The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Utawasetai Otokotachi
First Performance: 2005
Performance time: 1 hr. 50 min.
Acts / Scenes: 1 act
Cast: 5 (3 men, 2 women)
Artist Interview
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Utawasetai Otokotachi (Men Who Want Us to Sing) by Ai Nagai  
In 1999, a law was passed in Japan concerning the use of the national flag and the national anthem, and in the articles concerning education it states that the national flag must be shown and the national anthem sung at the graduation ceremonies of pubic schools and other major events. In 2003, the Tokyo Board of Education issued notice that teachers who did not obey this edict would be punished. Presently there is a court case underway on the claim that this law is an infringement on the rights of freedom of thought and conscience guaranteed by the constitution. This play Utawasetai Otokotachi (Men Who Want Us to Sing) is a comedy set in the Japanese educational workplace.

The setting is the health room of a Tokyo municipal high school. It is an early spring day and just a few hours before the graduation ceremony is scheduled to take place. The school’s principal, Koreaki Yoda comes to get some medication for his hay fever and finds the new music teacher, Michiru Naka, resting there nearly half naked and wrapped in a comforter. Playing the accompaniment to the school song and the national anthem on the piano while the students sing at the graduation ceremony is the first big assignment she has received in her new job. But, while she was practicing she suddenly became dizzy, nearly fainted and spilled some coffee on her blouse, which the health teacher, Mayuko Anbe, is now drying for her. Michiru has finally gotten this job as a music teacher after giving up her dream of becoming a chanson singer.

The problem is that when she staggered in her dizzy spell, she lost her contact lenses too. She is not very a practiced pianist, and her reputation for mistakes at the piano has already won her the nickname “Miss Touch.” If she can’t see the music score, she is sure to make mistakes during the ceremony. When Michiru suggests that she could borrow the glasses of the nearsighted social studies teacher Norihiko Haijima, the principal and Anbe, who has brought her dried blouse, suddenly look perplexed for some reason.

It turns out that Haijima is oppose to mandatory singing of the national anthem and he is the one troublesome teacher at the school who is going to refuse to stand and sing the anthem. And in fact, when he is asked, he refused to lend his glasses for the playing of the national anthem.

The year before, this school had been reported on in the newspapers when four teachers and most of the graduating students refused to stand for the singing of the national anthem. The principal wants to follow the edicts of the Board of Education and get through this year’s graduation without any trouble.

At that point the English teacher, Manabu Katagiri comes rushing into the room in a fluster. He says that the teacher Sakuraba, who was supposed to continue to teach at the school after retirement age but had that offer retracted last year after opposing the singing of the anthem, was out at the school gate passing out leaflets encouraging people to oppose the singing of the anthem.

As Katagiri and the principal rush out, Haijima comes into the health room to see Michiru. When Michiru expresses her concern at what will happen to Haijima if he opposes the singing of the anthem again this year, Haijima responds by trying to convince her not to play the anthem, saying, “As one who dreamed of being a chanson singer, you must be someone with a freer soul than that.”

At that point the principal returns. Outside they hear the wailing of a police car siren. The police, who take away Sakuraba for handing out his leaflets.

At this point word comes that the students are also beginning to plan an opposition and refuse to stand for the anthem. They have become inspired by the idea that they have a right to “freedom of the soul” after reading what Haijima has written on his blackboard and the leaflets that Sakuraba has passed out. What was written on Sakuraba’s leaflets turns out to be an essay that the principal himself had written for a magazine some ten years earlier about “freedom of the soul.”

The principal stands alone on the roof of the school and lectures loftily about how mistaken his thoughts had been in his younger days. And he claims that if even one person refuses to stand for the anthem he will take responsibility for it by jumping off the roof.

When Michiru pleads with Haijima, telling him that if the principal jumps to his death it will be his fault, Haijima takes off his glasses, places them on the table and walks out of the health room.

Profile: Born: 1951
A graduate of the drama department of the Toho Jr. College, Nagai is director of the Nitosha theater company. Originally founded in 1981 as a two-woman theater company with fellow director Shizuka Oishi. Both being born in the year of the rabbit, they named their company Nitosha, taking the Chinese characters for “two rabbits.” Since Oishi left the company to concentrate on play writing, Nagai has continued to be the writer and director for the company’s productions. Today she is one of the most looked to playwrights on the contemporary theater scene for her well-made plays with social criticism and commentary. Nagai has won a reputation for the exceptional story development, interesting character creation, witty lines and contemporary relevance of her themes. Her trilogy of plays titled “Postwar Life History Trilogy” that began in 1994 has won wide acclaim as an omnibus work that depicts the changes in life in the ensuing postwar eras on the level of personal life. Nagai presently serves as the chairperson of the Playwrights Association. She has won numerous awards, including the 44th Kishida Kunio Drama Award for her play Ani Kaeru and the 1st Tsuruya Namboku Drama Award and 52nd Yomiuri Literature Award for her play Hagi Ke no San Shimai.