Toshiki Okada Ground and Floor Interview (2/2)
- Kyoko Iwaki
What did you discuss with the composer Koizumi Atsuhiro (Sangatsu)?
On the first meeting, we discussed about the non-western music, like, for instance, we were saying that the structure of Nagauta [a traditional Japanese music, which mainly accompanies Kabuki theatre] is quite interesting. In the line of thinking, we went on to talk about Noh, and I perhaps told him that I have an image of a Noh-like musical theatre. However, I never gave a specific order on what every single note has to represent in the play. So, for instance, I know that a certain sound in the piece obviously reminds you of a sound of an earthquake, and I know that Koizumi-san also has that image in his mind. Although, I never gave him such a concrete order. This is not to say that I didn’t want him to create those kinds of sounds. No, on the contrary, it’s just that I don’t have to spoon-feed him on what to do: I have left most everything to him. This is possible because the musical taste of Koizumi-san and Sangatsu is, well, simply perfect.
Lastly, I want to briefly go back to the issue of ‘nation’ and ‘language’. The performance gave me an impression that perhaps you don’t have a special attachment to the nation of Japan. More important still, even though you are fond of the Japanese language, maybe there is a possibility of you evacuating from the country for good. Do you more or less agree to this observation?
Yes, I agree. But that approval comes mostly from my personal consideration. I have children, so when I think about their future, I arrive at these conclusions. However, as already mentioned, I absolutely like the Japanese language, and, as a practical matter, this language functions only in the country of Japan. Therefore, I have a strong feeling that I want to remain in the country. Also as a Japanese theatre maker, I do have a will to do something good for the country. However, my personal voice is different from my professional opinion. I want to assure that my kids will be okay even if they live outside of Japan.
Yes, I understand. However, once when you leave your country indifinetly, for example, in this country (Belgium) there are the third generation immigrants, who can only speak French despite they are ethnically from a different origin. Numerous issues of identity politics arise from this complex condition. Therefore, although leaving your homeland, changing your mother tongue and losing your specific identity are all different acta, at the end of the day, they might all be an integral part of the whole.
Yes, that is correct. But if I had to make a decision between saving the Japanese identity and saving my own child, on personal level, I will definitely choose the latter. This issue is very complicated because obviously, I also want to protect the Japanese culture. The difficulty of thinking about these things, about a certain language becoming extinct is that, for example, if I imagine about the moment when that language vanishes from the earth, obviously that is very sad. But the thing is, the death of the last speaker will be mourned but the death of that language will not be lamented. Simply because, a speaker to grieve the death of their language doesn’t exist anymore. And so, if one Japanese child exists, and even if that child grows up as a non-Japanese speaker, that will not make him or her unhappy. The child can be equally happy by speaking whatever language he or she can. Anyway, this issue is too heavy. It’s not an issue that I can thoroughly explain in this interview.
Kyoko Iwaki is a theatre journalist and researcher based in Tokyo and London. For over a decade, she has constantly contributed to major newspapers and journals. In 2011, her bilingual book Tokyo Theatre Today: Conversations with Eight Emerging Theatre Artists (Hublet Publishing, London / Tokyo) was published. In 2013, a biography Ushio Amagatsu:Des rivages d’enfance au bûto de Sankai juku was issued in France (Actes Sud, Paris). She currently works also as a freelance artistic advisor with organization such as Festival/Tokyo.