The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Hisashi Inoue
Hisashi Inoue
The writer and playwright Hisashi Inoue was born in Kawanishi-machi, Higashiokitama-gun, Yamagata prefecture in 1934. He graduated from the French course of the Foreign Language Dept. of Sophia University. During his university years he became the Cultural Affairs and Promotions chief of the France-za burlesque and strip theater in the Asakusa district of Tokyo and began writing scripts for the theater’s performances. From 1964 he became one of the scriptwriters for the NHK national broadcasting company’s puppet theater program Hyokkori Hyotanjima. His works won the hearts of many people with their humor and satire based on an unfaltering sense of the contemporary. He made his debut in the theater world with the play Nihonjin no Heso (belly button of the Japanese) that he wrote for the theater company Theatre Echo in 1969. In 1972 he won the Naoki Prize for the novel Tegusari Shinju (Handcuffed Double Suicide), which dealt with the lives of popular writers in Japan’s Edo Period. That same year he won the Kishida Drama Award and the Selected New Artist Award for Dogen no Boken (the adventures of Dogen). He won the Kinokuniya Drama Award and the Yomiuri Literature Award (Drama Division) for his plays Shimijimi Nippon-Nogi Taisho and Kobayashi Issa. In 1984 he founded the Komatsu-za theater as a company to produce and perform his plays. For it he wrote a succession of plays including Zutsu Katakori Higuchi Ichiyo, Kirameku Seiza, Yami ni Saku Hana, Yuki ya Konkon, Ningen Gokaku, Mokuami Opera, Rensagai no Hitobito and Ani Otouto. Throughout his career, Inoue has been a prolific playwright, novelist and essayist. In 1987 he donated his vast collection of books to his hometown of Kawanishi-machi for the creation of a library named the “Writer’s Block Library. His plays such as Kesho (Makeup), Yabuhara Kengyo and Chichi to Kuraseba have won high acclaim in overseas performances.
an overview
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
Playwright Hisashi Inoue puts a prayer for peace in his play Chichi to Kuraseba (The Face of Jizo), now translated into eight languages
With his deep love of the expressive potential of the Japanese language, Hisashi Inoue has continued to write highly acclaimed and popular works that have brought laughter and an appreciation of the joy and power of words to countless people. In doing so, he has long been a leading figure in Japan’s theater and literary worlds. One of his masterpieces on the theme of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Chichi to Kuraseba (The Face of Jizo), has now been translated into English, Italian, Chinese, German, French Russian, Spanish and Arabic and is being performed in theater readings and stage productions by Japanese living in all parts of the world. By setting this play in Hiroshima shortly after World War II, with a survivor of the atomic bombing as the main character, what is it that Inoue wants to say to us? In this interview Inoue speaks poetically at times, as if composing a scene for a play, as he weaves messages about world peace, being Japanese and the nature of theater.
(Interviewer: Hirofumi Okano; interviewed: October 19, 2007)

The English version of Chichi to Kuraseba (The Face of Jizo), was performed in the United Kingdom from Oct. 23 to Nov. 10. And this summer (2007) it has been translated into Chinese as well. This play tells the story of a daughter who lives with feelings of guilt at being the only one in her family to survive the Atomic Holocaust of Hiroshima and is unable to let herself love as a result. And, to encourage her to go on with her life and love, her father comes back from the dead as a ghost. In Japanese, the entire play is done in the native Hiroshima dialect. First of all, I would like to ask you what thoughts you have about the English-language performance in the UK this time and if there is any particular message you want to convey.
Chichi to Kuraseba is a play in which the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is the central theme, and I think there is great significance in the fact that it has now been translated into the languages of countries that have nuclear weapons in their defense arsenals. There are some countries with nuclear weapons where the performance of such a play would be difficult, and so I feel that all the translations are a significant step forward.
As of the present, Japan is the only country in the world that has been the victim of an atomic bombing. Said in another way, we are the only country that has experienced war as it may be fought in the future [with nuclear weapons]. However, there is no guarantee that there will not be more countries subjected to nuclear Holocaust in the future. Today, there is a big potential nuclear disaster hanging over the heads of everyone on Earth, and it is an unfortunate fact that people throughout the world live with the knowledge that someday they may be the victims of a nuclear attack. My intent is not to make a strong appeal from the standpoint of a victim but to ask that we all think together about what should be done with this nuclear threat that hangs over all of our heads today.
Nuclear weapons are different from conventional weapons. With a conventional bomb, the threat is usually over once you survive the initial blast. That is not the case with nuclear weapons. You never know if you are going to suffer from its effects days, weeks, months or even years later. The negative effects [of radiation] can even be passed on to your offspring. Nuclear weapons are the worst weapons humankind has ever created. You could say that it is a weapon that embodies all of the worst of human malice. The very existence of nuclear weapons has a strong negative effect on the human psyche and the human spirit. I want people to know that and I want us to think together about what kind of environment we live in and what kind of world we want to create for the future.
Also, overseas readings and performances of Chichi to Kuraseba (The Face of Jizo) have been made possible in many cases through the efforts of Japanese living in those overseas countries. It is perhaps because people who have left Japan and now live overseas are more aware of the uniqueness of Japan as a country that has suffered an atomic bombing and as a country that has a non-aggression clause in its Constitution (Article 9) (*) that forbids the Japanese nation from using violent means to resolve conflicts.

