The Dark Master

Tets Kimura, Flinders University [About | Email]

Volume 21, Issue 1 (Translation 1 in 2021). First published in ejcjs on 14 April 2021.


The Dark Master is a professional theatre production that was performed at the 2019 OzAsia Festival in Adelaide, Australia, from October 29 to 31. This theatre play was:

  • —Directed by Tanino Kuro (Niwa Gekidan Penino, Tokyo, Japan)
  • —Presented by Niwa Gekidan Penino (Tokyo, Japan)
  • —Translated by Tets Kimura (Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)

Keywords: Niwa Gekidan Penino, Tanino Kuro, Japanese theatre, OzAsia Festival

1. Translator's Introduction

The Dark Master, Tanino Kuro’s second theatrical production performed in Australia, was staged at the 2019 OzAsia Festival, held in Adelaide, South Australia, from 29 to 31 October 2019. The work bore similarities to The Dark Inn, his previous theatrical play performed at the 2017 OzAsia Festival, described as a work that “draws on the ancient Japanese form of Nō drama” and that “may not seem like a pleasant subject for an evening of theatre.”[1] [1] The Dark Master, like its predecessor, shows the darkness within us as humans, and how we are enslaved by society and desires extending from the greed that society expects and encourages individuals to have. The stage that was created for The Dark Master is full of Japanese-ness, from the overall theme to the details of the stage.

The story begins when a young jobless backpacker walks into a rundown bistro. He is hungry, not just for food, but also for discovering what to do with his life. There, he is offered a job. The proprietor, the “dark master” of the play’s title, implants a tiny state of art wireless earpiece into the backpacker’s ear, while delivering instructions on how to cook from a hidden room upstairs. Working for days and nights without end, the young man becomes used to his new life of enslavement to work. He sleeps at his workplace at night, learns to smoke and drink, and enjoys happy-ending relief out of his boss’ pocket money. The work culture of no private life, binge drinking, heavy smoking and paid sex reflects Japan’s conventional work environment when Japan’s economic growth was strong in the second half of the 20th century. However, The Dark Master is not set in the past. The 20th century Japanese lifestyle, when practiced in the 21st century as seen in this play, does not function as it once did. Japan is no longer the world’s most (or the second most) effective industrial and economic power. There is a more powerful player in the world, namely China, which buys everything that it wants from and within Japan. Reflecting the tension with the new superpower, when a rich Chinese businessman is attracted by tasty food to buy the bistro business, the young Japanese cook, who by then sees himself as a chef, refuses the offer. He is bashed and defeated by the Chinese man. Lying alone on the floor, the young Japanese man has no friend to call upon, apart from his regular sex worker—and for having her company he still has to pay. “Why don't you do this job?” is the final subtitle that appears on the screen, asking the audience to think of a life in Japan, one many Australians may have previously viewed as an attractive option without knowing the real Japan. The play symbolically and metaphorically summarises the contemporary history of ordinary Japanese people.

Although The Dark Master did not premiere at OzAsia, as it was first performed in Japan in 2003, the 2019 Australian production was two-thirds newly written, emphasising the continuing decline of the Japanese economy and Japan’s changing relations with China. Because I wished to convey Tanino’s meanings and intensions as accurately as possible, some sections of my final translation were not pure translations. For example, where a reference to pigs and dragons is made by the Chinese businessman in relation to the sensitive Japan-China relations, I translated this reference so an Australian audience would be able to follow the content. However, this section was reedited after Day 1 as the translation was found to be too lengthy by some audience. I omitted some words, and the actors decided to take more time, adding a few seconds so the audience could read the subtitles. In retrospect, perhaps I was not careful enough; the audience reads the subtitles only once while watching the play, as most of them are otherwise unable to understand what the Japanese actors are saying.

Yet, translating intangible nuances was a relatively easy task as I was allowed to use my own creativity. Whereas for tangible Japanese items—and the play was rich in these—the whole process was a lot more time-consuming. For example, it was only days before the performance that I decided on the English translation of omurice, a dish of fried rice seasoned with tomato sauce that is encased in a creamy omelette. This popular Japanese wayosetchu (East-West fusion) dish, also found in other East Asian countries such as Taiwan, requires no explanation to a Japanese/Asian audience. If I were translating for a book or a journal article, I could use a footnote. However, this is not feasible in subtitles. Tanino and I finally decided to add the adjective “creamy” before omurice to explain the texture of the food that most Australians have not experienced, even though this word is not used at all in the original Japanese. I would have obviously been penalised if I had done this for a translation test such as that run by NAATI, as adding and/or omitting is not permitted. However, indirect translation is quite common in subtitles for the theatre, films, TV programs, and now on YouTube videoclips as well. There is a difference between indirect translation by accident and on purpose, and the conventional test is not designed to detect the difference. This could be a good research topic further to expand on translation theories and practices of creative performances.

Another benefit that may extend from the publication of this translation is to increase the awareness of Japan’s contemporary “artistic” theatrical performances. Though non-Japanese theatre scholars such as Carol Fischer Sorgenfrei, Peter Eckersall, and Barbara Geilhorn have focused on contemporary Japanese theatre, the types of performance they write about is still less acknowledged outside Japan. In today’s Japan, there are three types of major theatre performances: traditional, pop, and artistic. Traditional theatre performances are familiar to those who are engaged in Japanese studies, famously analysed by earlier scholars such as Donald Keene who studied Noh, bunraku, kabuki, etc. These performances have long been foundational topics in the study of Japan.

Pop performers create the most widespread form of culture today, and celebrities such as those who belong to Johnny & Associates, AKB48/Nogizaka46, and individual geinojin actors who are not necessarily trained or specialised in acting, singing, or dancing[2] [2] often take a leading role in generating mass interest. Popular Japanese culture is widely studied in the field of Japanese studies and is a popular topic among students. However, the remaining form of today’s Japanese theatrical performances is largely off the radar of Japanese studies scholars.

In English, there is a book by Senda Akihiko (translated by Thomas Rimer) entitled The Voyage of Contemporary Japanese Theatre,[3] [3] but its focus is on shingeki plays of the 1970s and 80s. (Senda also publishes dozens of books in Japanese, exemplified by Nihon no Gendai Engeki.[4])[4] Books on Japanese theatre history that contain both historical, modern, and contemporary elements have been published, but they tend to focus on history rather than today. No comprehensive book on Japanese 21st century theatre performance has been written in English, let alone in Japanese, although Japanese scholars, such as Iwaki Kyoko, Uchino Tadashi, and Sasaki Atsushi have written books focusing on some genres of contemporary Japanese theatre performances.[5] [5] Existing scholarship focuses largely on niche rather than large fields, quite different from how Keene studied Japan’s traditional stage performances decades earlier.

