The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Hitoyo (One Night)
Hitoyo (One Night)
Kakuta 22th production
Hitoyo (One Night)
(Oct. 21 – 30, 2011 at Theatre Tram)
Photo: Hiroaki Aikawa
Premiere: 2011
Length: 1 hr. 55 min.
Acts/scenes: 1 act, 6 scenes
Cast: 13 (7 men, 6 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Dec. 6, 2011
Hitoyo (One Night) by Yuko Kuwabara 
Hitoyo (One Night) by Yuko Kuwabara 
This new play was written for the 15th anniversary production of Kuwabara’s own KAKUTA theater company. The setting is a small taxi company run out of the home of its owner in a country town. One night the mother, Koharu Inamura, decides to leave the home in order to protect the children from her husband’s domestic violence, promising her children that she will come back in 15 years. This play depicts the family’s reunion after having to live with the burden of that one night’s (hitoyo) incident and how they restart their lives after it.
The opening scene is a night in March of 1996 at the office of the Inamura Taxi company. The eldest son Daiki and the eldest daughter Sonoko are watching television. They both have visible cuts and bruises on their faces and bodies. When their mother comes home, still in her taxi driver’s uniform, she calls the second son Yuji from their house behind the office and tells the children that she has killed their father. She says that she has done it to protect them and that she is proud of what she has done. She tells them that she is going to the police to turn herself in, but she promises to come back in 15 years when things have settled down.

Fifteen years later. The taxi company is now being run by Koharu’s nephew Susumu and the company name has been changed to Inamaru Taxi. The employees include Koharu’s long-time friend Yumi, who has been the company’s telephone operator and order-taker for the past 15 years, the driver Utagawa, a woman driver Ushiku (called by her nickname Mo) and a new driver named Doushita. Koharu’s three children have understandably spent a difficult 15 years and grown up with the burden and taken different directions from when Koharu turned herself in 15 years ago. Daiki is married now and lives in the family home behind the office with his wife Fumiko and works at Fumiko’s family’s electric appliance store. Sonoko works at a bar and Yuji is in Tokyo studying to be a writer.

The scene is a day in March, and it is 5:00 in the morning. Yuji, who has come back from Tokyo for his father’s memorial service, is napping in the office. The employees and family come back in twos and threes. Although they don’t talk about it, Daiki, Sonoko and Yuji are uneasy because of a premonition that their mother will be returning to the home soon. Susumu goes out to lock up the garage and comes back saying that there is someone out there in the shadows. It turns out to be Yoshinaga, a dairy farmer who for some reason can only speak pigeon Japanese (in fact, he has helped Koharu for a period after she got out of prison, for which she is indebted to him).

Only Doushita and a dozing Sonoko remain in the office when Koharu walks in as if nothing has happened in the past 15 years.

It is the evening of the next day. Yumi is glad to see Koharu back. Looking askance as their mother and Yumi chat and laugh, Daiki, Sonoko and Yuji aren’t emotionally ready to accept their mother’s sudden return. Fumiko, who is living separately now, arrives on the scene and is confused when she talks with Koharu because her husband Daiki had told her that his mother died along with his father.

Late at night on the same day, the things that happened to the employees and children during the past 15 years are gradually revealed. While caring for her mother-in-law, Yumi has been having a secret affair with the younger Utagawa; the former yakuza Doushita has asked his former underling, Tomokuni, to give him side work running drugs in order to pay the tuition of his re-united son; Daiki, who has a complex about his stuttering and the permanently bent finger he got from his father’s abuse, constantly fights with his wife Fumiko, who herself has a bit of a persecution complex. What’s more, because of Koharu’s decision that night (hitoyo) 15 years ago, Daiki lost the job he had been promised, Sonoko quit studying at the beautician school and Yuji went bad. Still, Koharu insists that she did the right thing.

It is a day in April. After a magazine writes a favorable article about Koharu’s case, the telephone in the taxi office rings constantly with requests for taxis. A local television crew also comes to the house to do a story and it looks like things are taking a turn for the better. Then a dazed Yumi shows up after skipping work with no notice. She announces that she has killed her mother-in-law.

Several days later. Everyone is returning from the funeral of Yumi’s mother-in-law, who had in fact been killed in an accident while out wandering around unattended. A dark cloud has now settled over Inamaru Taxi company with a series of incidents like punctured tires by someone who holds a grudge against Koharu. Furthermore, enraged by the fact that Fumiko was passing out copies of the favorable magazine article about Koharu at the funeral in an attempt to encourage people to understand Koharu, and the fact that she had announced that she was going to cure her husband’s stuttering and bent finger herself, Daiki shoves divorce papers at her and even lets out his rage by kicking the furniture around.

When Koharu steps in to try to stop him, Daiki asks angrily if she intends to kill him like she did his no-good father. At that, Koharu runs into the office’s nap room and closes the curtain. When they open the curtain later they find Koharu absorbed in the porno books that Yuji had hidden there when he was in middle school. It is her attempt to show people that she is not a saint. Everyone is taken aback by this gesture.

Late that same night. Sonoko, who once trained to become a beautician, has given Yoshinaga a haircut and brings him out to show everyone. Seeing his formerly long hair reduced to a crew cut, Yoshinaga comments that it’s a turning point.

In comes Tomokuni supporting a dead drunk Doushita and followed a woman named Hinako. Learning that the money he thought he was sending to his son for tuition was actually being used merely for decadent amusement, Doushita has drunken himself into a stupor. Seeing Doushita regretting the joy he had felt that night (hitoyo) he was reunited with his son, Koharu quietly reprimands him.

She tells him, “If it was a special night for you, isn’t that enough in itself?”

After things quiet down, Daiki and Yuji go out in the garden and see a blimp in the night sky. When Sonoko comes out, Daiki points up at the blimp. Seeing his bent finger pointing off in another direction the three siblings double over in laughter. Caught up in the mood, Koharu starts laughing too. But, in the next moment that laughter turns into loud, uncontrolled crying. The children are beginning to get over their unhappy pasts, but Koharu still bears the wounds of that incident and is being crushed by the weight of her crime that won’t go away and the time that can never be recovered. Surprised at her state, the children slowly come to her side.

Outside, Yoshinaga has decided that he is going on a journey. Asked where he wants to go, he says, “To where the night ends.” Mo (Ushiku) starts the engine and the taxi drives off.

Born in Tokyo. Founded the theater company KAKUTA in 1996. From 2001, Kuwabara began writing and directing plays for the company while also performing as an actress as one of its central members. Dedicated to a style with well-made plot development, her plays depict the emotions of people in everyday life with meticulous attention. She also stages performances and drama readings in spaces outside the conventional theater, such as outdoor venues, amusement parks, planetariums and galleries. Her activities also include writing works for production outside her company and directs and acts outside on numerous occasions as well. Her company KAKUTA celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2011. For her representative work Amai oka she was nominated for the 52nd Kishida Drama Award in 2007, and when it was restaged in 2009 she received the best new playwright and director awards of the Arts Festival of the Agency for Cultural Affairs. In 2011 Kuwabara embroidered and directed the Broadway musical Peter Pan in Tokyo. Works presented by her company in recent years include Hitoyo, Megurumeku, Straman, Root Beers, Me wo mite uso wo tsuke and Nangoku pool no atsui suna, and she has written numerous other plays such as Outen and Moon river.