The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Kokudo, Goka, Seitakaawadachiso
Kokudo, Goka, Seitakaawadachiso
Kokudo, Goka, Seitakaawadachiso
Karasuma Stroke Rock Kokudo, Goka, Seitakaawadachiso from the Tsu performance on the 2013 three-city tour to Tsu, Itami and Hiroshima
Photos: Shinichi Nishioka
Premiere: 2013
Length: 1 hour 35 min.
Acts/scenes: 1 act/3 scenes
Cast: 6 (3 men, 3 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Aug. 23, 2013
Kokudo, Goka, Seitakaawadachiso (National highways, hellfire and tall goldenrod) by Akinori Yaginuma 
Kokudo, Goka, Seitakaawadachiso (National highways, hellfire and tall goldenrod) by Akinori Yaginuma 
This is a play developed from one of the works in Yaginuma’s collection of short plays titled the Adashino no Tsuyu (The dew of Adashino / 2010). The play is set in Daiei-cho, a town on a nation highway that prospered due to public works construction rights during Japan’s era of high economic growth rate but is now economically stagnant and depopulating. Yukichi Okawa, who in the past was driven out of the town in poverty, has returned and is in the process of establishing a successful business with a quality brand of rice. The storyline develops with his recollection of childhood and the troubles of the people of the town buffeted by the economic winds of the times. The premiere performance use a square stage sectioned in three and surrounded by a narrow passage symbolizing the national highway, and the sound effects and background music were performed live by a guitar and cello.
In addition to their own roles, the characters also perform alternate roles in the recollection scenes, etc.

The stage lights come on and the play begins with a seated Yukichi dropping his folded arms.

It is night. In a train bound for Daiei-cho, Yukichi is recalling memories of his childhood.
Among his recollections is the way he used to play as a child by pulling out the drawers of the chest to form a set of steps he could climb up and jump off. But, one time he fell badly and broke his arm. The bone eventually set with a crook in it, and he recalls feeling that his mother looked on him differently after that.

Few people get off the train at the Kannon Station that is his destination, and the hotel that an old woman directs him too has already gone out of business and is being used as the office of a candidate running for the town council.

The woman running the café bar he has entered to get something to eat asks him if he isn’t the Yukichi who was driven out of town on suspicion of having set a fire.

He hurries out of the café and after spending the night in the waiting room of the station a young man approaches to speak to him. He is the boyfriend of the café matron’s daughter and he has heard the rumors about Yukichi. He says that he was laid off at the factory where he worked on contract as a temporary worker and now he is in training in agricultural work.

After parting ways with the young man, Yukichi goes to visit his girlfriend from high school, Iori. He finds that she is married now and expecting a child. Iori’s father Kozo Furuta, who used to be an influential figure in the community, strutting his right wing politics, until he suffered a stroke that has left him bedridden. Yukichi used to hate him for keeping his mother as his mistress.

The meeting brings back memories of their love, when Iori would come to him saying, “Hold me,” and a mix of other recollections from Yukichi’s high school days.

When the father Kozo had heard that Yukichi and his daughter were dating, he came to find him, yelling furiously he punched Yukichi and then spread kerosene on the empty lot in front of his house and set it afire. The tall goldenrod burns furiously. The fire Yukichi was accused of starting was actually Kozo’s doing.

Yukichi throws the token gift of money for the sick at the bedridden Kozo when he visits, informs him of his mother’s death and shouts, “Apologize,” but the complaint doesn’t reach the debilitated old man. Yukichi is emotionally spent by the time he leaves the Furuta house.

Yukichi has thought of another way to pay back the people of the town who wronged him in the past.

After fleeing the town Yukichi had gotten a job as a salesman in health foods company in Osaka. Yukichi’s good record as a salesman had caught the eye of the company’s president and he had eventually been given charge of a subsidiary that sold water purifiers. That company had been run on a pyramid selling method that brought Yukichi big profits, but no amount of wealth could drive away his sense of emptiness. Unable to find understanding from his mother, he had moved out to live alone. When his mother got cancer she said she wanted to return to Daiei-cho, and after she died he had stuffed all his money in a suitcase and come back to his hometown.

His idea is to take advantage of the town’s only proud product, its rice, and sell it as a premium brand under the name “Kannon sama no megumi mai” (Rice of the Goddess of Mercy’s blessing) to revive the run-down town and make the people who ran his mother out of this town regret their misdeed. Using his salesman’s persuasiveness honed from years of pyramid-selling work, and his money, Yukichi gradually gets the townspeople to join in the business.

Yukichi’s business strategy is a success, and even TV news programs come to do stories about the new product. The townspeople now follow Yukichi’s every command and dance for joy with the new “prosperity” he has brought. Yukichi is now the town’s hero.

A scene at the Furuta home where Iori lives in interjected at this point in the play. She tells about the fire her father saw near the national highway. As Iori describes the raging fire, in the background we hear Yukichi’s sales talk and how the success of the risky business has not brought anything but money.

The bright, shimmering light of a fire illuminates the two as they talk and the bustling townspeople. One by one the townspeople’s activities come to an end and they disappear. The scene returns to the train headed toward Daiei-cho where Yukichi sits, and once again he drops his folded arms.

Born 1976 in Kyoto, Yaginuma is a playwright and director and representative of the theater company Karasuma Stroke Rock. He founded the company in 1999 while a student in the Faculty of Literature, Arts and Cultural Studies at Kinki University and has continued creative activities with it since, primarily in the Kyoto area. Yaginuma has been nominated numerous times for the OMS Drama Awards, a contest widely considered the gateway to success for playwrights in the Kansai region of Japan. Through his ongoing writing of short plays and ongoing fieldwork, Yagnuma addresses the realities and issues of contemporary society in a dramatic style that makes abundant use of monologue to depict the thoughts and emotions of his characters. Among Yaginuma’s representative works are the play Fukuinsho (The Gospels) that won the 2003 Kyoto Grand Prix of the 24th Kyoto Theater Festival, and was nominated has a finalist for the 12th OMS Drama Award the following year (2004) in a revised production titled Fukuinsho – Rokkawa-hen (The Gospels – Rokkawa Version) ; Himitsu no Asa, Kuberu Futari (Secret Morning, two thrown on the fire) (Misogeki Hour 2011 Award winner); the Hyohaku no Ie series compilation Hachigatsu, Hato ha Kaeruka (August, will the pigeon return?) (Nominated has a finalist for the 18th OMS Drama Award); Tanpenshu: Adashino no Tsuyu (Short Play Collection: The dew of Adashino), and numerous others. Yaginuma also holds workshops around the country for participants from high school students to the elderly and writes and directs community theater plays.