However, it should be acknowledged that it is difficult to obtain overall, general knowledge of contemporary Japanese performing arts, as genres are fragmented with many different types of artistic theatre productions. According to Onozuka Chika (Tanino’s manager), specialists of the 2.5-dimension performances (live stage performances by actors based on manga/anime stories) may not be interested in the so-called Toho musicals. Drama students who study shingeki may not even know of Tanino. Furthermore, Onozuka admits that the operation of Tanino’s “Little Theatre” production of Niwa Gekidan Penino is impossible without subsidies from donors such as the Japan Arts Fund, Arts Council Tokyo, and Saison Foundation. As Japanese theatre magazines such as Theatre Guide and Pia have ceased to exist, there are fewer opportunities to learn about the larger artistic drama scene in Japan, and thus small-scale artistic productions, such as those of Tanino, cannot become widely known. Japanese theatre academic Tanaka Rina has advised me that communication breakdowns between different contemporary Japanese performance groups have been increasing, and unfortunately, few attempts have been made to work together as a whole by Japanese artistic theatre performers.

In addition, unlike Australia where publicly funded theatre schools such as the National Institute of Dramatic Art and various universities take a major role in training actors in their Bachelor of Arts programs, Japan has no similar public system. (Japan’s New National Theatre takes only 16 students annually, and no university degree is provided upon completion of a three-year course.) Conventionally, each production trains its own actors under an apprenticeship system, under the supremacy of producers and directors. The Little Theatre style employed by Tanino in which no actor belongs to the theatre and actors are recruited for each stage play, has increasingly been the dominant production mode since the turn of this century. This practice may be a required for the survival of artistic theatrical productions, but it can make it difficult to train actors or to give them opportunities to live solely from their acting. I remember one of my old Japanese friends quitting acting and seeking an opportunity in the IT industry when he was around 30. Stories like this are way too common. There are many dark sides that are found from The Dark Master, both in its storyline and behind the scenes.

The Dark Master

The following instructions should be made available to the audience on the screen where subtitles are shown.

  • Turn off your Bluetooth.
  • Check one earpiece to see if it works, and make sure to wear it all the time.

1. One eventide

At the beginning, keep silence and turn off all the lights—then bring the dim light back to the bistro. It’s a rundown yoshoku bistro, no customer. A baseball game is on TV. There is a man in a chair at the counter, holding a glass of whisky on the rocks, having a sip or two. He is the chef of this bistro—or the “Master”. The shadows of people passing-by are reflected on the bistro’s glass entrance door. The chef switches off the light of the bistro’s name board. He drinks again. Then after glancing across the door, he uses a remote to turn the TV volume down. He puts the remote back on the counter, then decides to sit still. Eventually, a young man with a backpack walks into the bistro through the door.

Young man: Hello

The chef keeps silence.

Young man: Er… hello. (He looks around the bistro, somehow believing that the chef is a patron.)

Young man: Excuse me.

Chef: yeah.

Young man: Right… hi there. (He notices that the man is not a patron.) I’m here for a meal.

The chef stares at the young guy, from top to toe.

Young man: You must be a chef.

Chef: Where are you from?

Young man: I came from Tokyo, Sir.

Chef: Travelling?

Young man: Yes, I am.

Chef: What made you come here?

Young man: Er… coz I am hungry… This is a bistro, right?

Chef: Sure.

Young man: May I take a seat? (He attempts to sit on a chair.)

Chef: Who said you could sit down?

The young man is unsure of what to do.

Chef: You can drink water.

Young man: Right… OK, Thank you, Sir.

He walks towards a water dispenser, and then helps himself to a glass of water.

Young man: Sorry to bother you, but I am hungry. There is nowhere to eat around here… not even a Seven Eleven.

The chef stays still.

Young man: I see… I should just leave…

Chef: Don’t worry. Sit down.

Young man: Seriously? Thank you.

Chef: You can only sit down.

The young man places his backpack on the floor.

Young man: May I have another glass of water?

Chef: Pour me some water too.

Young man: Yes, of course.

The young man passes the chef a glass of water.

Young man: Have you been drinking?

Chef: Not a lot.

The young man gives the chef another water.

Chef: Thanks.

The chef drinks water. So does the young man.

Young man: I mean, this bistro looks cool. That’s why I came in. This feels like an old school Japanese bistro.

Chef: And?

Young man: There’re fewer of this kind.

Chef: Maybe.

Young man: I’m not fond of franchised businesses.

The chef stands up and switches off the TV.

Chef: I will cook.

Young man: For me?

Chef: Yes, Food.

Young man: Thank you. I am honoured.

Chef: Are you?

Young man: I mean it. Thank you, Sir.

Chef: What do you want?

Young man: Oh, you asked me what I want. What’s your recommendation?

Chef: They are all good.

Young man: Of course, Omelette and rice sound good. Can I have a gourmet omurice?

Chef: Is that what you want?

Young man: I want a steak, but I’m on a tight budget.

The chef cooks very smoothly and efficiently. 

Young man: May I be excused? I’ll need to use a bathroom.

The chef lifts up his head for an inch to indicate that the bathroom is behind the young man.

Young man: Thank you.

The young man goes to the toilet. After what he has to do, he switches on the light above the hand wash sink, and washes his hands. The food gets ready.

Chef: Yours to eat.

Young man: So speedy. Great. And this looks like a bit different.

The chef cuts the centre of the omelette lengthwise with a knife from tip to tip, exposing a custardy soft-cooked centre that oozes out over the flavoured rice.

Young man: Oh, it’s so creamy.

Chef: Eat.

The young man has a spoon of the rice and egg to eat.

Young man: So nice. I’ve never eaten anything like this. 

Chef: I bet.

The young man gobbles down the meal. The chef puts ice cubes into the glass, and pours cooking brandy.

Young man: You drink. I can’t actually drink booze…

Chef: You don’t drink. Are you a man?

Young man: I want to drink too. It makes me look like a real man.

The chef pulls out a packet of cigarettes from his pocket, and starts smoking.

Young man: You smoke too. I want to, but it seems unhealthy.

Chef: Are you a man?

Young man: I am. I’m average in my generation.

Chef: I don’t get that.

Young man: You might be right, Sir. I’m travelling around Japan on a shoestring. I think a man needs to have an adventure. I’m doing stuff.

Chef: Is that right?  

Young man: I left everything at home, like my phone. I’m going with my gut feeling. I think it’s cool to travel like this. I was worried at the beginning though.

Chef: Were you?

The chef turns off the TV.

Chef: So you are jobless.

Young ma: Sorry. What did you say?

Chef: You do nothing for living. Right?

Young man: Well…

Chef: Am I right?

