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Friday, Oct. 12, 2007

9/11 through Japan's eyes


In the Japanese theater world, Rinkogun merits a special mention for its concern for socio-political issues and its focus on increasing audiences' awareness rather than merely eliciting laughter or tears as many other companies are content to do.

News photo
Members of the cast of "World Trade Center as in Katakana."

The troupe's latest play, "World Trade Center as in Katakana," stays true to this mission and runs from Oct. 20 at Tokyo's Suzunari Theater.

Rinkogun was founded in 1983 by its chief writer and director, 45-year-old Yoji Sakate, who is also the current president of the Japan Playwrights Association.

Among its many triumphs was "The Emperor and the Kiss" in 1999. Using the conflict between a student filmmaking group and their teachers as its scenario, this brave work effectively lifted the lid on Japan's peculiar attitude to its royal family and the distorted democracy surrounding that anachronistic institution.

This time, as its title suggests, "World Trade Center as in Katakana" focuses on the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001 through personal accounts as they were experienced by ordinary Japanese people in New York that day. By looking at this event through foreigners' eyes, Sakate aims to see how they grasped what happened and how their response differed from that of Americans — and hence how any gap in perceptions may be influencing international relations to this day.

As a witness from the American side, Sakate calls on Ed Vassallo, an American actor who was in Manhattan when the planes hit the towers, and who has described getting on a subway and finding "everybody was talking anxiously to each other. It was the first moment I experienced comradeship and fellow feeling among passengers in New York. . . . It was the worst day in the city's history, but the town was full of a feeling of sympathy . . . and we all supported each other, whichever race we were."

But as Sakate has commented about his new play, "This WTC terrorism led to (the) Iraq war, and the war is still (on)going. So we have to tackle 9/11 as a current issue, not as a past tragedy. Moreover, we Japanese should also wake up to this being our affair, too."

"World Trade Center as in Katakana" runs from Oct. 20 till Nov. 6 at the Suzunari Theater, a 5-minute walk from Shimokitazawa on the Odakyu and Inokashira lines.

It then tours to Itami City in Hyogo Prefecture, Okayama, Kita-Kyushu, Nagoya, Kanazawa and Kawasaki.

Tickets are ¥2,000-3,600 (there is a discount for students). For more details, call Rinkogun at (03) 3426-6294 or visit www.alles.or.jp/~rinkogun.



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