The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Beautiful World
Photo: Hiromi Kaneko Beautiful World
Beautiful World
Photo: Yoshizo Okamoto Beautiful World
Beautiful World
Photo: Hiromi Kaneko
Modern Swimmers 20th anniversary production
Beautiful World
(Jun. 7 – 23, 2019 at Theatre East, Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre)
Premiere: 2019
Length: 2 hr. 15 min.
Acts, Scenes:
Cast: 8 (5 men, 3 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Aug. 29, 2019
Beautiful World by Ryuta Horai 
Beautiful World by Ryuta Horai 
This play was written in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the theater company Modern Swimmers, for which Ryuta Horai is the resident playwright. The story is about a stay-at-home in his mid-40s named Natsuhiko, his father’s younger brother Junji and his wife Kinuko, who is has been driven to the end of her wits by her husband’s power harassment. The play begins with the meeting of these two who are being driven to their limits.
A stay-at-home in his mid-40s named, Natsuhiko had to leave his parents and his independent younger brother Zen when the family home burned down, and he was sent to live in the separate cottage of the Koshino family in Choshi city in Chiba Prefecture.

The Koshino family are former purveyors of an old Japanese confection company that Natsuhiko’s father’s younger brother Junji married into. Junji married the family’s only daughter, Kinuko and they have an only daughter named Sako who works at a realty company. For certain reasons, the confectioner business was shut down and one of the former employees, a quiet man named Takakura, got together with a former female employee named Riku, who is said to be going with a disheartened would-be actor named Sawada, revamped the shop into a café.

Concerning Natsuhiko, who has been given the family’s separate cottage and spends his days there alone playing video games, Kinuko takes a liking to him, but her husband Junji and daughter Sako can’t hide their disgust for his aimless and parasitic lifestyle. When Junji orders his nephew Natsuhiko to help out at the café by doing the cleaning, he soon feels pressure from Sawada, who clearly looks down on him, and Riku with her obvious curiosity at his behavior, and their attitudes send him back into reclusion again. Sako comes to see what Natsuhiko is doing and put the pressure on him to get back to work, but she also secretly asks him to keep a pair of earrings for her.

On Takakura’s orders, Natsuhiko went by bicycle to buy supplies for the café, but on the way he is overcome by thoughts about the superiors an fellow workers at his job in the past that had drove him to become a stay-at-home. Then he goes into a panic when he realizes that he has dropped the envelope with the money he was supposed to buy the supplies with.

Just then Kinuko happens along. Stressed out by her husband’s power harassment, when she can’t take it anymore Kinuko fills her head with the music of Hikaru Utada that she loves to escape from the reality of her life. Because her husband Junji couldn’t devote himself to his work, Kinuko overworked herself in his stead, but when mistakes she made in her exhaustion caused the confection shop to go out of business, he wasn’t there to defend her. Still wanting to be of use, Kinuko tried inventing new recipes for the café, but again Junji belittled anything she tried day after day.

Kinuko put up her own money to pay for the supplies Natsuhiko had been sent to buy, and as they rode back together on the bicycle they began to talk about themselves. And on the way they found the money he had lost.

From that day on, Kinuko began to spend time with Natsuhiko in the cottage, bringing him samples of the new recipes she had thought up or joining him playing the video games.

Meanwhile, after Riku told Sawada that she wanted to end their relationship, he began to turn his frustration on Natsuhiko, becoming violent at times. Again, Natsuhiko began to recall the trouble with fellow workers that had caused him to quit his original job and become reclusive.

Junji soon became disturbed by the amount of time Kinuko was spending with Natsuhiko. Convinced that Kinuko’s defense of the worthless Natsuhiko is really the result of her inner distaste for him, Junji bursts into the cottage. When Kinuko counters him by singing an Utada song, Junji strikes her in anger. Having secretly taken a video of this display of violence with his cell phone, Natsuhiko threatens Junji by saying he is going to upload it on the social media as proof of Junji’s domestic violence.

Now in a relationship, Natsuhiko and Kinuko try putting a new item on the café menu called a “Sky Parfait” and it fills them with joyous redemption when it becomes a best seller.

Junji is watching Kinuko’s expression closely. He tells her that their daughter Sako wants to introduce the man she is going out with now, and as Kinuko listens to his words she recalls when they were younger and used to treat each other with kind affection.