Young man: Yes…

Chef: How old are you?

Young man: Twenty-eight.

Chef: You are an adult. I can’t believe this is Japan.

Young man: Er, but, I don’t think I am unique.

Chef: Aren’t you?

Young man: But I know I’ll have to do something. I just can’t do anything now.

Chef:-Of course. 

Young man: I have no skill like yours, Sir.

Chef: Everyone has a skill…

Young man: Sir, why did you become a chef, and running this bistro?

Chef: Why do I have to tell you that?

Young man: Because, I would like to know. I need to know.

There is a moment of silence.

Chef: I had to do something. And I liked cooking.

Young man: I’m jealous of you. It’s good to have something you like.

Chef: I’ve been running this place for 35 years.

Young man: That’s a long time, 35 years.

Chef: You must’ve been born after the bubble?

Young man: Bubble?

Chef: When I opened the bistro, Japan was very rich.

Young man: Is that right?

Chef: I was only a chef, but I owned many properties. Like one whole block of apartments. I even had three beach houses. I didn’t have to work to make money. That was the bubble era.

Young man: Sounds surreal.

Chef: Everybody had a good time. Every night was a wild night at discotheques. I went to Hawaii three times in a year, with different women. I had a huge American car. It was as big as a tank.

Young man: Did you? Unbelievable.

Chef: The bubble boom only lasted some years. It burst. My assets no longer had any value. I was left with a debt of 1 billion yen.

Young man: One billion yen!

Chef: That was after selling real estate properties. I haven't finished paying off. But my legs…

Young man: What’s wrong with them?

Chef: They’re numb. I drink a lot, probably have diabetes. I don’t have insurance to see a doctor.

Young man: I see.

Chef: I’m truly an alcoholic.

There is a moment of silence.

Chef: I’ve seen many foreigners around here in the last couple of years. Tourists at first, but they’re buying land. Many of us earned big bucks and left. But I want to stay in this community. My friends are gone. I am alone. So I drink.

Young man: I see.

Chef: I’m good at cooking. But my body…legs…

Young man: Sir, I’ll come back. I just had the best food in the world. I will post it on social media. Please carry on and keep the beautiful taste.

Chef: I spoke too much. I’m thirsty. I want water.

Young man: Yes.

Chef: Not the best conversation topic for a dinner. (soft voice)

Young man: Don’t worry.

The chef drinks the whole glass of water in one go, and dash it down on the counter.

Young man: What the… You scared me.

The chef gives a stare at the young man.

Chef: Hey, you.

Young man: Yes…

Chef: You run this bistro.

Young man: What?

Chef: On my behalf, from now.

Young man: Er, on your behalf? I will be a helper?

Chef: No, you cook.

Young man: I can’t.

Chef: You do it.

Young man: No way, I haven’t even held a knife.

Chef: You are fine.

Young man: Serious?

Chef: You wait here for a little while.

Young man: OK… but Sir…

The chef goes upstairs fast as if he has healthy legs. The young man is left alone. The omurice is only half eaten.

Young man: Excuse me, but I’ve had enough. I’m going.

The young man picks up his bag, and tries to leave the bistro, but the door is locked.

Young man: Mm…

The young man tries to open the door again but he cannot. The chef walks down from upstairs.

Chef: Draw the curtains. And come along.

Young man: …

Chef: Put your stuff down. And sit down here. You see this.

The young man hesitates, but walks slowly towards the chef.

Young man: What should I see?

Chef:-Get closer.

Young man:-Which one?

Chef: See this.

The young man gazes at the chef’s hand.

Chef: This is a state of art tiny wireless earpiece.

Young man: This is? It’s almost invisible to the naked eye.

Chef: This is the smallest of its kind. I have a friend at the national intelligence agency. This is custom-made, even smaller than the stuff they use.

Young man: The intelligence agency?

Chef: That’s not important. It’s so tiny. I bet you want to listen to it.

Young man: Listen? Ah, I can actually hear something.

Chef: Yes, it’s music.

Young man: All right.

Chef: Let me see your ear.

The young man gets closer to the chef.

Young man: OK… sure.

Chef: Good. Don’t move.

The young man stays still. The chef uses a pair of tweezers to place the earpiece near the young man’s eardrum. His body twitches.

Chef: Don’t move. I mean it.

Young man: Right, sir.

Chef: Now, can you hear?

Young man: Not really. Nothing unusual.

Chef: I am sure you can.

Young man: Hang on…

Chef: It works!

Young man: What works?

Chef: Look at me, and listen hard. I am going to my room. I will instruct you step by step. You follow what I say. You will be a great chef.

Young man: What?

Chef: I also have custom-made cameras all over the bistro, 200 cameras as small as the earpiece. (The chef picks up a soy sauce bottle.) See this. This is a camera.

Young man: This? It can’t be.

Chef: I know it can’t. But I can actually see and check you out.

Young man: Hang on. Where is the earpiece?

Chef: Well, I’ve been waiting so many years for this. It’s been long and tiring. I can’t believe this is finally happening.

Young man: Wait a sec.

Chef: Trust me. This’ll work.

Young man: You’ve placed the earpiece in my ear?

Chef: Wait here till I get ready. 

Young man: Can you listen to me?

The chef goes upstairs.

Young man: Wait a moment please!

The chef is gone

Young man: Sir, wait. Sir.

The young man is left alone.  

Young man: It can’t be real. He set up the earpiece.

The young man touches his ear.

Young man: I’m leaving. What’s wrong with this bistro… Sir, I am leaving. I have left cash here. It was a great meal.

Chef: Leave to where?

The chef’s voice is clearly heard through the earpiece.

Young man: Jesus!

Chef: Let’s do it.

Young man: I can hear you.

Chef: Go to the kitchen.

Young man: But…

Chef: Let’s try and see.

Young man: The earpiece’s in my ear…

Chef: I can remove it anytime. We can just try once. Go to the kitchen.

Young man: Please remove it later.

Chef: I’ve got it. But I think you will enjoy this.

Young man: It can’t be… OK, so what should I do?

Chef: Go to the kitchen and turn on the exhaust fan.

Young man: Sure…

Chef: Look ahead. You find the menu on the wall. Thirteen items except salad and beer. Pick your favourite.

Young man: My favourite?

Chef: We will roleplay. This is a practice run.

Young man: I didn’t say I would.

Chef: Pick something that you want to eat.

Young man: Let me see… I would say sirloin steak.

Chef: Great. Steak is simple and profound.

Chef: Your technique can turn cheap meat into a steak that is equivalent to one in a top steakhouse. Look in the top drawer of the fridge. Find a chunk of meat on a silver tray.

Young man: Sure. Is this it?

