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Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005


'Secret' writer joins Diet drama

Staff writer

There are lawyers-turned-politicians. There are bureaucrats-turned-politicians. There are professors-turned-politicians . . . sports players-turned-politicians . . . actors-turned-politicians . . . and so on.

News photo
Tetsuhisa Matsuzaki in front of the Diet

Probably, writers-turned-politicians are not a particularly rare species either, with Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka springing readily to mind.

When Tetsuhisa Matsuzaki, a Lower House member from the Democratic Party of Japan, revealed last November at a party that he also has a career as a writer, it wasn't that alone that caused a stir. No, it was the unexpected fact that he had a dual career writing scripts for major musicals produced by the big-league Shiki Theatre Company under the pen name, Hiromitsu Yukawa.

However, as he made clear to political colleagues and supporters at the party to mark his first complete year in the Diet, Matsuzaki, 54, has no intention of hanging up either of his professional hats.

"Of course I am engaged very much in political activities," Matsuzaki said in the handout given to the party guests. "But at the same time, I can see things in the world from the viewpoints of a novelist and a dramatist. I believe this perspective will greatly assist my job as a lawmaker by bringing the voices of ordinary people to the legislature.

"Sometimes it is not easy to play both roles -- but I would like to try," he declared.

In fact, before he ever became a politician or scriptwriter, Matsuzaki had long worked as a political analyst and had had several books published under his real name, including "Jiminto Seiken (The Liberal Democratic Party Regime)" in 1986 -- co-written with the political critic Seizaburo Sato -- and "Nihongata Democracy no Gyakusetsu (The Paradox of Japanese-style Democracy) in 1991.

Then, after first running for political office in 1992, and failing to win an Upper House seat with the now-defunct Japan New Party, he tried and failed to be elected twice more before winning his current seat in the November 2003 Lower House election.

"During that time, I needed and wanted to keep working as a writer. But once I ran for election, it was difficult to work as a political critic. So then, using my pen name, I started writing fiction, mainly about Japanese history," he said in this interview.

News photo
A scene from the British hit musical "Mamma Mia!" translated by Tetsuhisa Matsuzaki (Takeru photo)

The first book he wrote as Hiromitsu Yukawa, a story based on the fabled Chushingura vendetta by 47 Edo Period samurai, was published in 1998. Then, he sent a copy to Keita Asari, the president and a director of the Shiki Theatre Company, asking for his comments, as Asari is known for his love of historical novels. To Matsuzaki's amazement, however, Asari not only commented on the book -- but also asked Matsuzaki to work with him to create original musicals based on the history of Showa Era.

After that, Matsuzaki -- under the name of Yukawa -- worked with Asari and other Shiki writers on the scenarios of the musicals, including last year's "Minamijujisei (The Southern Cross)," which is about an ordinary young Japanese man who was sent as a soldier to Indonesia during World War II and eventually became a war criminal. He also worked on the Japanese script of the British hit musical "Mamma Mia!," whose ongoing triumphant run in Japan opened in 2002.

"The process of creating the musicals was very interesting. Writers decide the main message first. Then they think about the story structure, taking a lot of time to revise it many times. Then we finally get to hear our script played by the actors, and then the music comes. It is a very exciting experience."

As for his other hat, that of a politician, Matsuzaki says, "I believe my background as a writer definitely works positively as a Diet member. Writing means thinking, and the research and concentration it requires also help my job as a politician.

"Also, a politician's job tends to be exhausting sometimes, especially during elections. But a writer's job is something very creative. Doing both jobs helps me feel refreshed. I want to keep writing one book every year as well as participate in creating musical works for Shiki."

As astonished as many of his political colleagues once were to learn of Matsuzaki's other career, he says that nowadays they often urge him to write a scenario in which the DPJ -- the largest opposition party -- gains power by overthrowing the current ruling coalition. But Matsuzaki does not think that is a good idea.

"I don't think it's possible," he says, "because politicians never act their roles as they are supposed to do in the script like actors do."

OK, so how about a political thriller?

"I might, if I could write a high-level story like one of Jeffrey Archer's. But I don't know. Probably one day, maybe after I retire . . . "

For other stories in our package on multi-takers, please click the following links:

One life that bridges many realms By SETSUKO KAMIYA Counselor counters the blues through chanson and jazz By YOKO HANI 'Curiosity' at the core of days packed with lots to chew on By SETSUKO KAMIYA

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