The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
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Data
First Performance: 2001
Performance time: 2hr.10min.
Acts / Scenes: 2 act, 9 scenes
Cast: 9 (5 men, 4 women)
Japanese Drama Database
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Play of the Month Play of the Month
2007.1.22
Yume no Sakeme (A Crack in the Dream) Hisashi Inoue's Tokyo Trials Trilogy, Part 1 
 
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.”

Profile: Born: 1934
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.
 
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