Chef: Yes, that’s sirloin. Slice it into a 3 centimetre piece. You’ll find knives hanging next to the pans. Pick the knife second from right.

Young man: Second from right… OK.


Young man:-Did you say 3 centimetres?

Chef: No need to be exact.

Young man: OK… round here. It’s done.

Chef: Right. The way to cook has to be my way. Put some oil in the pan.

Young man: Yes.

Chef: Find the bottle of sunflower oil.

Young man: Must be this.

Chef: Use the pan on top.

Young man: On top.

Chef: Pour in a fair bit of oil. Almost enough to spill when you pick
up the pan.

Young man: OK…

Chef: Stop. That’s enough. Before you ignite, place the meat in the pan.
This is crucial

Young man: Sure… OK.

Chef: Use your hand.

Young man: Yes.

Chef: Then ignite, turn it fast in clockwise.

Young man: You said fast.

Chef: Strong flame.

Young man: Strong.

Chef: Wait for a little.

Young man: OK. I wait.

The young man stays still for a little.

Young man: I think I might be enjoying this.

Chef: Sure. It’s cooking. You hear the deep-fried sound.

Young man: Yes, for sure. Should I turn the meat?

Chef: Not yet.

The young man waits.

Chef: That’s enough. Use a pair of tongs to turn the meat.

Young man: What? Tongs?

Chef: You don’t know what they are…

Young man: Sorry.

Chef: See the stuff next to pans. What can I say… they look like huge tweezers.

The young man finds a pair of tweezers.

Chef: That’s it. Quick.

Young man: Yes, Sir.

Chef: Hold a towel before you hold the pan.

Young man: Yes.

Chef: Tip the pan, and keep the oil in one side. Use the tongs to put the meat into the oil. Keep moving.

The young man follows the instruction.

Chef: Turn the meat, tip the pan, and put the meat in the oil.

Young man: Right, turn the meat, and the pan… ouch.

Chef: Use the towel!

Young man: Yes, yes.

Chef: Turn the meat again when the surface gets drier. Repeat that twice.

Young man: Twice.

Chef: We season it at lastly with brandy. Pour it in a ladle and sprinkle over.

Young man: Brandy?

Chef: The bottle in front of you.

As the young man pours brandy, a pillar of flame appears.

Young man: Wow. It looks great.

Chef: I bet it does. I think that’s done. Put the meat on a cutting board.

Young man: Yes.

Chef: Along with other condiments, you find coarse salt.

Young man: Coarse salt.

Chef: Amateurs season the meat with salt and pepper beforehand. I cook first, and finish with seasoning. The steak is ready now.

Young man: I’ve cooked it.

Chef: You can eat.

Young man: I’ll use this knife.

Chef: Go ahead.

The young man slices a steak in a bite size.

Chef: Look at the cross section. The surface is crispy, but it’s still pink and rare inside. It’s the perfect gradation all over the steak.

Young man: You’re right.

Chef: Eat.

Young man: This is tasty. Very tasty.

Chef: Steamy and crispy. This is the best. Layers of quality meat. The perfect steak.

Young man: This is great.

Chef: You cooked it.

Young man: Yes… did I cook it?

Chef: Who else?

Young man: But…

Chef: Take a half the day’s earnings.

Young man: What?

Chef: Or you can have it all. I only want the bistro to exist. 

Young man: But, but… what do you mean? No way, I don’t think I can do this.

Chef: Find an envelope below the cash register. It’s an advance payment.

The young man freezes with a wad of money in his hand. 

Chef: Isn’t that enough? You can have all the cash in the register too. Push the red button.

The register opens with a bell sound. The young man grabs bank notes.

Chef: You are the chef of this bistro from now on.

Young man: Can I do this?

Chef: You can count on me.

Young man: Right…

Chef: Good. I have three conditions. Listen carefully.

Young man: Sure, sir.

Chef: Number one. If you have anything to ask me while working, use the mini microphones behind the water cooler, above the sink, or in the toilet doorknob.

Young man: Hang on, wait. What?

Chef: Number two. Wash your clothes and yourself in the sink.

Young man: What? Here?

Chef: That should be good enough. You can walk 30 minutes to a public bath too. You sleep here too. I have a sleeping bag for you.

Young man: What? Are you serious?

Chef: You’re a backpacker. What more could you want?

Young man: I see…

Chef: And number three. This is very important.

Young man: OK.

Chef: I live in upstairs. Don’t visit me. Don’t ask why.

Young man: But why? Can I hide at your place if I make a mistake? 

Chef: I said don’t.

Young man: OK.

Chef: The system doesn’t let you in. These are the three conditions.

Young man: I understand…

Chef: Good. You’ll start working with preparation tomorrow at 6 am.

Young man: 6 am!

Chef: You will get used to it.

The young man holds still.

Chef: You think you can’t do a thing.

Young man: Do I?

Chef: You are a whole new person from now on.

Young man: Am I?

Music comes in.

All the lights go off.

2. Lunchtime, the Next Day

There is a man, Patron 1, at the counter, reading a newspaper. The young man from the previous night stands next to the fryer. His eyes are on croquettes in it. The oil splashes up his face.

Young man: Ouch.

Chef: Not yet.

The young man nods. He looks into the fryer to check the croquettes again.

Chef: Not yet.

A moment passes.

Chef: Yes. Flip them to their back.

The young man uses a pair of cooking chopsticks to flip one croquette.

Chef: This’ll do. Do the same to the other one.

The young man appears too nervous to do cooking.

Chef: You’re too nervous.

Young man: I should be.

Chef: Hey, don’t speak.

The young man tries to smooth over the awkward atmosphere.

Chef: OK… Scoop rice and miso soup.

The young man nods and does accordingly.

Chef: The croquettes should be ready. Use cooking chopsticks to move them from the fryer to the tray.

The young man gets closer to the fryer and tries to pick a piece up.

Chef: Pick up a croquette, then drain the excess oil on the tray. I said on the tray, tray!

The young man follows the instruction.

Chef: That’s right. Get the oil out. Now, dish up with julienned cabbage and a piece of tomato. Use a mid-size plate.

Young man: Do you want the tomato horizontal or vertical?

Chef: Who cares about it?

Young man: I’ll make it stand.

Chef: Fine. Vertical then. Dish up the main food now.

Young man: Understood.

Chef: Don’t look at the microphone. You look weird.

Young man: I’m nervous.

Chef: Right, right, whatever.

Young man: Here is a croquette meal. Thanks for waiting, and…

Chef: the sauce

Young man: the sauce

Chef: It’s over there.

Young man: It’s over there.

Chef: Please help yourself.

Young man: Please help yourself.

Chef: If you’d like some.

Young man: If you’d like some.

