The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
First Performance: 2006
Performance time: 2 hours
Acts / Scenes: One act, seven scenes
Cast: 4 (2 men, 2 women)
art interview
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Cousins   Yoji Sakate 
The opening scene is in a car of a night train. A woman and a man in overcoats and dark glasses sit facing each other. The woman is a novelist and the man is an operative whose work involves national secrets. The woman listens to the man’s stories of his life and work and writes novels based on them, in return for which and she pays the man in installments. The man has the ability to foresee situations but he also suffers regularly from memory loss. The place where the two meet for these exchanges is always a night train.

Since the man regularly forgets everything, he is able to maintain a sense of identity by reading the sequel of the woman’s novel, and he also benefits from the large amounts of money she pays him. The woman also benefits from this relationship in that she had not done well before she found this secret agent theme, and it has now made her a best-selling author. But this time the man is in great pain due to a transmitter that has been implanted in his body. He has a premonition that the transmitter is soon going to explode and kill him.

This night he is telling the woman his story with the feeling that this will be their last meeting. And, as the train runs on toward the terminal, the woman begins to tell things that she has not written in her novels up to this point.

It turns out that the man and woman are in fact cousins who grew up in the same town but eventually left to come to Tokyo. One time they happened to meet again on a train going back for a visit to their hometown and they fell in love. However, since they were cousins and there would thus be a possibility of hereditary disease in their offspring, they hesitate to marry and the woman eventually had a son by another man. The child was named Noboru. Although the woman soon parted with the father of her child, the cousins were never united but went on to lead separate lives. Thus, their relationship was reduced to these occasional meetings on the night train.

Of course the woman was not without doubts. She knew that the man might simply be making up his stories for the sake of the generous compensation she paid, and that the transmitter might actually be a product of the anxiety and remorse he felt. Still, there was no way for her to find out the truth.

After some 20 years of this relationship the woman has won success as a writer and now has a cottage that she has decorated like the interior of the train car. There she can live a life like that of her novels, complete with the night train. She has a mysterious living companion sharing her home. He may be the man of her night train meetings or he may simply be a fan of her novels pretending to be that man.

It turns out that the woman’s parents were also cousins. The woman suffers from a hereditary disease of night blindness and she is anxious to finish her last sequel of the novels before the disease progresses to the point where she can no longer write.

One day her son Noboru comes to visit, bringing his fiancé. It happens that Noboru’s fiancé is also his cousin. Still the two are determined to marry despite the risk they know such a union involves.

Realizing that refraining from marrying the cousin she loved has prevented three successive generations of first-cousin marriages. As a result, she is able to bless her son’s marriage, and she also goes on to write the last sequel to her novels in which the man sacrifices himself for the sake of humanity. At the same time she wins back that short but precious time she spent with her cousin in those night train rides to their hometown.

Once again the woman is on that night train riding toward the terminal. Then again it might be her cottage. And, unlike in the last sequel of her novels, the man has not died. The man says: “The terminal station is a place for the trains to start back on the next journey.” With the two on board, the train runs on.

Profile: Born: 1962
Born in Okayama Pref. in 1962, Sakate graduated from the Japanese Literature course of the Literature Dept. of Keio University. In 1983, he founded the theater company Rinkogun and has since written and directed most of the company’s productions. In 1999 he studied in New York on an ACC grant. He has also written extensively outside of his company’s plays and published numerous collections of critical writings and plays. In 2006 he assumed the post of chairman of the Japan Playwrights Association. Sakate was also served as a member of the board of directors of the Japan Directors Association and the Japan Center of the International Theater Institute. Seeing theater as a form of media, his plays deal with social themes involving the conflict between the individual and the community, to which he brings a journalistic perspective. Besides dealing with social problems like the status of Okinawa, the role of the National Defense Forces and religious issues, Sakate has also involved himself in performance series with butoh artists, musicians and visual artists and done a series of works based on the author Lafcadio Hearn done in a Noh theater style. His overseas productions have been traveled to 15 cities in eight countries and he has done numerous collaborative works with foreign artists. His play Breathless Gomibukuro wo Kokyu suru Yoru no Monogarai (A Nocturne of the Breathing of Breathless Garbage Bags) won the 35th Kishida Drama Award. His plays Kamigami no Kuni no Shuto (Capital of the Kingdom of the Gods) and Breathless Gomibukuro wo Kokyu suru Yoru no Monogarai have been performed in 14 cities in eight countries. His play Tenno to Seppun (The Emperor and Kissing) won him the Excellence Prize for playwriting and the Grand Prix for directing in the Yomiuri Theater Awards. He now runs the studio Umegaoka Box.