The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Yukichi Matsumoto & Shinichiro Hayashi PORTAL
(Mar. 2016)
Photo: Yoshikazu Inoue
Premiere: 2016
Length: 1 hr., 25 min.
Acts/scenes: 1 act, 32 scenes
Cast: 11 (6 men, 5 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
May. 26, 2017
PORTAL by Shinichiro Hayashi 
PORTAL by Shinichiro Hayashi 
This play was produced through a collaboration, with the script written by Shinichiro Hayashi, leader of the Osaka-based theater company Kyokuto Taikutsu Dojo, and direction by the late Yukichi Matsumoto (Ishinha, 1946-2016). The subject is the city of Toyonaka, a “satellite city” of Osaka where Itami Airport is located. Taking as its motifs a computer game called “PORTAL,” which is a puzzle game that involves opening holes in walls to go to another dimension, and a territory-capturing game named “ingress” that takes realistic contemporary cityscapes as its setting, the play employs actual maps, virtual maps and maps in the memory to create a contemporary myth constructed in a satellite city full of air traffic. It was the last work of Matsumoto, who passed away on June 18, 2016. It was performed as a project commemorating the opening of the Toyonaka Performing Arts Center.
A 500,000 : 1 scale map of the city ruffles in the wind, and in the darkness we hear the voice of a man (Cloud = central figure) saying, “Now, let’s start the game.”

Cloud hurls out a chain with something attached to its end, and where it lands, map-making agents rush to drive a stake into the ground at the spot where it has landed. The stakes then define the boundaries of the city, and each time a chain is thrown and a new stake is driven into the ground, the boundary of the city expands, changing the city’s appearance moment by moment. What Cloud has been throwing out on the chains is Hammer, the opener of portals (entrances, holes). Every time he is thrown out, new portals open in the city, where houses are then built roads laid down, people take up residence and the city grows.

A woman is riding a motorcycle continuously on the national highway running east and west and the expressway running north and south.

Men and Women are dancing all night at a club named Waiting Room that stands on the boundary of the city. They citizens of the city who can’t return. Here, we suddenly see Hammer, who now has a gun in hand. Hammer uses the gun to open holes (portals) wherever he is thrown, as he continues to search for Cloud.

A crowd of people are amusing themselves by playing a game on their smartphones. In this game, when they open up an actual map on their smartphone, a virtual portal appears. The portals are full of mysterious substances, so the Blue Agents say, “It looks dangerous, so let’s block it up.” But on the other hand, the Green Agents say, “If we expose ourselves to it, we can make ourselves evolve,” and so they begin hacking into the portal to win new territory in the game.

At regular intervals there are radio broadcasts from JATIC (Japan Traffic Information Center) with an announcer reporting of the status of traffic jams on the expressways. As if calling out to listeners in a give-and-take with these announcers, DJ Cloud says in a lively voice, “Come on, everyone, get out and find all of the worm holes (portals) you can in the maps.”

In a new residential area of the city with airplanes flying overhead, a woman sits in a room in a “culture residence” (apartment) listening to the radio. In the same “culture residence,” Hammer is talking into a video camera about his gloomy thoughts, firing his gun at the wall and saying, “I’m going out to open up holes in the town,” and goes out again.

In the town there are shopping malls, Pachinko parlors, rows of high-rise condominiums, old rundown housing projects, convenience stores and culture residences. A woman on a motorcycle rides east through the cityscape on the national highway named the Tropic Line.

When a supermarket and a DIY store are completed, a Pachinko parlor complete with parking lot is built and a “Town Outside the Town” takes form along the roadside. The voice making an announcement inside the Pachinko parlor thanking all the customers for coming is that of Cloud.

In the evening we see a caravan-like line of Agents going home after work. Hammer leaves the line and returns to his culture residence, the woman listening to the radio is waiting there. Looking at a map, Hammer tells the woman about his hometown.

From there, the two dive [through a portal] to that hometown and begin to play a game of Fukuwarai (like pin the tail on the donkey) with the parts of a face scattered across a tabletop. Through the hole of the face’s mouth, Hammer peeks at the woman as he tells a story of three kings who live in the Center of the World, the South Sea and the North Sea respectively. Then he opens another hole [portal] and goes out again, not hearing the woman’s call for him not to leave.

The scene changes to a part of town where there are agents gathered around portals that have been opened in the internet café named Cram School, the rental video shop named Install, the shuttered small shops and the vending machines in front of the liquor store.

From Hammer’s culture residence we hear people conversing in Korean and the sound of meat being grilled. At the club Waiting Room, imperfect citizens of the city are dancing. When Hammer asks them where Cloud is, he is told, “You have crossed the city boundaries, you have committed crimes so you are being chased [hunted down].” Hammer shots at them as they dance.

Maps full of holes are spread out at [and area of] the airport named Empty Lot, where again Cloud and Hammer have met. Hammer asks Cloud, “Why do you throw me?” Cloud answers, “I just want to throw something heavy a long distance.” Cloud grabs Hammer’s hand and throws him again.

In front of a signpost with signs pointing in all directions reading Cape Town 14,322 km, Matterhorn 9638 km, Roppongi Hills 401 km, Koshien Stadium 11 km, Elementary School 390 m …, a group of people are standing, all holding maps. They line up the maps as if playing a game of Fukuwarai.

Like a god at the center of the universe, Cloud shouts: “OK, let’s all start the game.”

The sound of the second hand announces the approach of the hour. It is another day’s reporting of the time. And the city continues to grow.

Born in Hakodate, Hokkaido in 1977, Hayashi is a playwright and director. His career in theater began as a co-founder of the theater company Misada Purodusu (produce) in 1998 while still a student of Kyoto University. After that he adopted the pen name Misada Shinichi and was active as playwright and director for the company. In 2004, Hayashi began studies in playwriting under So Kitamura at the Itami Soryu Shijuku school. In 2007, he quit his activities with Misada Purodusu, began writing under his real name, Shinichiro Hayashi, and launched his own production company Kyokuto Taikutsu Dojo with an operating policy of casting a new set of actors for each production.
In Hayashi’s plays we see an attempt to paint floating mirage-like landscapes of the modern metropolis by depicting a somewhat noisy bird’s eye view of the lives of the urban populace that changes their pains and sorrows into humor with a universal poignancy.
Among Hayashi’s important works are Yoru ni Ukabete that follows the crisp yet sad conversations of several people as they appear and then sink again into the night as they ride the ropeway with the night scenery of a city that may be Hakodate in the background (premiered 2004 as a Misada Purodusu production and was a finalist for the 12th OMS Drama Award among others); Enzui ga Giri desu. (premiered 2007 as a Kyokuto Taikutsu Dojo production and was a finalist in the drama division of the 25th Nagoya City Cultural Encouragement Awards); and Tairikukandando Gogaku Kyoshitsu - Tonpuso, a work that laid the groundwork for the latest work Subway (premiered 2005 as a Misada Purodusu production presented at the Osaka Contemporary Theater Festival Step Theater). Subway is the winner of the 18th (2011) OMS Drama Award.
Kyokuto Taikutsu Dojo