Chef: That’s enough.

Young man: That’s enough.

Chef: Don’t repeat.

Young man: Don’t repeat.

Chef: Shut up!

The young man steps back from the patron and wipes the sweat.

Chef: OK, so far so good, you just served your first customer. Scoop out the little pieces of crumble from the fryer. Use the mesh ladle strainer. Keep the oil clean and clear.

The patron eats his meal while reading the newspaper. The young man cannot stop checking how the patron finds it.

Chef: Don’t worry. You did it well.

Young man: I’ve never felt it like this. It’s like I have my heart in my mouth.

Chef: You don’t have to let me know about it.

Young man: I can’t help myself. I am nervous.

Chef: Don’t worry too much.

The young man feels excited when he confirms that the patron is eating

Young man: He gobbles down the food.

Chef: That’s obvious. He is eating, I know.

Young man: I’ve made him enjoy the meal!

Chef: You must be enjoying this too.

Young man: This feels so good.

The young man looks confident and approaches the patron.

Young man: Let me get you a new glass of water.

Patron 1: Thanks…

Chef: Hey, you.

Young man: Here you go.

Patron 1: Thank you.

Chef: You, wait. This is not a cocktail bar. Let him do it.

The young man is smiling.

Chef: You are strange. You’ll lose customers. Behave. You’re weird. Shred some cabbage when you’ve nothing to do. I’ve already told you how.

The young man nods. He starts shredding, but he is slow and unsmooth.

Chef: Hey, you. Don’t cut off your finger… especially when customers are around.

Patron 1: Beautiful croquettes.

Young man: Right, thank you.

The young man gets closer to a hidden microphone.

Young man: Did you hear that? He said beautiful.

Chef: Yes he did. I heard it.

Young man: I am full of confidence.

Chef: How could you… Hey, here’s another customer.

Young man: Sure. You can count on me.

Another patron, who is a wannabe actor, (Actor) is about to walk into the bistro. The young man waits for the actor, and raises his voice as the door is opened.

Young man: Welcome.

Patron 1: What the?

Chef: Shut up!

Patron 1: You are loud.

Actor: Can I come in?

Chef: See, he isn’t sure.

Young man: Hi, hello, please…

Chef: Water, water.

Actor: What do you recommend?

Young man: That’ll be a croquette meal or a steak so far. 

Chef: What do you mean by so far?

Actor: I ate croquettes at home yesterday. The steak is too expensive… I’ll have a gourmet omurice.

Young man: Er, that one…

Chef: Have you lost your confidence?

Actor: Can I not have it?

Chef: It’ll be fine.

Young man: OK. Wait for a few minutes.

Actor: Then, I will have it.

Chef: You said what you ate was the best food. You will cook it now.

Young man: I can’t…

Chef: You don’t trust me.

Young man: How can I?

Chef: Listen, this is speed cooking. Come with me!

The young man nods.

Chef: Grab the second pan from the left and warm it. Prepare the smaller pan next to it as well. Heat the larger pan on high heat. Measure rice with the cup next to the rice cooker. Don’t stop. Move, move! Place a hand above the pan, and as you feel heat, add butter from the fridge. Cook chicken until the oil comes out, then add onion, carrot, and some celery.

Young man: Add which… Repeat please.

Chef: Add onion, carrot and some celery, and fry them.

Young man: Yes.

Chef: Use the wooden spatula. You’ll also need some salt and pepper too. Shake the salt and pepper three times each.

Young man: One, two, three. One, two, three.

Chef: Keep cooking till I say stop.

Actor: Can I use the toilet?

The young man is too busy to speak, so he only moves his head.

Chef: Talk to him.

Young man: I’m sorry. Of course. It’s over there.

Actor: I’ve got it.

Chef: Add some tomato sauce. Good, that’s enough. Add rice. Keep moving your right arm.

Patron 1: Bill please.

The young man is not sure what he should do.

Chef: 680 yen.

The young man move closer to the register with the pan in his hand.

Young man: 680 please. Can you leave money just there?

Chef: Don’t carry the pan…

Young man: You said keep moving the arm.

Patron 1: What?

Young man. Nothing. I talked to myself.

Patron 1: I have a one thousand yen banknote.

Young man: You want change… (He uses an elbow to open the register.) Here it is.

Patron 1: What?

Young man: You can pick up change.

The actor comes out of the bathroom.

Young man: Thank you very much.

Chef: Hey, go back and cook.

The Patron 1 leaves the bistro.

Actor: I live nearby, but I didn’t realise there’s a bistro. I live next to the dagashiya corner shop. Do you know where? It’s on your right as you walk out of the bistro. I live in an apartment as filthy as a kennel.

Young man: Not sure…

Actor: I see…

Chef: Enough. Stop cooking.

The young man stops cooking.

Chef: Place rice in the silver cup. Then put it up-side-down for serving.

Actor: My rent is ridiculously cheap, but the wall is paper thin. I can hear my neighbours. I bet the old man always watches TV. And the old women from the corner shop have dementia?

Chef: He must’ve been born talking. Three eggs from the fridge.

Actor: She wanted 500 yen for five lollies. That was a joke.

Young man: Five?

Actor: That’s right.

Young man: five, five.

Chef: No, three.

Young man: Yes, three.

Actor: No, five.

Chef: I said three. Three eggs. Hey, stop stop stop, make him shut up!

Young man: Stop, stop! Mister… Excuse me, but I’m busy cooking. You might want to read manga…

Actor: Did I disturb you? Sorry about that.

Chef: OK. I’ll give you an instruction. You crack open three eggs and put them in a bowl. Whisk them with cooking chopsticks. But don’t bubble. Warm up the small pan now.

The young man follows the instruction—three eggs, and he whisks them with chopsticks.

Chef: Beat the eggs. That’ll do. That’s enough. Pour some oil into the pan, and add the whisked eggs. Scramble them hard. Good. A little more. Enough. Wrap it from both right and left edges. A little more heat before folding. Quick. Don’t overcook. You’re making it burn. Put it away from the flame. That’ll do. Rap the pan. Tap-tap. You know what I mean. That’s enough. Dish up.

There is a dish of a burnt omelette on rice.

Chef: Sauce it up. Looks important.

Young man: Thanks for waiting. This is the gourmet omurice.

The actor has a bit without hesitation.

Actor: Tastes good.

Young man: Serious?

Chef: Serious?

Actor: Yes. It’s tasty.

Young man: That’s good. Yes. Thank you.

Chef: Do the dishes.

The young man does the dishes happily. He appears to be humming.

Young man: Sir, he said tasty.

Chef: Don’t dance.

Actor: You are funny.

The young man stops moving.

Actor: I think your movement is unusual.

Young man: Is that right?

