The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Irairasuru Otona no Ehon
Irairasuru Otona no Ehon
Niwagekidan Penino production
Frustrating Picture Book for Adults
(Oct. 2009 at HAU Theater, Berlin, Germany)
Photo(s) by Tim Deussen,
Premiere: 2008
Length: 1 hour
Acts/scenes: 2 acts, 8 scenes
Cast: 4 (2 men, 2 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Irairasuru Otona no Ehon (Frustrating Picture Book for Adults) by Tanino Kuro 
This play is one of the representative works of Tanino Kuro, a playwright and director known for small-theater works for which he remodeled his condominium each time and outdoor stages, always creating spaces that express worlds of human obsessions and stories that delve into the depths of our consciousness. For this play the stage is divided into upper and lower platforms, with the upper part inhabited by two old women, one with a pig’s face and the other with a sheep’s face. Confined in the lower platform is a young man in student uniform who speaks about his situation in monologue. Eventually the upper and lower sections connect and various conversations with hidden sexual connotations are exchanged.


In the low-ceilinged room of the set, there is a log piercing the ceiling and another log that pierces the floor between the upper and lower levels. The wall at the back of the stage has two windows and there is a door in each of the side walls. Near the ceiling on the [back] wall is an electronic signboard that shows the changing titles of each act and scene.

The upper level door opens and the sheep-faced woman enters. She faces the log piercing the ceiling and calls it, “Come out, come out.” From the lower door comes the pig-faced woman brining out a table and chairs and beginning preparations for a meal. The log emits a white fluid that serves as the flavoring for their food. The lower log produces a good amount of sap, but the upper log seems to be drying up and produces little sap. As they divide what sap they have and eat their meal, Sheep and Pig talk about how to care for the logs and how they would like to run a rental boat business.

After their meal, they return to their separate rooms. Before long, Pig returns crying. Her pet bird has died. With no show of sadness, Sheep stuffs the body of the bird in the nesting hole in the wall. Outside, rain has begun to fall. There is rainwater dripping down the log that pierces the ceiling and it flows through a crack in the floor. As Sheep and Pig talk on about caring for the logs and the dream of running a boat business, the stage lights go out.

When the lights come on again, they also light the space below the floor. The set is like a miniature scene that might be made for a toy train track. In the middle of it sleeps a young man in student uniform with his body bound and a small girl-doll at his breast. When he awakes, he begins to talk about himself and the fact that he is studying for the university entrance exam. But, when he realizes that he is tied down, he begins to struggle to free himself. Then he realizes that the reason he can’ move is that his thighs have become entangled in the roots of a tree.
 Sheep and Pig appear on the upper floor. When they touch the upper log, the young man feels pleasure in his loins by some mysterious connection and it builds until he ejaculates. At that moment, the white fluid is also emitted from the logs.

Hearing the sounds from below their floor, Sheep and Pig realize the presence of the young man on the lower level and begin conversing with him through a hole in the floor. Pig recognizes the man and calls him by the name Mr. GaLebolg, but the man has no recollection of Pig. However, he gradually begins to recall that his name is Murashima and the fact that he fell into a deep sleep, exhausted by his studies for the university exam and sexual suppression. He asks Sheep and Pig to help free him from the roots entrapping him, but they say it is beyond their power and return to their meal.

Murashima is finally able to free himself from the roots and climbs up to the upper floor. After telling his story, Murashima begins his studies again. Now he calls Pig “Mother” and Sheep by his younger sister’s name, “Mitsuko,” and tells them to prepare him some food.

As Pig is explaining the food and the sap used for flavoring, Murashima suddenly pulls her to him and gives her a kiss. Then, after drinking a cocktail Sheep has mixed for him, Murashima is in great spirits and decides to give Pig a mathematical problem to solve. It is actually a Gedankenexperiment (thought experiment) to determine which of the two, Sheep or Pig, is telling a lie. But, no matter how much she ponders the problem, Pig is unable to come up with an answer.

Murashima tells [Pig] to prepare a new dish and put the sap on it, but as he continues to put sap on the food, he is seized by severe pain in his loins. A bed is brought in for the suffering Murashima. When he pulls back the sheets he finds a larger doll in the same form as the earlier girl-doll.

Looking at the doll, Murashima mutters, “It’s you, isn’t it, Mitsuko.” At that moment, one of the doors opens and a small man in student uniform enters. The little man draws near the bed and, seeing the doll, removes his clothes and begins to have intercourse with it. When the intercourse is finished the little man wipes his genitals with a tissue, hands it to Murashima and then falls asleep. Murashima realizes that in the course of these happenings the pain in his own groin has disappeared.

In the now quiet room we now hear the sound of rain outside. Through the open door we hear the sound of Pig’s voice talking about the earlier “thought experiment.”

Pig leaves, saying that she is going to do the wash. Left behind, Murashima approaches the sleeping little man and sticks his genitals with a pen. From the distance comes the faint sound of the wash water. For some reason, Murashima becomes aroused by the sound of the water. And, by some inexplicable connection the penis of the small man becomes erect, as the stage lights go out.

When the lights come on again it is morning in the room. Once again we see Sheep facing the log and saying, “Come out, come out.” The lights go out again, and on the electronic signboard appear the words “The End.”

Profile: Born: 1976
Born in Toyama Pref. in 1976. While a student in the Medical School of Showa University, he formed the theater company Niwagekidan Penino (Theatre the Garden Penino) in 2000 with members of the university’s drama club. Besides his activities as representative, playwright and director of this company, Tanino is also a licensed and practicing psychiatrist. The company’s works are built around imaginings and obsessions of Tanino’s that don’t really exist and are staged in spaces carefully designed to the finest detail. For his first serious attempt at playwriting, Egao no Toride (2007), and for Hoshikage no Jr. (2008), composed as a play-within-a play in which child actors from child-actor training program play a “fake family,” Tanino’s plays were nominated as finalists for the Kishida Drama Award for two consecutive years. With Frustrating Picture Book for Adults, Tanino and Niwagekidan Penino participated in the 2009 HAU Theater’s festival in Germany. The next overseas performances are scheduled in Switzerland and the Netherlands in summer 2010.