The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Yureru Kuruma no Oto (Sound of a Shaking Car)
Yureru Kuruma no Oto (Sound of a Shaking Car)
Bungakuza production
Yureru Kuruma no Oto
September, 2006 at the Kinokuniya Southern theater
Photo: Kenki Iida
© Bungakuza
First Performance: 2006
Performance time: 2 hr.
Acts / Scenes: One act, five scenes
Cast: 11 (6 men, 5 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Yureru Kuruma no Oto (Sound of a Shaking Car) Atsuhiko Nakashima 
The setting of this play is sometime around early 1970s in the town of Aburatsu in Nichinan City, Miyazaki Pref. It tells a nostalgic, heartwarming story about two days during which a traveling street-stall keeper named Shigezo Kanamaru who has just returned to his hometown for the first time in 20 years with his family manages to re-establish relationships and understanding with the local people with whom he had parted in conflict two decades earlier. Behind the seemingly light-handed exchanges lingers notes of the disappointment and remorse of people whose lives had been buffeted by the winds of war and the grief and resentment they feel at their inability to ride the waves of the times with greater skill. Still, there is a pleasant warmth that comes through as we watch the indomitable spirit of these people in their attempt to overcome their hardships with the timely strains of the popular “group sound” folk-rock music and country ballads of the day punctuated by the lively hackling of the street-stall keepers. It is a story from an age when people bore their broken pride and still managed to look to the future with hopes of brighter days to come.

The street-stall keeper Shigezo Kanamaru drives into his hometown of Aburatsu with his wife Toshiko and daughter Mayumi. He had left this town 20 years earlier in a bitter parting, after the failed kamikaze pilot Jotaro Uehara stole the stall territory that should have been passed down to him from his father. Now his father is lying ill and bed-bound and Shigezo is determined to take back his stall space for the Kanamaru’s at the local Otohime-sama Festival so that it doesn’t become Jotaro’s forever.

He arrives the day before the festival to stake his claim on the old family spot only to find almost nothing in the way of festival preparations going on and none of the life of the old days. The Otohime-sama Festival that had once attracted stall-keepers from all over southern Kyushu was now nothing more than a ghost of its past glory. The precious stall that he had lost so bitterly was now rusted and all but worthless. His one-time rival, Jotaro, now lived in the ease of retirement on the income from a grocery store his son runs, and Jotaro’s former right-hand man, Kodama, now has a construction company. Shigezo’s former ally and fellow stall-keeper, Arie, had managed to pull some strings and become a policeman and lead a settled life like the others. When Jotaro shows up, he bows to Shigezo and returns the rights to his old stall space, apologizing that the festival has degenerated and the spot is now worthless. After having come back full of determination to reclaim his birthright, Shigezo is now at a loss for what to do. But he is greeted nonetheless with innocent joy by his former friends and neighbors. Only his 20-year-old daughter Mayumi has a look of dissatisfaction with the state of things. Living constantly on the road and without the means to go to college like others of her age, she is disgruntled and frantic about her possibilities for the future. And her father only continues to disappoint her.

A make-shift welcoming party has taken shape in a parking lot and a small bar owner named Shinobu and her daughter show up bringing drinks and snacks. In fact, Shinobu and Shigezo had once been involved. Shinobu has raised her now 20-year-old daughter Asami as a single mother and she doesn’t know who her father actually is. Shigezo is afraid that Asami might in fact be his daughter. He lives in constant fear of his hard-working, no-nonsense wife Toshiko, but he appreciates and values her as well. Asami has been told by her mother in the past that her father was a good and able stall-keeper and she clearly shows an interest in Shigezo’s profession. But Mayumi is quick to tell Asami that there is nothing good about being a traveling stall-keeper.

On the day of the festival Kodama and Arie take a day off from work to help Shigezo set up and run his stall. Everyone seems to be having a good time, working and drinking the old-fashioned soda drinks. Asami seems especially happy to be helping out. A band called the “Aburatsu Tigers” has even been assembled to sing and help add life to the festival. But just about the time their song ends rain begins to fall. It is only a one-day festival , so it looks like there is nothing to do but close down the stall.

Then Jotaro comes out with a suggestion that he and Shigezo have a sumo wrestling match. He tell Shigezo to use all his strength to beat him and officially win his stall back. Then he can go tell his father on his sickbed that the family stall has been restored. Mayumi serves as the referee. Jotaro is old but still strong. When it looks like Shigezo might lose, Asami unwittingly calls out “Father!” This unexpected call catches Jotaro off guard and he ends up on the ground. Shigezo has won but the match took a toll on his aging body. The two wrestlers savor a moment of friendly recognition of how they have aged and how much water has flowed under the bridge. They feel a shared understanding of the other’s trials and tribulations.

Mayumi is moved by the sight of her victorious father despite herself. She makes a pronouncement that she is heading off to Tokyo to start her own life. Asami will surely take her place.
Meanwhile, Toshiko and Shinobu have been talking. The truth comes out that Asami is not Shigezo’s daughter and that in fact she is the child of a union with a man Shinobu didn’t even know. Since that fact would be too cruel for Asami to know, so they decide that for the time being it might be best to just leave it that she may be Shigezo’s child. A strange bond of friendship has been born between the two women Toshiko and Shinobu. Shigezo and Toshiko are beginning to think that they will stay and try to bring some life back into the town as stall-keepers with Asami helping out.

Profile: Born: 1961
Born in Nichinan City, Miyazaki Pref. in 1961, Atsuhiko Nakashima showed an early inclination toward playwriting, as he would write skits in elementary school and have his friends act them out. After moving to Tokyo he became interested in theater once again in his twenties and eventually established a theater company named Gekidan Honky Tonk Theater. After the dissolution of the Honky Tonk Theater, he wrote scripts for a number of companies, including many written as the affiliated playwright for the Gekidan Dogaku Sensei and Gekidan Heartland companies. He has also written works for numerous companies including Gekidan Seinen-za, 44 Produce and Tokyo Vaudeville Show and has won widespread popularity as a playwright of the times with a unique style sometimes referred to as “Human Comedy.” His play Yureru Kuruma no Oto (Sound of a Shaking Car) was nominated for the 51st Kishida Drama Award in 2006. His diverse writing activities have also included television screenplays and radio drama scripts.