Actor: I want to be an actor. I want to be on TV or in films.

Young man: Is that what you want?

Actor: But I am still struggling after 10 years.

Young man: Right… do you enjoy acting?

Actor: It’s fun. I am acting to be the ideal fictional character that exists in a director’s head. It feels like I am transforming into a new person.

Young man: Right.

Actor: A director is like a hypnotist. By bringing up actors, we get brainwashed, becoming new individuals. Synchronising the self to the perfect mirror image of the director is a sensation I can never experience otherwise.

Young man: I see.

Actor: It’s a state of ecstasy. I’m addicted of it.

Chef: He is lost. End the conversation by saying like ‘enjoy the meal while it’s still hot’.

Young man: Enjoy the meal while it is hot.

Actor: Oh, you’re right. Of course.

Chef: Do the dishes.

The young man does the dishes. After a while, the chef speaks again.

Chef: Take a slash in the toilet.

The young man gets closer to the microphone without checking if the actor has realised anything unusual.

Young man: But, I am fine.

Chef: Listen to me. Do it now.

Young man: But I don’t want to. Why are you saying that?

Chef: An amateur needs to listen to a pro! Pros discharge their urine when possible.

Young man: Fine. I’ll stop doing the dishes now.

The young man goes to toilet. The sound of peeing echoes

Young man: It lasts quite long.

Chef: See. I told you that.

Young man: I must’ve been nervous.

Chef: I can see that.

Young man: Once this customer is gone, could you head downstairs for me?

Chef: What for?

Young man: I’d like to see how you shred cabbage.

Chef: You’re doing it fine.

Young man: Not at all. I’m too slow.

Chef: You are capable. I said you can do it.

Young man: Do you mean that?

Chef: Hey, you, wait. Your fly is down.

Young man: Oh, shoot!

Chef: Watch out.

Young man: Is there a camera in the toilet?

Music comes in. Lights off.

3. Dinnertime, thirteen days later.

Patron 2: Can I have a spaghetti naporitan?

Young man: Naporitan.

Patron 2 stands up and picks up a manga comic. Patron 3 goes through the menu, but he is unable deciding what to order.

Young man: Please take your time.

After a while, Patron 3 decides what to order.

Patron 3: I will have stir fried meat and vegetable.

Young man: Yes, stir fried meat and vegetable.

Patron 3 leaves the counter to wash his hands.

Chef: It’s been a while. We haven’t prepared the stir frying as nobody wants it. While cooking the pasta, we prepare for the stir fries. Water must’ve already been boiled. Add pasta to it. We will then start cooking the meat and vegetables. Listen to me first. My way of stir frying is more like boiling. It capitalises on the sweetness of the vegetables. But it still keeps vegetables crispy. It goes down well with rice. Timing is crucial in making this dish.

The young man nods.

Chef: Slice two cloves of garlic. Then mince a knob of ginger. Cut the cabbage and carrot into bite-sized pieces. Do you understand? Onion should be cut to the same size. Next, get green capsicum, mushrooms and bacon. They’ll be used for the pasta. Fry the garlic and ginger until brown. Add 100 grams of minced pork and the rest of the vegetables. Fry the garlic and ginger until brown. Add 100 grams of minced pork and the rest of the vegetables.

The young man continues cooking.

Chef: Have a pan ready for the pasta too. Fry garlic in olive oil on medium heat. After you sense the aroma of garlic, add all the other ingredients. Fry them till the capsicum looks polished. Listen to the sound of meat and vegetables.

The young man continues cooking.

Chef: The sound has changed. Almost there. Keep cooking a little more. Does the capsicum look polished?

The young man nods.

Patron 3: Can I use the toilet?

Young man: Sure.

Chef: Add four shakes of salt, three shakes of pepper, half a knob of butter, and a little bit of tomato sauce. Taste first, then boil up till the sourness of the tomato sauce goes away.

Young man: Another bowl of rice? (Asking to Patron 4)

Chef: Niiiceee.

Chef: Taste again. Is it sour? I’ve got you. Pour a little pasta water, a little more. Milk must be in the fridge. Add some for seasoning to finalise the taste.

The young man follows the order smoothly.

Chef: Lift the noodles. Only half. The other half should be eaten without sauce. Make him enjoy different flavours. Dish up only half the pasta, then add the other half on top. My durum wheat already has deep flavours. They should taste the noodles first. Once ready, serve the spaghetti naporitan first.

Young man: Here is your pasta. Have a taste of noodles first. Then mix them up and enjoy.

Chef: You’re right. I don’t have to check you out.

The young man continues working without an instruction.

Chef: Great. You already know what you’re meant to be doing.

Young man: Thank you, Sir.

Chef: You’ve mastered all this in thirteen days. You have new customers. The locals are talking about you. Some even visit you from somewhere further. You look different now since we first met. You even look like me when I was young. Keep up the good work.

Young man: Thank you for waiting. Here is your stir fried meat and vegetable meal. I’ll serve you rice and miso soup.

Patron 3: Looks good. Thank you very much.

After serving rice and miso, Patron 4 finishes eating and stands up.

Young man: Thank you very much. It’ll be 800 yen.

Patron 4: Thank you. It was very good.

Young man: My pleasure. Here is your change of 200 yen.

Patron 4: I’ll come back.

Young man: Thank you.

Patron 2: Bill, please.

Young man: Thank you. Yours is 680 yen.

Patron 2: Beautiful meal.

Young man: Thank you very much.

Patron 3 is still eating his meat and vegetable.

Patron 3: Sorry for making you work till late.

Young man: No problem.

The young man starts doing the dishes.

Patron 3: How many years have you been running this place?

Young man: How many years? I can’t be too sure. I think around 30 or 35.

Patron 3: 35 years, that’s long. Did you succeed your parent?

Young man: No, that’s not the case. I was… I forgot…

Patron 3: Everything looks tasty here. I’d like the pasta he was eating.

Young man: Yes, It’s a good dish.

Patron 3: I’ll have it next time.

Young man: Sure. Please come again.

Patron 3: Bill, please.

Young man: Thank you. It will be 700 yen.

Patron 3: I have one thousand.

Young man: This is your change. Thank you very much.

Patron 3: That was a beautiful meal. Good night.

After a short pause to relax, the young man starts tidying the kitchen. He then realises he smells.

Young man: I stink. 

The young man starts washing himself at the kitchen sink. A man enters the bistro, but the young man doesn’t realise that. When the young man turns away from the sink, he finds that there is a man in the bistro.

Young man: What? Who? Hi…

The man who just walked in, in fact, is Chinese. He grins.

Young man: It’s closed.

Chinese (who speaks in Chinese): Can I have an omurice?

Young man: Are you not Japanese?

