enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館



The “shingeki” (新劇; new drama) movement developed in opposition to traditional theatre (i.e. “kabuki”) and “shinpa” (新派; new school). The movement represented an effort to introduce into Japan the naturalistic theatre prevailing in Europe at the time and thus make Japanese plays reflect the changing times. “Shingeki” traces its roots to Tsubouchi Shoyo and Shimamura Hogetsu’s Bungei Kyokai (文芸協会) and Ichikawa Sadanji II and Osanai Kaoru’s Jiyu Gekijo (自由劇場). The movement began in earnest in 1924 (the year that followed the Great Kanto Earthquake), when Hijikata Yoshi and Osanai Kaoru founded Tsukiji Sho Gekijo (築地小劇場), which became the first theatre in Japan dedicated to “shingeki”. Hijikata and Osanai also founded a theatre troupe of the same name. “Shingeki” sought to establish itself as its own dramatic art form. To this end, it produced Japanese-language versions of Western plays and closely aligned itself with political movements. Consequently, the movement expanded among intellectuals and students.

During the war years, many “shingeki” troupes had to disband. Some continued to operate, however, including Kunio Kishida’s Bungakuza (文学座; founded in 1937) and Senda Koreya’s Haiyuza (俳優座; founded in 1944).

After the war, television programmes and movies starred actors from “shingeki” (including Sugimura Haruko, Takizawa Osamu, and Uno Jukichi), making the movement much more widely known. The post-war years saw a number of new “shingeki”-inspired theatre companies emerge, including the Gekidan Mingei (劇団民藝) in 1950, Shiki Theatre Company (劇団四季) in 1953, and Engekishudan En (演劇集団 円) in 1975. Meanwhile, thriving writers like Mishima Yukio and Abe Kobo were providing the theatre companies with their plays, which served to invigorate the movement further.

Many of today’s Japanese stars have their roots in “shingeki”. “Shingeki” theatre companies have made a point of staging the plays of small-theatre playwrights, such as Betsuyaku Minoru and Tsuka Kohei. They continue to entrust up-and-coming playwrights to supply them with plays, and they also stage new plays from overseas. In this way, “shingeki” continues to play a vital role in developing high-quality drama and cultivating the next generation of directors.

Note: On the panels, as for the order of the name of the Japanese person, their family name is written first, and then their given name.