The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
First Performance: 2006
Performance time: 2hr.10min.
Acts / Scenes: 2 act, 6 scenes
Cast: 9 (5 men, 4 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Yume no Kasabuta (Scab of the Dream) Hisashi Inoue's Tokyo Trials Trilogy, Part 3 
It is two years after the War. The setting is the home of the Sato family, an old established family in a town in Japan’s Northeast. The play looks at the question of war responsibility through the eyes of Tokuji Miyake, a former staff member of the war council and now an antique dealer, and Kinuko Sato, a daughter of the Sato family and a teacher of Japanese grammar. Taking the backdrop of the townspeople’s practicing for the ceremony to welcome the Emperor when he comes through the town on his nationwide tour to encourage the citizenry, the play also looks at the common people as they struggle to put the past behind them.

The antique dealer Tokuji Miyake is patiently working to repair a set of screen paintings of the Sakubei Sato, one of the wealthy, influential men of the town. The mild-mannered, hard-working Tokuji was a senior staff member of the wartime military headquarters and had attempted suicide once after the defeat. He still lives with a thorn in his heart, knowing that he was one of the ones who turned the country into a burned wasteland and forced the Emperor to endure it all. It is this Tokuji who has a tearful reunion with his daughter Tomoko, who has just been repatriated from Manchuria and the hardships of the Japanese settlers left there at the end of the War.

Sakubei’s eldest daughter, Kinuko, who teaches grammar at a women’s college, suffered the tragedy of having her lover, who was an outspoken supporter of freedom of thought and speech, be sent off to one of the worst war zones, where he was starved to death. Seeing the irony how the ideals that her lover was killed for are now being celebrated shamelessly in the postwar, She proposes that this unprincipled nature of the Japanese might be due to the ambiguity of the subject in Japanese grammar. In this way she uses her academic specialty to think about the meaning of the country’s defeat, the nature of the Japanese and the role of the Emperor.

Sakubei is anxious to have his daughter Kinuko get married, but she doesn’t like the newspaper chief editor named Akira that he introduces to her as a prospective husband. On the occasion of a sudden visit home by Kinuko’s younger sister Mayuko, who is studying to be a painter and working as a model in Tokyo, Akira meets Mayuko and her friend Takako.

At this point Kinuko comes in with big news. It has been decided that the Emperor will stay for a night at the Sato family’s detached villa. Tokuji, who happens to be there at the time, is chosen to lead the practice for a ceremony to receive the Emperor, because he had met the Emperor before in his role as one of the senior military chiefs of staff.

The next day, in the final stage of the rehearsal for the Emperor’s arrival, Tokuji take the role of the Emperor and has the people practice the proper etiquette when in the presence of the Emperor. Meanwhile, Mayuko and Takako visit the newspaper office and find Akira wallowing in regret that during the War the characters for “democracy” had disappeared from his newspaper’s type set and it had become a paper full of missing characters. Kinuko sees a newspaper proof with blanks where the missing type should be, saying “Now is the time for …” and she realizes that … changes with the times.

The next day, Tokuji is absorbed in his role as the Emperor. Kinuko’s search for answers goes on. In the grammar of most foreign languages a subject is essential for each sentence. But, in Japanese the subject is filled in by the atmosphere or the situation. The Japanese are a people for whom if the room’s folding screen is changed the atmosphere changes. But, what can be done?

Meanwhile the final rehearsal for the Emperor’s arrival has begun. Kinuko is questioning the war responsibility of Tokuji’s Emperor. Fully absorbed in his role as the Emperor, Tokuji says the final lines of the formal apology. Then he goes on to say that he will abdicate. Shocked at these words, Kinuko has a moment of enlightenment. Meanwhile, Tokuji has returned to his senses and realizing what he has said, makes a desperate exit.

On the day that the Emperor was supposed to arrive, news comes that his visit has been cancelled. The reason that Mayuko and her friend had tried to raise money to buy new types for Akira’s newspaper by holding a nude photography session, and they had ended up in jail. In the meantime, Tokuji was getting ready to flee for Tokyo, having lost all face by becoming so absorbed in his role as Emperor that he went overboard and declared his abdication. But, he is found by Tomoko and Kinuko. Thanks to the words Tokuji spoke in the passion of his Emperor role-playing, Kinuko has been able to come to terms with her past. And now there is a previously unexpressed affection in her words as she asks Tokuji if he won’t stay and help her with the thinking she intends to do about the ramifications of Japanese grammar. There is warmth to this shared understanding born amidst the extreme mental anguish Tokuji and Kinuko have been through, and it embraces them. The presence of Kinuko and his daughter Tomoko has given Tokuji the strength to begin to turn his eyes to the future.
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