Chinese: Can I have an omurice?

Young man: Did… did you say an omurice? But I closed the bistro. Finished.

The Chinese man pulls out a phone to use a machine voice translator.

Chinese (who speaks through the device that translates into Japanese): I’m hungry. Will you quickly cook an omurice

Young man: Omurice

Chinese: Please. Thank you.

The young man gets closer to the microphone.

Young man: Sir. Sir.

No reply—the young man walks into the bathroom.

Young man: Sir. Can you wake up please?

Still no reply.

Young man: I am not sure if I can cook it… Will you wait a little? OK?

The young man seems to have no trouble cooking an omelette.

Young man: Thank you for waiting. This is a dish of omurice. I’ll need a knife…

The Chinese man steps back. The young man insists that everything is OK.

Chinese: Oh, this is wonderful.

Young man: Cool. It’s creamy. I’ve done it. Is it tasty? Tasty? Do you understand Japanese?

The Chinese man obviously speaks no Japanese. The young man starts washing his shirt at the sink. The Chinese man stands up, pulls out a stack of banknotes from his small pouch bag, and leaves the bistro. The young man hangs out his shirt to dry, and comes out of kitchen. He finds the money.

Young man: Sir, Sir.

Chef: What is it?

Young man: Please wake up. I can’t believe what just happened.

Chef: Er, did a fire break out?

Young man: No. not that. But there was a foreigner, I think he’s Chinese. He just came and had an omurice.

Chef: Your omelette looks creamy.

Young man: I think so…

Chef: Good job!

Young man: Yes, but that’s not the point. Look at this.

Chef: What’s that?

Young man: He left 100,000 yen.

Chef: Did he?

Young man: Not too sure if I can have this much. It’s kinda scary.

Chef: You mastered omelette.

Young man: Yes, but I still have to learn.

The young man turns the light off, and prepares to sleep in a sleeping bag.

Chef: Hey, go to the kitchen. I’ll treat you.

Young man: Treat me? For what?

Chef: Check the cabinet under the sink.

Young man: OK, yes, here I am.

Chef: Do you see a bottle?

Young man: Is this it?

Chef: That’s it. Have a seat.

Young man: You’re treating me to a drink?

Chef: Put some ice cubes in the glass. Open the bottle and pour some for yourself.

Young man: Booze, I suppose.

Chef: It’s Scotch. The Macallan from 1939. It’s my shout. Drink it.

Young man: I don’t really drink…

Chef: I will teach you how.

The young man smells the liquid in the bottle. He doesn’t obviously enjoy it.

Young man: Ugh! It smells.

Chef: You can’t get this easily.

Young man: Do you mean expensive?

Chef: One million yen.

Young man: What? One million yen for this?

Chef: Use your left nostril to smell it for three seconds, then keep the glass away for another three seconds, then use your right nostril to smell it for three seconds. Now use both nostrils to smell for three seconds. Hold it in your mouth, but don’t swallow yet.

The young man follows the instruction.

Chef: Taste it with the left side of your tongue first, then the right, the front, the centre, and the back. (A moment of silence.) Swallow it.

The young man finally drinks it.

Chef: Tasty?

Young man: Ugh, it tastes like grandpa’s belt…

Chef: You will appreciate it soon. It’s from 1939. What year is it?

Young man: I don’t know the history… I am not sure.

Chef: It’s the year when the Second World War started. How dumb are you?

Young man: I’m sorry.

Chef: Take another sip. You are going to feel more of the depth.

The young man has another sip. He is getting fond of it.

Chef: The Chinese.

Young man: What do you mean?

Chef: The Chinese are buying up all the land around here.

Young man: Is that right? They must be rich? Did you say something like the bubble?

Chef: They want to have this bistro too.

Young man: Oh, I didn’t know that. Is that what he wants?

There is a moment of silence.

Chef: The war… The 1939 Macallan tastes like blood.

Young man: Er… I’m not sure what it means.

The young man has another sip.

Young man: Excuse me Sir. Why don’t you come down here?

Chef: Why?

Yong man: What are you doing?

Chef: I’m observing you.

Young man: I know that. But, it’s strange. I can only hear your voice. It’s like a phone. Like Siri. You’re like it.

Chef: You’re weird.

Young man: There’s no one else here right now. Why don’t you come down and drink with me? You live very close to me... I reckon this is quite tasty... 

Chef: I know that.

Young man: I’m also cooking a lot in my dreams lately. I’m cooking stuff like a hamburger steak that I haven’t cooked yet. Tables are all full of customers, and I cook at full speed. Actually, the customers are my old friends, some from middle school, and others from high school. They all are my friends, but friends from different places… I’m not sure what it all means… haha.

Chef: You have unconsciously changed. This is excellent.

Young man: This is tasty... Sir, I want to smoke too.

Chef: This is even better. Check the shelf. Have my cigarette.

Young man: I found it. Oh…

Chef: Hey, light up. Smoke it.

He smokes but coughs.

Young man: No way… I can’t handle it.

Chef: You inhale too much. Just a little first. Keep the cigarette smoke in your mouth, then breathe in just like you breathe the air.

Young man: Oh, yes, I feel dizzy. It’s dazzling too.

Chef: Excellent. You are getting there.

There is a beam of light reflecting on the window—then disappears.

Young man: Sir. I feel drunk. Will you drink with me tonight?

The young man attempts to go upstairs, but he hears somebody’s knocking on the bistro’s door. He approaches the door and opens it. There is a young woman, a sex worker.

Sex worker: Hello. Good evening. Thanks for calling me.

The sex worker walks in without permission.

Sex worker: Cool. This is a bistro!

Young man: Who are you?

Chef: Hey, make her blow your load. You must be horny.

Sex worker: Can I see your kitchen? Please.

Young man: No, wait for a sec.

Sex worker: Don’t worry. I am not that busy. Haha. Cool. This is your kitchen.

Young man: Excuse me, but…

Sex worker: You have whisks and ladles.

Young man: Can you not touch them please?

Sex worker: I actually go to a hospitality college.

Young man: Oh, do you?

Sex worker: This is very expensive. Can you hold my jacket?

Underneath the jacket, the sex worker is wearing a sexy dress. She picks up a pan.

Sex worker: I don’t think I can hold it with one hand. Can you do it?

Young man: Yes, but do what?

Sex worker: You must cook stuff like fried rice. Can you show me? You do flick and clack. Haha.

Young man: I don’t do Chinese cooking.

The young man grabs the pan from the sex worker.

Sex worker: Show me, please.

Young man: Ok. Like this. (He shakes the pan.)

Sex worker: Wow, that’s so cool. It’s so cool to see a man cooking. (She is overjoyed.) It’s so professional, and extremely sexy.

