Two New Japanese Plays Are Headed to London

Learn more about One Small Step and The Tattooer here!

By: Jul. 09, 2024
Two New Japanese Plays Are Headed to London
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Umeda Arts Theater will present two new UK-Japan collaboration projects featuring up-and-coming Japanese writers and directors at London’s Charing Cross Theatre.

The world premiere of ONE SMALL STEP, an original work written and directed by Takuya Kato, plays from Friday 27 September to Wednesday 9 October.

TATTOOER, written by Takuya Kaneshima, inspired by the short story, Shisei, by Junichiro Tanizaki and directed by Hogara Kawai will open in Tokyo, Japan in September before transferring to London for its UK premiere from Monday 14 October to Saturday 26 October.


ONE SMALL STEP is an original play by Takuya Kato, a prolific young Japanese playwright and director, developed in Japan and the UK through workshops and readings with UK artists.

Takashi and Narumi are a married couple, working for a major contractor on a project to migrate humans to the Moon where a city is being established where humanity’s ideal new life can begin. But they suddenly encounter an unexpected setback to their plans…

Cast to be announced.

Writer/director Takuya Kato said: “ONE SMALL STEP might appear to be futuristic but in reality it’s the story of a future that’s already nearly here. It’s also a story that raises important questions about the roles of the mother and motherhood, which is an issue that working couples all over the world face in their private lives. I’m very excited to be able to develop this new piece in the UK and explore that the differences between our two cultures are more similar than we may think.”

Takuya Kato (Writer/Director) - A writer/director for theatre, film & TV, Takuya is one of the most sought-after figures in the Japanese creative industry. His works depict familiar but contrived themes facing contemporary Japanese society with realistic situations and humorous dialogue. Recent plays include “Mohayashizuka”, about a couple struggling with fertility treatment and a prenatal diagnosis, “Poni”, about a babysitter who leaves a five-year-old child in her care when disaster strikes, “The Morning I Die”, which deals with death, focusing on an immortal wife and her husband and “Before I Know It Today”, dealing with the concept of memories through a wife with a memory disorder, who forgets her family and home.

At the age of 17 he began working as a radio and television writer, at 18 he studied film direction in Italy, and at 20 he founded the Tagumi theatre company, which has been attracting attention ever since.

In 2023 he directed “Welkin” by Lucy Kirkwood, receiving the Yomiuri Theater Prize, one of the Japan’s top theatre awards. He was the first playwright in his 20s to win the 10th Ichikawa Shinichi Playwriting Award for his innovative point of view and writing skills. In 2022, he won the 67th Kishida Kunio Drama Award for “Dodo’s Free Fall”. His latest film, “Fly On”, won the Distribution Support Award in the International Competition at Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes, France. He also won the Forbes Japan 30 Under 30 2023 Award.


Inspired by a short story by Junichiro Tanizaki, the world-renowned Japanese literary figure, and Irezumi tattoos, which have attracted worldwide attention as a popular Japanese art-form through mediums such as anime and video games, this play aims to promote Japanese theatrical culture in the UK.

Seikichi is a young tattoo artist and former Ukiyo-e artist of high repute.  His longtime wish is to “carve his soul into the skin of a beautiful woman” but he has been unable to find a willing partner. The story begins when Seikichi finally meets his ideal canvas…

Cast to be announced.

Playwright Takuya Kaneshima said: “Tanizaki’s story “Shisei” depicts a secretive, closed relationship between the tattooer and the tattooed. But there are fractures in this relationship, which connect unexpectedly with the outside world. In this play I wanted to explore the complexity and vulnerability of relationships glimpsed in Tanizaki’s work."

Director Hogara Kawai said: “Tattooing is the act of scarring the skin with a needle and filling it with colour. By filling scars with colour, they become art. What kind of picture would emerge if you could ink the “scars” you have acquired in your life? What would the art that resides in your body look like? In exploring this beautiful play, I am looking forward to finding out.”

Junichiro Tanizaki (24 July 1886 – 30 July 1965) - Author Junichiro Tanizaki is considered to be one of the most prominent figures in modern Japanese literature. The tone and subject matter of his work ranges from shocking depictions of sexuality and destructive erotic obsessions to subtle portrayals of the dynamics of family life within the context of the rapid changes in 20th-century Japanese society. Frequently, his stories are narrated in the context of a search for cultural identity in which constructions of the West and Japanese tradition are juxtaposed. He was one of six authors on the final shortlist for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964, the year before his death.

Takuya Kaneshima (Playwright) - In 2013 Takuya formed the theatre group Choco Thief, for who he writes and directs.  He specialises in conversational drama using Okinawan youth slang, and performs original scripts based on comedies and mysteries. He also performs in the theatre unit Tamadorobo with a Ryukyuan dancer.  As a playwright, he won first prize in the scenario and drama category of the 14th Okinawa Literary Awards in 2018 for Folklore. In 2021 he won the 31st Audio Drama Encouragement Award and Honorable Mention for NHK-FM Theater’s Haisai Shokudo in Fushigi no Kuni. In 2022 he won the 30th Yomiuri Theatre Grand Prize for Excellence for his play Raicam de Mattoku, also a finalist for the 26th Tsuruya Nanboku Drama Award and the 67th Kishida Kunio Drama Award.

Hogara Kawai (Director) - A graduate from Kyoto University’s Art and Design’s Department of Performing Arts, Hogara founded and is director of the “Ressenchka” Theater Company in 2013 as an outlet for his theatrical arts. In 2019, he began collaborating with Kyoto Performing Arts Center, presenting “Pipe Dream” (2019), “So Long Goodbye” (2020) and “Good War” (2021). These works consist of collaged transcriptions of interviews that Kawai conducted with random people he met through dating apps. Each piece is based on a book by oral historian Studs Terkel, with each piece and the interviews presented in it focusing respectively on the themes of “Ideal ways to die”, “work”, and “war.” These pieces have been well received and have had multiple repeat performances. Recently, he has been actively working with pre-existing plays, having directed Juro Miyoshi’s “Strip Show” and Shogo Ota’s “Sarachi.” He also presented a 30 minute monologue play based on Osamu Dazai’s novel, “Schoolgirl.” Kawai creates works based on his interests at the time, exploring different genres without being bound to any particular one. But regardless of the style of his works, he continues to explore the theme of “what makes people human”.


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