Sajikidōji - April in Sumida-Ward: "Soldiers in the lavatory"

The stage of Sajikidōji is always
hand made by its staffs. Its main structures is made
with a great number of rods and sticks. There is a wooden bridge in the center of the stage
franked by a wooden lavatory on the left side and a room (walls are not constructed) on the right. A vacuum car
appears through under the bridge, which later is split to allow a big tank to go to the stage. The whole stage is decorated with golden maple leaves.
Though I wrote on Sajikidōji in another article in the context of general introduction to contemporary Japanese theatre, I would like to report on its recent performance.

Since I happened to see a performance of Sajikidōji, it becomes my habit to buy tickets immediately after the start of booking. As far as I know, no other theater companies are in a position to produce new plays twice or three times a year which are without exception deeply moving and exciting. The stage of Sajikidōji reproduces the struggles of downtrodden people. It puts poor people on the stage and let them give us the same message, "live your life as much as you can, despite of misfortune, distress and discrimination". Many people, irrespective of age or sex, are enchanted by Sajikidōji and fill the spectators' seats.

This highly serious message appears to be obsolete in the modern Tokyo such as Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown. There, people appear to be only interested in making money and suffocated by cyber money trade such or speculation in real estate markets. They live in gorgeous and hyper-modern apartment houses, consume highest quality products from all over the world and do not pay attention to the simple and poor but happy lives.

We can see Skytree under construction from the site - at the last performance in December (above) and this time (below)
The world we can experience in the Sajikidōji performance is just the opposite of Roppongi Hills. But, I can see there more reality than in the futuristic money world. The popularity of Sajikidōji is the evidence that people want to feel the expression of raw and tangible human emotions, because we are living creatures too and not electronic parts of a computer.

This time, the theme of the play was slightly different from the previous performances I had seen. It handled the love of a young son to his mother. Toru, seven years old son, is so dependent on his mother that he can not allow her to have relations with men including his father. Toru has therefore created from his wild fantasy soldiers cleaning lavatorys. When his hatred in adult men mounts, they appear and help him. This results in a chain of casualties.

The idea of old style soldiers working as lavatory cleaner coming in a vacuum car is absurd. Scatology works here as a source of energy for Toru to attack the clean and ordinary world of adults.

Toru was played by Karasuyama Akane, young actress coming from North-Kyushu. This tiny girl could perform, sing and speak in a marvelous way and I was almost put under a spell by her existence on the stage. She has had her hair almost completely cut and this gives her role a strange reality as a little boy in a country side a few decades ago.

Flyer of "Soldiers in the lavatory"
She started to work with Sajikidōji when it had a performance in North-Kyushu some time ago. I am looking forward to seeing their future joint-activities.

The proper Sajikidōji actors were rather assisting Karasuyama Akane. But, they were all extremely good. Itagaki Momoko, the main actress of the company, played the key role, the innocent and beautiful mother, in a convincing and charming way: she innocent but not attentive enough to realize the fatal situation. Mori Chie and Yamamoto Asami played, among supporting roles, unmarried and weird aunts in comical ways. They are necessary characters in Sajikidōji plays and I always enjoy watching them.

It seems to me that Azuma Kenji, leader of Sajikidōji, tries to feature actresses in turn, while the roles of actors are more or less pre-determined: Ikesita Judai plays a leading part, Haraguchi Kentaro an important supporting role and other young actors less important roles.

Since the last performance, Sajikidōji uses a warehouse in the east of Tokyo. A popular warehouse theatre, Benisan-Pit, was closed after 25 years' existence early last year due to the superannuation of the construction. Therefore, the offer of Suzuki-Kosan & Co to use one of its warehouses for cultural programs was welcome by many people. Sumida-Ward also decided to encourage cultural activities in the new site through subsidies. Sumida-Ward is a traditional down town area and diverse factories and small business are located. Therefore, it is in a sense an ideal location for the performances of Sajikidōji. It has already decided to have its next performance in July in the same warehouse.

By the way I noticed a large bouquet placed next to the entrance with the name of a famous enka singer, Ishikawa Sayuri. I wondered, checked in the internet and found that Higashi Kenji, the leader of Sajikidōji, produced the stage of Ishikawa Sayuri held in Meijiza Theatre in March 2008 and members of the company participated in her recital. An interesting collaboration.

Towards the end of the play the vacuum car turned to be a huge military tank and entered the stage through the split bridge. Confetti poured down in torrents. This is the ending of Sajikidōji.

The performance in December was held in this warehouse.

In front of the warehouse II before the opening: people in