Now that Riku has broken up with Sawada, she has begun visiting Natsuhiko frequently. Kinuko has become suspicious about the relationship between Riku and Natsuhiko and presses him for an answer about it. Natsuhiko explains that Riku and other employees of the café have been coming to him for advice about their problems, and it is clear that Natsuhiko is beginning to feel pressure again from these new interpersonal relationships.

A meeting is in progress about new menu items for the café. Unable to come up with any new ideas, Kinuko proposes a new variation on the Sky Parfait. Sako reveals the fact that the Sky Parfait was a stolen idea, and complains to Kinuko that because of that, Junji had to go to the shop that originally invented it to apologize for the copying of it.

Sako insists that from now on she and Takakura are going to take over management of the café. In fact, it was Takakura that Sako has been in a relationship with, even though he has a wife and children. Everyone is shocked at the revelation. With the fact that his extramarital relationship with Sako has been revealed, Takakura is shaken and wavering, because he never had any intention of divorcing his wife.

Sako then turns on Natsuhiko and says that when Takakura’s divorce is complete, she will marry him and they will move to the Koshino family’s cottage, so she wants Natsuhiko to vacate it immediately. Next it is Riku who begins to cry as she reveals that she also had been in an illicit relationship with Takakura. Half-crazed by the realization that the suspicious earrings she had found in Takakura’s suit and left with Natsuhiko at the cottage until she could find out the truth about them were in fact Sako’s, Riku goes into a rage. Incensed by the revelation of this double infidelity, Junji goes into a rage too, showering blows on Takakura.

Watching this raging turmoil and seeing what senseless lives these people had been living, Natsuhiko feels a strange sort of elation, as if suddenly released from his long-held shame of being a stay-at-home recluse. The overwhelming sight of Kinuko wailing in despair and tearing the menu notes to shreds in the midst of the surrounding turmoil, everyone finally quiets down. It is her husband Junji that comes to the side of and strokes her back to console her.

It is Natsuhiko’s birthday. When Kinuko brings a cake to him in the cottage, Natsuhiko tells her that he will soon be leaving. Unable to accept this sudden announcement, Kinuko stands with cake knife still in hand as she demands that he explain this sudden change of heart. Natsuhiko slips out and hops on the bicycle to flee, with a distraught Kinuko chasing him.

Seeing Kinuko and understanding her feelings, Natsuhiko gets off the bicycle, kneels on the ground and bows to her in apology. He tells her that it was only during the time he spent with her that he felt free from the shame of living the useless life of a recluse and expresses his gratitude to her for that time. Regaining her senses, Kinuko tells Natsuhiki as they part, “It’s OK. I’m sure things will go well for you.”

Natsuhiko and his younger brother Zen sit together on a train. Although nothing is certain about his future, there is something bright about the expression on Natsuhiko’s face. With a bit of uncertainty and concern in his voice, Zen informs Natsuhiko that his wife is with child. Natsuhiko replies in a quiet voice, “I’m sure (the world) will be good to us all, like they say.”

Profile: Born 1976 in Hyogo Prefecture, Horai graduated from the Theater department of the Butai Geijuyutsu Gakuin. In 1999, he joined in the forming of the theater company Modern Swimmers with classmate Yoshimasa Nishijo (leader) as the resident writer and director. He has also written stage adaptations of best-selling novels including Sekai no chushin de, ai o sakebu (Socrates in Love), Tokyo Tawaa~Okan to boku to, tokidoki, oton (Tokyo Tower: Mom and I and Sometimes Dad), and others. His scripts have won high praise for their absorbing depictions of groups of characters living though the unavoidable subtleties, destinies and the realities of the times.
In 2008 came the release of the movie Gachi Boi (Gachi Boy) based on the play Igarashi den~Igarashi wa moete iru ka (The Igarashi Story: Is He Passionate?) Horai wrote for Modern Swimmers. In 2009, his play Maboroba won the 53rd Kishida Drama Award, and in 2017 his play Haha to Wakusei ni tsuite – oyobi Jiten suru Onnatachi no Kiroku won the 20th Tsuruya Namboku Drama Award, and in 2019 his play Kieteyuku nara asa won the 6th Hayakawa Tragedy and Comedy Award. Also, in recognition of the high level of dramatic appeal of the company’s productions, in 2012, his company won the Excellence Prize of the 67th Agency for Cultural Affairs National Arts Festival.
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