enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


Children and War/Disaster


Wars and disasters cause enormous shifts in the fate of children.

  Children’s theatre was developed through activities that were influenced by the post-war educational movement and children’s literature movement, or by the slogan ‘To ensure that our students are never again sent to the battlefield’, which was in the article ‘Labour Unions and a Separate Peace’ (Sekai 70, 1951) by Akira Imamura. Thus, a large number of works for the children’s theatre took up the subject of World War II or children during wartime. Examples of these include ‘Konoko-tachi no Natsu (The Summer of These Children)’ (first staged in 1985) produced by the theatre company Chijin-kai and ‘Natsu no Kumo ha wasurenai (I’ll Never Forget the Clouds of Summer)’ (first staged in 2008) produced by Natsu-no-Kai. These two plays are ‘reading performances’ on the theme of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Another work that has enjoyed a long run is ‘Doctor Korczak and the Children’ (first staged in 1995), which was performed by the theatre company Himawari and takes up the topic of a Polish-Jewish officer who experienced World War II. However, as the generation that lived through World War II continues to age, one of the serious issues that needs to be dealt with is the problem of how to inform future generations who have not experienced war.
  Japan experiences a large number of natural disasters, and therefore a number of works have been created for the children’s theatre on the theme of disasters. Some examples of these include ‘6-nen 3-kumi no Hanshin Daishinsai (The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that the Class 3 of Year 6 experienced)’ (first staged in 1995), which was produced by the theatre company Jiyujin-kai and deals with the titular disaster; and ‘Sora no Mura-go (The Ship “Village of the Sky”)’ (first staged in 2012), which was produced by the Japanese for Japan Union of Theatre Companies for Children and Young People and which focuses on the Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster of 2011. As some refugees and their children have direct experience of recent earthquakes, thinking about such issues as how to portray natural disasters such as earthquakes on the stage and how to engage children and their families in considering these disasters will provide opportunities to create future plays.