The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Kazuki Nakashima
Kazuki Nakashima
Born in Fukuoka Pref. in1959, Kazuki Nakashima is active today primarily a theater scriptwriter. He has served as the company writer for theater company Gekidan Shinkansen since 1985. Since then he has primarily written play scripts that stress story narrative for the series of period action plays known as “Inoue Kabuki.”
His play Aterui starring Somegoro Ichikawa and Shinichi Tsutsumi (2003, Shinbashi Enbujo Theater) won the 47th Kishida Drama Award. In recent years, he has also been writing scripts actively for productions other than those of Shinkansen, such as Lady Zoro starring Hibiki Takumi and Oinari – Asakusa Ginko Monogatari starring Nobuko Miyamoto.

Lord of the Lies
(Oboro no Mori ni Sumu Oni)

Playwright: Kazuki Nakashima
Director: Hidenori Inoue
Date: Jan. 2-27, 2007 (Shimbashi Enbujo, Tokyo)
Feb. 3-25 (Osaka Shochiku-za)

Ashurajo no Hitomi
Playwright: Kazuki Nakashima
Director: Hidenori Inoue
© Village, Inc.

Hoshi no Ninja
Playwright: Kazuki Nakashima
Director: Hidenori Inoue
© Village, Inc.
an overview
Artist Interview Artist Interview
Kazuki Nakashima's spectacles of manga and Kabuki and romance legends 
Beginning from the small-theater scene of Osaka and going on to make their theater company Gekidan Shinkansen one of Japan’s most popular, director Hidenori Inoue and playwright Kazuki Nakashima create spectacular romantic dramas with highly individualistic characters taken from history and legend that have captured the hearts and imaginations of young people as a popular new form of entertainment. Their grand-scale theater productions of their works staged at the entertainment industry-leading Toho and Shochiku theaters and starring pop idols and Kabuki actors sell out in a matter of hours. Nakashima, who also wears another hat as a manga magazine editor and manga artist, speaks about his broad-ranging theatrical vision that even extends to classical Kabuki.
(Edited by Jun Kobori from an interview recorded in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Nov. 1, 2006; cooperation: Village Inc.)

Seeing your work, the label “action theater playwright” seems to fit perfectly. In your play Aterui (winner of the 47th Kishida Drama Award in 2002) about the battles between the Heian Period general Sakanoue Tamuramaro and the legendary warrior of the northeast, Aterui, and in your play Ashura-jo no Hitomi (Premiered 1987, performed by Kabuki actor Ichikawa Somegoro in two versions in 2003), where the supernatural-powered demon-exorcizing Onmyoji of the Heian Period named Abeno Seimei is used as a bi-player in a story of battles between demons and humans and love between men and women of supernatural powers, your plays unfold as romantic sagas involving fateful encounters between actual historical figures of a given period and fictitious characters and plots full of unexpected turns of events. And these stories invariably involve thrilling and violent action.
It is true that I may be the only playwright around today that you might label an “action theater playwright.”

How did you become involved in theater originally?
It all started from a high school theater club. As a child I loved manga comics and when I went to high school I wanted to join a manga club. But, it turned out that the high school I went to didn’t have a manga club. Since you have to do some kind of club activity in school I looked around for the next most interesting thing and that was the theater club. In Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu where I grew up, there is a lot of emphasis placed on high school creative theater. So we used to go see regional drama contests and spend a lot of time making our own plays. That experience is what made me think that I could write plays too.

What kinds of manga did you read then?
I read all the popular manga weeklies for teenagers, like the Sunday and the Magazine. I also read the works of the great Japanese youth manga artists like Osamu Tezuka, Shotaro Ishinomori and Fujio Akatsuka. In particular, I read everything by Go Nagai, from his debut works and then when I was in middle school his work Devil Man (serial began in 1972 and became extremely popular as a Nagai masterpiece. The main character is a high school student named Fudomyo who becomes a devil-man with the heart of a human and the powers of a devil by becoming one with a devil in order to battle other devils) really struck me. I felt like I was maturing along with the development of the writer himself.

How about the manga magazine Garo that Sampei Shirato and Yoshiharu Tsuge wrote for?
Garo wasn’t like the youth mangas, so I didn’t like it. In short, I like the action stories of the youth manga and if you call me an “action theater playwright” it must be because that is the kind of action plays I write.

You mean the kind of action stories with bright, outgoing, handsome and cool heroes like in the youth mangas rather than stories full of darker emotions like grudges and pathos? Did you write mangas yourself?
I did. At university I was in the manga club, and when I got a job at the manga publishing company Futaba-sha (publisher of the Manga Action, also publishes numerous literary books) after university I took my original mangas to the job interview along with my persona vitae with the intention of being hired either as a manga artist or an editor.

Did you not like theater as much as manga?
I had only begun theater from a high school club. For whole time I like not only manga but also science fiction, because of “a sense of wonder” to be found in the words. It is something you don’t find in novels or other types of literature, it is the kind of fictional or slightly twisted idea or story line that grabs the readers and makes them wonder, “What is going on?”
In the latter half of the70s and early 80s, I believe there was that same kind of thing happening in the small-theater and underground theater works that were popular. I happened to see Juro Kara’s Jokyogekijo company’s performance of Hebihime-sama that they brought to Fukuoka in Kyushu to perform in an abandoned coal mine when I was in my first year of high school (1977) and I thought it was very interesting. I have had several fortunate experiences with theater like that.

The director of your Gekidan Shinkansen theater company, Hidenori Inoue, also began theater in a high school theater club in your hometown of Fukuoka. The first play he wrote was Momotaro Jigoku Emaki (a parody of the story of the demon-hunting boy Momotaro who was born from a peach [momo]. It is a play set to hard rock music and full of fight scenes.) It is a play that reminds us of what you are doing together with Shinkansen today.
I saw that play in one of our high school drama contests and thought it was really interesting. I thought immediately that I had found someone who was thinking the same things as me, and it was a person who was one step ahead of me in terms of dramatization skills. I went to meet him and ask him if I could use his story to do another play, which is when I wrote a play that was a variation on his as the story of “the Demon-killing Demon.” He in return saw my play and liked it, and that is how we got to know each other. I have been doing the same type of plays based on Japanese legends ever since. Like the expression “As the boy, so the man” or “Once a playwright, always a playwright.” (laughs)
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