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Japanese Title: Atami Satsujin Jiken
English Title: The Atami Murder Case
Author: TSUKA, Kohei
Author's Profile: Born in 1948 in Fukuoka. Playwright and director. While attending Keio University, he debuted with "A Red Beret for You." He launched the Kohei Tsuka Inc. theatre company, in 1974 and triggered the Tsuka boom of the 1970s and 1980s. His impact was so great that recent theatre history is now divided into pre-TSUKA and post-TSUKA periods. He has been a charismatic figure for many playwrights and directors who have emerged after him. He received the prestigious Kishida Drama Prize for "The Atami Murder Case" in 1974, the 86th Naoki Literary Prize for "Fall Guy," the Japan Academy Award for Best Script, and many other awards. A large number of film adaptations have been made of his plays.
First Performance:   1973
Performance time:  
Acts / Scenes: 1 act
Cast: 4 (3 men, 1 woman)


The best known of TSUKA's drama, this work is an in-your-face black comedy, in which "brilliant" detectives embellish a murder case so that the unassuming criminal will be truly worthy of them and media coverage.


Chief Detective KIMURA Denbei, fondly referred to as Smoky Denbei, is a legendary figure at the Metropolitan Police Department. Transferred to Denbei's Criminal Investigation Division 1, Detective KUMADA Tomekichi arrives from the Toyama Prefectural Police. KUMADA is disconcerted by Denbei's position that murderers nowadays do not need a plausible motive, but gradually adapts to Denbei's unusual methods of investigation.

Murder suspect OYAMA KintarO is brought in. OYAMA insists that he took victim YAMAGUCHI Aiko to Atami, a popular seaside resort, because she wanted to see the sea. KUMADA ridicules the factory worker for his unlikely behavior and is convinced he is fishing for sympathy. The detectives are also horrified by the couple's lack of romance and panache. The pair met at a run-of-the-mill coffee shop and went to Atami by train from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. Smoky Denbei and KUMADA fantasize over the time the couple spent together at the beach in Atami. Their imaginative reconstruction does nothing to make OYAMA jazz up his confession. Exasperated, Smoky Denbei tells him to be more audacious, for if no further significance can be attributed to OYAMA's motivations, the case will only capture 3 measly lines in the newspapers.

Aroused by the investigators, OYAMA re-enacts the scene of the crime to background music with Officer Hanako playing Aiko. With Smoky Denbei directing the re-enactment in detail, OYAMA chases the fleeing "Aiko" and is about to strangle her when he missteps and falls. Written off at this point as hopelessly underqualified to be the criminal, he is declared innocent and dismissed. In defiance, OYAMA digs his heels in and refuses to leave.

The lighting is changed to a shade of blue, the music to folk songs and the re-enactment is resumed. "Aiko" declares OYAMA a bother because of his perpetual sense of inferiority over his factory worker status. Under her sharp criticism, he cracks up and attacks her murderously.

Denbei advises the now handcuffed OYAMA on how to gain the attention of the mass media and how to conduct himself in the holding cell after he leaves the interrogation room. OYAMA exits to the cheers of the three police officers. Smoky Denbei offers KUMADA a cigarette, indicating acceptance of the young subordinate.
At the end of the play, Smoky Denbei, all alone, makes a phone call at random. Pretending to address the Superintendent of Police, he holds forth on the Atami case, the condition of Japan and the ideal state of the police force.
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