960s that had made CTJ possible had given way to self-destructive violence and terrorism in the 1970s.
Personally, too, my compatriots in the Black Tent Theatre and I were gradually moving in separate directions. In the late 1970s, they became increasingly interested in Asian theatre and in affirming their Asianness, an enterprise with which I sympathized but in which I had no particular role to play. I had identified closely with the Black Tent Theatre and the Little Theatre Movement; and their struggle to reaffirm Japan's cultural autonomy and particularity had engaged me deeply. Participating in this struggle, I became increasingly aware of my own ethnicity as a post-Holocaust American Jew. Indeed, I realized that it was because I was a Jew that I identified so strongly with my Japanese friends and their enterprise. Affirming their cultural autonomy and particularity was an indirect way of affirming my own. I alluded to this in “Preliminary Thoughts on Political Theatre,” my essay in our final issue; and because I thought the Japanese and Jewish experiences illuminated each other, we published in the same number “An Evening Guest,” Elie Wiesel's haunting short story of the Holocaust. In 1976, after the magazine had folded, Fujimoto and I left Japan to spend eight months in Israel; and we both went on to write books in Japanese and English on Jewish themes.(9)
Looking back, Concerned Theatre Japan never became the site of the ongoing and active dialogue between Japanese writers and artists and their peers abroad I had foreseen. But one hot summer morning, probably in 1971, I remember standing outside Asia Printing with Mr. Tsuzuki, our genial and generous printer. We were looking at the flatbed truck loaded with the paper for our next issue, which was to be printed that day. “You see that?” Tsuzuki said, pointing to the virgin sheets. “Now it's valuable. The minute we print your magazine on it, it will be worthless.” He was being ironic and chiding me for being in arrears on our bill, but I am reminded of the comment now, as CTJ prepares to be liberated from its papery existence and enter the virtual reaches of cyberspace. In this new iteration, it will become instantly available to a worldwide audience, something we could only dream of thirty years ago. Perhaps in this virtual form, Concerned Theatre Japan will finally be able to realize its full potential and the dialogue I envisioned so long ago will finally begin.
January 6, 2005
1. Portions of this introduction appeared in an earlier version in Stanca Scholz-Cionca and Samuel L. Leiter, ed., Japanese Theatre and the International Stage (Leiden: Brill, 2001), pp. 343-353.
2. See, for example, the inclusion of Satoh Makoto's My Beatles (which appeared in our final issue) beside plays by Aimé Césaire, Wole Soyinka, and Athol Fugard and with excerpts from the works of Frantz Fanon and Homi Bhabha in W. B. Worthen, ed., The Harcourt Brace Anthology of Drama, 3 rd ed. (Boston: Heinle, 2000).
3. I use the term “avant-garde” advisedly. See my essay “ Angura: Japan's Nostalgic Avant-Garde,” in James Harding and John Rouse, eds., Not the Other Avant-Garde: On the Transnational Foundations of Avant-Garde Performance, forthcoming.
4. In keeping with the political tenor of the times, the troupe updated its name annually to reflect its continuously changing character. This idealistic process ended in 1971 when the designer Hirano Kôga refused to redesign the company's logo, and until 1990, when it changed its name officially to the Black Tent Theatre, the troupe remained frozen in time as Theatre Center 68/71.
5. All of the plays except one have been republished in two anthologies: David G. Goodman, After Apocalypse: Four Japanese Plays of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986; Ithaca, NY: Cornell University East Asia Program, 1994); and David G. Goodman, The Return of the Gods: Japanese Drama and Culture in the 1960s (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University East Asia Program, 2003), previously published asJapanese Drama and Culture in the 1960s: The Return of the Gods (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1988). Saitô Ren's adaptation of Shirato Sampei's manga, Red Eyes is the exception.
6. Seven issues of Dôjidai engeki appeared between February 1970 and November 1973 edited principally by Saeki Ryûkô.
7. A reproduction of “Communication Plan No. 1” appears in the Special Introductory Issue and is included in my Angura: Posters of the Japanese Avant-Garde (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), p. 25. The poster-newspaper is also included in the CD-ROM Concerned Theatre Japan: The Graphic Art of Japanese Theatre, 1960-1980(Champaign, IL: Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, 1998). Some of the contents of “Communication Plan No. 1” are translated in Concerned Theatre Japan, I:3 (Autumn 1970), pp. 13-18.
8. Thomas R. H. Havens, Fire Across the Sea: The Vietnam War and Japan, 1965-1975(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), p. 75.
9. Mine were Tôbôshi [My Escapology] (Tokyo: Shôbunsha , 1976); Isuraeru koe to kao[Israel: Voices and Faces] (Tokyo: Asahi shimbusha, 1979); and (coauthored with Miyazawa Masanori) Jews in the Japanese Mind: The History and Uses of a Cultural Stereotype, (New York: Free Press, 1995; expanded ed., Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2000).