enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館

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Making of Minoru Betsuyaku: From His Unpublished First Play to the Soyosoyo Tribe

Lineage of the Soyosoyo Tribe

In the early 1970s, Betsuyaku wrote pieces that explored the human ‘soul’, such as Supai Monogatari (spy story). Soyosoyo-zoku no Hanran (the revolt of the Soyosoyo tribe) from 1971 was also about the fundamental nature of the human soul, which was something he would continue to depict.
The Soyosoyo tribe is an ancient aphasic tribe, the people of silence who never complain even if they are hungry but assert themselves by starving to death. This image of the ‘Soyosoyo tribe’ was cultivated within Betsuyaku and bore fruit in the series Dowa: Soyosoyo-zoku Densetsu (children’s story: legend of the Soyosoyo tribe), which depicts the origins of the Soyosoyo tribe on an epic scale. It consists of the parts ‘1. Utsubobune’ (the moray boat) (1982), ‘2. Amanjaku’ (1983), and ‘3. Ukishima no Miyako’ (the capital of Ukishima) (1985). Notes written in his own hand on manuscript paper describe detailed plans for constructing the legend of the Soyosoyo tribe, making them important sources for knowing about the tribe. The detailed chronological table of Japanese history included in the creative notebooks, which is thought to have been written in the 1950s, must have also served as a basis for constructing this fictional history. In addition, there is a series of illustrations that depict in detail ‘Oumi’, where the Soyosoyo tribe lives, which are thought to be drawn by Betsuyaku himself.
In the creative notebook ‘Bobiroku’ (notes to self), there is a page entitled ‘Report 2 on the Soyosoyo tribe’. There are descriptions such as ‘1. Signs of the Soyosoyo tribe in Bruegel’, ‘2. Signs of the Soyosoyo tribe in Kafka’, and ‘3. On the Soyosoyo tribe declaration’. According to this, signs of the Soyosoyo tribe can be seen in various places in Tokyo. Bruegel’s name also abruptly appears in ‘Soyosoyo-zoku no Hanran Sosaku Noto’ (creative notes on The Revolt of the Soyosoyo Tribe), which is included in Kotoba e no Senjutsu (word strategies), so the connection to the ‘Bruegel notes’ is also an interesting one.
The ideology of the Soyosoyo tribe to not loudly assert their poverty and unhappiness, but to do so silently by starving to death is also carried on as Betsuyaku’s aesthetic in a series of works called ‘petty bourgeois’, such as Aabukutatta, Niitatta (bubbling and boiling) and Nishi Muku Samurai (samurai looking to the west).

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