The sex worker gets mouthwash from her bag, and washes her mouth.

Sex worker: Thirty minutes. I’ve already been paid.

She gets down on her knees, and pulls down his pants.

Sex worker: I am a pro in my field.

Chef: I’ll help you.

The curtains are closed, and the lights turn to pink.

Sex worker: This is so amusing. How cool. Hahaha… You can come as much you want.

Chef: I will make you a real man.

The young man screams.

All the lights off.

Music “Gunkan March” comes in.

4. Dinnertime, Thirty-three days later

The bistro is full. There are six people eating, Actor, Actor’s friend, Patron 5, Patron 6, Patron 7, and Chinese man. The actor and his friend stand up, and pay.

Actor: Thanks for the meal. Sir, my next theatre performance has been scheduled.

Young man: That’s nice.

Actor: I was selected by a famous director. I will be taking a leading role. I’m so happy.

Young man: Good news. Do your best.

Actor: Yes, I will.

Actor’s friend: Sir, this was so delicious.

Young man: Thank you.

Patron 5: I’m done.

Young man: Thank you.

Patron 5: You are always busy.

Patron 6: Thanks for the meal.

Patron 7: Thanks for the meal.

Patron 6: It was very tasty.

Young man: Sure, thanks.

There is only one patron left—the Chinese man. The young man starts cooking a steak. He places a bottle of Macallan on a counter. He drinks it from the bottle, then pour it on a pan, making a large flame. He dishes up the steak, then serves it to the Chinese man. The Chinese man starts eating it with a knife and a folk. Meanwhile, the young man does the dishes, while smoking. The Chinese man finishes his meal, then he gets his wallet out. The young man opens the register, and gives back the 100,000 yen he had previously received.

Young man: Don’t visit me again.

Chinese: Money is yours. No need to return.

Young man: I won’t let you have my bistro.

Chinese: Are you trying to insult me?

The young man throws the money to the Chinese man.

Young man: Leave.

Chinese: Do you even know who I am?

Young man: What?

The Chinese man grabs the young man, and throws him to the floor… He speaks to the device in Chinese, which is machine translated into Japanese.

Chinese: According to an ancient proverb, you, the Japanese, are pig individually pigs, but can be a dragon as a group. We, the Chinese, act as a pig as a group, but are dragons individually. But remember, pigs are hungry. We eat anything. When we gang up, we are bad.

Young man: Er..rr…

The Chinese man pulls out another stack of banknotes, and leaves them on the counter.

Chinese man: It was delicious. Thank you. I’ll come back again, in a crowd next time. Oink, oink.

The Chinese man leaves the bistro. The young man eventually gets up, and makes a phone call.

Young man: It’s me. Come here now.

Sex worker: Now? It’s late.

Young man: I don’t care. Come here. You can run.

Sex worker: But I’m with a friend…

The young man hangs up before she finishes her sentence. He goes back to the kitchen, with one leg dragging. He then washes his mouth with Macallan. The sex worker runs into the bistro.

Sex worker: I’m here for you. You should be proud of me.

The sex worker realises that the young man is injured.

Sex worker: What’s up? Are you OK?

Young man: It’s all good.

Sex worker: But you’re bleeding.

Young man: I know.

Sex worker: Let me see.

Young man: It doesn’t matter…

The young man pushes her down, starts having sex.

The lights go off.

5. The following day

As the morning arrives, the stage lights are back.

Sex worker: Good morning. How do you feel?

She stands up, and has a glass of water.

Sex worker: Are you not going to open the bistro today?

Young man: No, I think I have fractured ribs.

Sex worker: Serious? Don’t you need to see a doctor?

Young man: Should I? Why don’t you go? You’ll need to work tonight.

Sew worker: Oh, sure. OK. Can I be paid?

The young man collects money from the floor and pass it to her.

Sex worker: Thanks. Please call me again. Can I have a cigarette too? See you.

She leaves the bistro. The young man starts smoking, then the Chinese man walks in. The Chinese man loughs at the injured young man who looks miserable. The young man pushes the Chinese man out of the bistro, and locks the bistro’s door. He smokes again. Eventually, someone starts knocking on the door—and soon knocking all over the walls of the bistro. Then it goes quiet—the lights go off. The voice of the young man comes out from the earpiece.

Young man: Hey, you! Why don’t you do this job?



In creating this translation, I would like to thank Assoc. Prof. William Peterson (Flinders University) and Sandra Sifis for reading earlier drafts. I would also like to deliver my gratitude to Dr Rina Tanaka (Meiji University) and Onozuka Chika for providing me with the latest movements of contemporary Japanese theatre. Of course, my thank you also goes to Tanino Kuro and his 2019 OzAsia team.



[1] Peterson, W 2017, ‘Two puppeteers walk into a Japanese bathhouse in The Dark Inn’, The Conversation, viewed 7 March 2021,

[2] See Kimura, T 2020, ‘AKB48 and the Export of Kawaii Aesthetics through Indonesian JKT48’, in T Kimura & J Harris (eds.), Exporting Japanese Aesthetics: Evolution from Tradition to Cool Japan, Sussex Academic Press, Brighton, pp. 220-248; and Kimura, T 2016, ‘Japan’s Soft Power: A Case Study of Uniqlo and AKB48’, Japan Studies Association Journal, vol. 14, pp. 33-58.

[3] Senda, A 1997, The Voyage of Contemporary Japanese Theatre, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.

[4] Senda, A 1995, Nihon no Gendai Engeki, Iwanami Shinsho, Tokyo.

[5] Sasaki, A 2020, Chiisana Engeki no Okisa ni tsuite. P-Vine, Tokyo; Uchino, T 2016, ‘J Engeki’ no Basho, University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo; and Iwaki K 2011, Tokyo Engeki Genzaikei, Hublet Publishing, London.

About the Author

Tets Kimura is Research Associate in Creative Arts at Flinders University, South Australia. He holds a PhD in International Relations. His latest publications include Exporting Japanese Aesthetics: Evolution from Tradition to Cool Japan (2020, Sussex Academic Press), an edited collection that brings together historical and contemporary case studies addressing the evolution of international impacts of Japanese culture. His current research activities focus on Japanese history in Australia, and Asian fashion and art in modern and contemporary history that (re)map and (re)construct Asian identities. He has received an Asia Study Grant (2021) from the National Library of Australia.

Tanino Kuro is the founder of the theatre troupe, Niwa Gekidan Penino. He serves as director and principal playwright. Since 2000, the troupe has staged numerous works by Kuro, and has received critical acclaim. Kuro himself has won several awards, both Japanese and international, for his writing. He has also been artist-in-residence at the Kinosaki International Arts Centre.

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