The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
“Our Contemporary” Vol.1
(June 11-22, 2008 at New National Theatre, Tokyo THE PIT)
Written by Hayafune Satoshi
Directed by Matsumoto Yuko
Photo: Masahiko Yako
Premiere: 2008
Length: 2hr. 5min.
Acts, scenes: One act, seven scenes
Cast: 8 (5 men, 3 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Choukanzu (Bird's Eye View) by Satoshi Hayafune 
    The setting is a small harbor town on the shore of Tokyo Bay. The plot revolves around the interaction of family and regular guests at an inn for sailors, fishermen and weekend anglers over the course of a few days and what is revealed about their individual lives and the woes they have borne. The result is a veritable bird’s eye view painting of the joys and sorrows of human life.

    It is a summer evening. Gathered at the inn are one of its regular guests, Sugita, the part-time helper Yuta, an elderly retired fisherman named Mineshima, a neighborhood resident named Teruyuki and his elder sister Asako. They are teasing Sugita about the uncomfortable life he is leading ever since his wife found out about his affair with another woman. Soon the talk shifts to gossip about the owner of the inn and boat captain, Shigeo. Teruyuki has recently seen Shigeo at Tokyo Disneyland with a little girl of about 7 or 8, which seems strange considering the fact that Sigeo has shown no signs of being interested in dating or seeing other women since he separated with his former wife. It also happens that Shigeo has recently told his mother, the matron of this inn, Sawako, that he is thinking of selling his boat. It seems that for some reason he needs a large amount of money all of a sudden. At this point a girl visits the inn and introduces herself as Mio Kataoka and says she is the daughter of Shigeo’s elder sister Namiko, who has recently died in a traffic accident.

    The next evening. Mio reveals that the real reason she has come is to search for her grandfather, who was a photographer, and the location of a certain beach full of migrating birds that appears in one of his photographs. Shigeo then reveals to her that her grandfather is not the late owner of this inn but another man, the first husband of the inn’s matron Sawako. Shigeo and Namiko came to this inn when their mother Sawako remarried with the inn’s owner. The photographer who is Mio’s grandfather had left his family and disappeared. After that, when Shigeo’s mother Sawako remarried the inn’s owner his sister Namiko, a high schooler at the time, had run away and they never heard from her again. Sawako, who apparently still feels guilty about having caused Namiko to run away from home, seems to feel intimidated and reluctant about speaking with Mio.

    Several days later, Sugita has found out who the mother of the child Shigeo had taken to Disneyland is. It is a woman who is presently in the hospital being treated for cancer. What’s more, Shigeo is trying to pay her medical bills. When Sugita shows Sawako a photo of her at the hospital, Sawako cannot hide her shock and dismay.
    That evening when Shigeo returns to the inn, Sawako questions him. The patient in the hospital is Shigeo’s former wife. Even though she can’t help but criticize Shigeo’s former wife, Sawako begins to feel that she herself was actually to blame for Namiko leaving home and Shigeo’s divorce. Suddenly the phone rings. It is bad news that Mio has just been hit by a car.

    That night. Miraculously, Mio has suffered only minor injury. While taking a walk, Mio thought she saw someone who looked like her mother on the other side of the street, and as she ran to cross the street she was struck by a car. Mio says she can’t understand why she is always seized by such feelings, even though she was not especially close to her mother. She goes on to tell Sawako that reason she wanted to come to this shore was seeing her mother smiling like a completely different person here in one of her grandfather’s landscape photographs. Sawako tells Mio that her mother Namiko had loved her father even after he disappeared and had resembled him in character. Sawako goes on to say regretfully that after she remarried and Namiko couldn’t accept her new father, she didn’t know how to treat her daughter and deal with her feelings.

    Several days later. It is early afternoon and everyone has returned form the funeral of old Mr. Mineshima, who was found dead in the apartment where he lived alone. Shigeo is still going to the hospital every night to care for his sick former wife. Teruyuki is now engaged to be married. Sawako gives her bankbook to Shigeo and tells him to use the money for his ex-wife’s hospital bills. It seems that everyone is on the way toward lightening the burdens they have been carrying in their souls. When Mio asks her grandmother Sawako which of her two husbands she liked better, she answers, “I guess I liked your grandfather better. ” “You know, I can’t talk about things like this with my son, ” she confides to Mio with hint of happiness in her voice.

Profile: Born: 1971
Hayafune graduated from the training institute of Theatrical group EN in 2002. In 2005 he started the theater company Gekidan Suspendeds and has since written and directed the company’s productions “Vol. 1 Kamishakujii Suspended, ” “Vol. 2 Clearly, ” “Vol. 3 Katate no Naru oto” and “Vol. 4 Line. ” He is an emerging writer praised for the unique world of theater he creates with his unique use of language and sense of humor. As an actor he has appeared in Macchi-uri no Shojo, Zeami and Material Mama among others including Kasa to Sandal and Ice Cream Man written and directed by Ryo Iwamatsu.