Lasenkan Theater is a Japanese drama group based in Berlin. Since 2002, it has spent two-thirds of every year in the German capital, presenting works by author Yoko Tawada, a resident of Germany.
Tawada, who writes in German and Japanese, won the Gunzo Shinjin Bungakusho Prize for up-and-coming literary authors in 1991, the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1993 and the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize from the Bavarian Art Academy, which is given to authors whose native language is not German, in 1996.
The Tawada pieces that Lasenkan Theater presents in Berlin are in German. However, later this month and in early September, the group will present a Tawada piece in Japanese in Kyoto and Tokyo. It presented the original German version in Berlin in September and December 2007.
The piece, “Dejima,” is a Japanese translation/adaptation by the author of her German-language work, “Eine Europaeische Stadt in Japan (A European Town in Japan).” Dejima was a 1.31-hectare artificial island constructed by the Tokugawa Shogunate in Nagasaki Harbor. Dutch merchants were allowed to reside on the island for about 200 years from 1641. The island served as Japan’s only window to Europe during the Edo Period (1603-1867).
There are only two roles in the play, which is set in 19th-century Dejima. Fumi is a geisha who visits Jacobus van den Broek, a Dutch merchant stationed in Dejima.
In a profoundly lost in communication situation, the two try to talk about such things as food, medicine and religion. Various vocalizations, body movement and fragmented language (German, ancient words, onomatopoeia, corrupted forms of words, etc.) are employed. The play describes the process by which two people come to understand not only what the other is talking about, but also their interests and personality.
The play starts at 3 p.m. on Aug. 24 at Grande, on the second floor of The Palace Side Hotel in Kyoto (a 3-minute walk from the No. 2 exit of Maruta-machi subway station; tel. 415-8887) and at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 1 and 2 at Theater X (Kai) near JR Ryogoku Station in Sumida Ward, Tokyo (2-10-14 Ryogoku, Sumida Ward; tel.  5624-1181).