Chair of Japanese Studies at the University of Trier. She has taught in Munich, Berlin, and Oslo. Main fields of research: Japanese literature, comparative literature, and theatre, (especially nô, kyôgen, and contemporary avant-garde theatre). She has organized various conferences and symposia pertaining to Japanese theatre in international contexts.
Intertwined Theatre Cultures in Contemporary Japan and the Appropriation of Native Traditions
The theatre of Japan’s urban centers displays an extraordinary variety of genres and styles, covering a broad spectrum between mainstream and fringe, popular and avant-garde. In Tokyo alone, the number of performing groups presenting their plays surpasses 1,600 per year, and theatregoers can choose from hundreds of shows every day. One major trend is the weakening of genre borders and oppositions such as between a ‘realist’ shingeki and avant-garde experiments, highbrow, and off-off groups. This counter-balances an opposite tendency towards fragmentation and parochial isolation backed by specialized audiences and adherents, typical for the panorama of the ‘little theatres’ that inherited the angura fringe of the sixties and seventies. However, notwithstanding the dynamism and apparent fluidity of theatre life nurtured by intercultural exchange, Japan still presents a two-fold theatre culture. The gap between the traditional, classical genres and new, contemporary forms is still wide. In my research project, I intend to investigate some recent attempts made by avant-garde groups to overcome this gap, i.e. to appropriate and assimilate the powers native traditions still confined within the classical genres. I argue that in this quest for one’s roots, intercultural practice and competence has been a strong stimulus. The road to the native theatre heritage passes through the intensified exchange with foreign genres and stage practices.