enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


The Latter Half of the 20th Century : The Spread of Post-War Children’s Theatre

  During the second half of the 1940s, some of the children’s theatre activities that had been suspended due to the war were resumed. In addition, new theatre companies such as Tampopo (‘Dandelion’, established in 1947) and Kaze-no-Ko (‘Child of the Wind’, established in 1950) also began to arise. The dramas being staged during this time period were mainly those that portrayed Japan’s post-war society in realistic terms. Starting with Kane no Naru Oka (‘The Hill Where the Bell Rings’, first performed in 1948) by the Toho/Tokyo Broadcasting Group ‘Tsukushi-za’, productions at this time were focused on post-war manners and customs, problems faced by war orphans, and a rejection of violence.
  In the 1950s, the launch of the Iwanami Children’s Paperback Book Edition in 1950 led to a surge in popularity of productions of overseas children’s plays in translation. One typical example is Mori wa Ikiteiru (‘The Forest is Alive’), which was first staged by the Haiyu-za group in 1954. In contrast, in the 1960s, the various theatre companies that put on children’s plays were influenced by the government’s rapid economic growth policy as they searched for ways to be creative. For example, the troupe known as Kaze-no-Ko created and staged a play called Karedonia-go shuppannsu (‘The Caledonia Sets out to Sail’, first staged in 1960), which addressed the then-provocative subject of discrimination against black people.
  The 1970s saw developments in the children’s theatre that reflected the end of the period of rapid economic growth. General theatre groups such as the Gendai Engeki Kyokai (‘Modern Theatre Association’) and the Gekidan Mingei (‘Folk Arts Theatre Group’) began to show interest in the children’s theatre, which led to a shift in the thematic material of plays. For example, Obake Ringo (‘The Ghostly Apple’), first staged in 1974 by the Gendai Engeki Kyokai, and Otazunemono Hottsenpurottsu (‘Hotzenplotz, a Wanted Man’), which was first staged in 1975 by Gekidan Mingei, featured subject matter that reflected contemporary circumstances and thus dealt with sadness and the negative aspects of human life.
  In the 1980s, a wide variety of groups involved in performing arts for children began to actively interact and engage in joint projects. One of these was festivals. In 1985, the first All Japan Performing Arts for Children Festival was held on Sado Island. This was the first of what was to become many such festivals held at locations throughout Japan. In that same year (1985), the Kodomo-no-Shiro (‘Children’s Castle’: the informal name of the National Comprehensive Children’s Centre) was opened on Aoyama Street in commemoration of International Youth Year.
  The 1990s were a time when major changes took place in people’s lifestyle and working life due to increases in the numbers of part-time workers, the advent of the information society, and the globalisation of economics. Problems such as increased inequality, crimes being committed by ever younger people, and declining scholastic ability arose. As a result, plays that took up the types of social problems that children faced became increasingly prominent. In addition, school productions that included workshops in which children could participate in a single scene of a play were on the increase.