Three Days Devoted to Becoming a Ghost

Table of Contents

On the border between Toyama Prefecture and Gifu Prefecture, among the mountains and near the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama (which are known for their gassho-zukuri architectural style), lies Toga Village (incorporated into Nanto City in 2004). The village has a mere 600 residents (2010 population data), is two hours from Toyama City by car, and is isolated by heavy snow in the winter. In 1976, Tadashi Suzuki and his theater troupe SCOT (Suzuki Company of Toga) moved to this small, remote village.

Toga Village is a renowned mecca of theater. It has a theater designed by Arata Isozaki, a stage upon which Shuji Terayama once performed, and a library built with donations from the University of California and other organizations (where the troupe presently has its offices). Suzuki abandoned Tokyo for Toga’s remote mountains; yet the mountains maintain a connection to the world. When I first set foot in Toga Village in summer 2015 for a theater festival, I was mesmerized by this paradox and hoped to hold a Genron event there one day, because this paradox of reaching out by means of enclosure was also something that Genron was pursuing.

Such was the impetus for the “Genron Toga Seminar,” held on September 10–12, 2016 and described in this volume. Forty people, from their twenties to their fifties, participated. Only a few people had experience in theater. The ratio of men to women was about two to one. All attendees, including the instructors, stayed in the lodging facilities on the grounds of Toga Art Park, participating in all aspects of the seminar together, including meals and rest.

As shown by the program schedule (see below), the seminar was packed with lectures, workshops, and demonstrations from the time of arrival to the moment of departure. It was organized around the lectures and workshops and we asked Oriza Hirata to lead the latter. Even though we were able to substantially capture the lectures, which featured Masachi Osawa and Atsushi Sasaki, in this volume, it was impossible to recreate the workshops in words due to their format. I observed both days of Hirata’s workshops and will simply note that I was astonished by his masterful guidance. I certainly recommend them to readers who have not had the chance to partake in this experience.

We established the seminar theme as “Representing the Ghostly Body.” I explain our reasons for choosing this theme in the transcript of the symposium, so I will not repeat myself here. I can add that, while deciding the theme, I was thinking about how Toga Village was like a ghost town. Once a year, theater people from Japan and beyond briefly gather in this remote mountain village that is suffering from depopulation and then leave. Once there, people are forced to leave behind their human attributes and act as if they were ghosts. Perhaps that is why Suzuki withdrew to this land. Whereas the cacophony of the living is confined to regions and epochs, the murmurs of ghosts have no such boundaries. I wanted to ponder the importance of this experience anew with my fellow lecturers and participants, precisely because “real-time” and “connectivity” among the living are such celebrated concepts today. That being the case, it might have been more fitting to call our theme “Becoming Ghosts.” I wonder if our participants succeeded in becoming ghosts over the course of those three days.

Finally, I wish to thank Tadashi Suzuki and Yoshie Shigemasa of the SCOT theater troupe for their assistance in making this seminar possible.

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Seminar Program (Abridged)

Sept 10, 2016 (Sat)

12:00 Arrive at Toga Art Park

13:00 Observe stage rehearsal of SCOT theater troupe (Suzuki Method)

15:30 Lecture 1: Bodily Expression in the Information Age
Jo Kanamori, Masachi Osawa, Atsushi Sasaki, Kazuki Umezawa, and Hiroki Azuma

19:30 Social mixer

21:00 Workshop: Information session
Oriza Hirata

 

Sept 11, 2016 (Sun)

9:30  Workshop: Colloquial Theater in the Ghost Age 1
Oriza Hirata

10:30 Tour of Toga Art Park

13:00 Workshop: Colloquial Theater in the Ghost Age 2
Oriza Hirata

20:30 Lecture 2: The Suzuki Body and the Symbolic Body
Tadashi Suzuki, Masachi Osawa, and Hiroki Azuma

 

Sept 12, 2016 (Mon)

10:00 Workshop: Presentations and critiques
Oriza Hirata, Masachi Osawa, Atsushi Sasaki, and Hiroki Azuma

13:00      Lecture 3: Body, Ghost, Symbol
Masachi Osawa, Atsushi Sasaki, Hiroki Azuma, and others

17:00      Leave Toga Art Park

 

Guest Performer: Sawako Iseki (Noism)
Special Thanks to: SCOT, H.I.S. Co., Ltd.