(*) The Constitution of Japan
Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized. constitution_e.html

It doesn’t seem to me that most Japanese are aware of the importance of the fact Japan can make vital statements to the world based on the fact that it is the only country to have suffered an atomic bombing and the fact as a country we have adopted the Article 9 non-aggression clause in our constitution.
Taking Article 9 as an example, we can say that the Antarctic Treaty (1959) that designated only peaceful use of the Antarctic continent and prohibited and military activities or territorial sovereignty claims was made possible because of the spirit of Article 9. It was a time when various countries were worried about their interests in Antarctica and afraid that open conflict might erupt as a result of various countries attempts to establish bases and sovereignty claims. For the first time after World War II, Japan took an active international role in proposing and negotiating a treaty that declared Antarctica as joint property of the entire world that can not be used by any nation for military purposes and that any nation is free to conduct scientific research there. This Antarctic Treaty then became the model for the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Treaty of Tlatelolco) (1967), the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga) (1985) and other nuclear-weapon-free treaties that have now made most of the Southern Hemisphere free of nuclear weapons. Also, outer space and the ocean bottoms have been made nuclear-free zones by international treaties.
In this way, Article 9 is one of the things that Japan can be proud of in today’s world. In the world today there are people with fundamentalist attitudes who try to force their beliefs and values on other nations. But, human beings are in fact quite inconsistent spirits, and where it is individuals or nations, we all have our good points and our bad points. So, what we have to do is to recognize each other’s good points. I believe that it is a miracle that the six billion people of humanity live on this Earth, and I want to see people value the fact that they have been born and are alive today more than most people seem to.

Another underlying theme in Chichi to Kuraseba (The Face of Jizo) is “responsibility for the War.” This is an important theme for you that you have dealt with extensively in your Trilogy of Plays on the Tokyo Trials (Tokyo Saiban Sanbusaku) and your Trilogy on the Lives of the Common People of Japan during the Showa Period (1926-89) (Showa Shomin Sanbusaku).
In the end it is we the people who make war. Of course, the [Showa] Emperor [Hirohito] was involved in some to the strategy behind World War II, so I believe that he did have some responsibility for the War. But more responsible were the people who used the Emperor. And I also believe that the people who went along with the war policies unquestioningly and the people who believed literally that the Emperor was a descendant of the gods—in other words the common people of the country—also share a big part of the responsibility. We need a social environment where each individual citizen thinks and formulates his or her own opinions about the issues of the times and those opinions are represented in the government by the elected officials they choose. That sounds like common sense, but I believe that even today that is not the case in Japan.
Young people today use the expression “KY” meaning people who can’t read (Yommenai) the atmosphere (Kuki) of a situation. Japanese are always trying to read the atmosphere or mood of a situation and act in accordance with it. And a person who can’t do that is dismissed as a “KY.” In other words, the Japanese are not moved by people but by the “atmosphere” of things. Since individuals are not independent (autonomous, self-reliant) [in Japan] they blindly move like a herd of sheep, changing their opinions or attitude whenever the atmosphere changes. You often see someone who was joining the festivities until just a minute ago suddenly turn cool and critical.
During the War there were some people who were opposed to it. But the atmosphere of the times didn’t allow them to be recognized. Because we move according to the atmosphere of the times like this, it becomes the atmosphere itself that is the leading force and, as a result, no one takes responsibility. The atmosphere of things at any given time is not human, so it can’t take responsibility.
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