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TOKYO

Tohoku play finds friends in ghostly places

by Eriko Arita

Staff Writer

With the eastern Tohoku region currently undergoing much hardship due to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, it might be a good time to revisit the culture of the region in the hopes of motivating people’s drive to recover.

A musical set in Japan’s Tohoku region will be performed in Tokyo from May 24 to June 25.

The musical titled, “Yuta to Fushigina Nakamatachi” (“Yuta and His Mysterious Friends”), is an original work from the Shiki Theater Company. The musical was first shown in 37 cities across Japan in 1977, according to the company.

The musical’s main character is a boy named Yuta who lives in Tohoku. Yuta is isolated and bullied by other children, but he happens to meet some zashikiwarashi, which translates as the spirits of children who were killed when they were born because their parents could not raise them due to famine.

These zashikiwarashi spirits are not evil. As with many Japanese spirits, they have warm hearts. They are sympathetic to children such as Yuta, who don’t have friends. The five spirits who the boy meets encourage and support him.

One of the characteristics of this particular musical is the language the actors speak. They speak a dialect that comes from Iwate Prefecture, which is known for its rhythm and soft, beautiful sounds.

The songs in the show incorporate elements of Japanese enka ballads and folk songs. The dances were choreographed based on martial arts such as karate and aikido. Shiki Theater Company says this results in a powerful and dynamic feeling.

“Yuta to Fushigina Nakamatachi” (“Yuta and His Mysterious Friends”) takes place at Shiki Theater Aki in Minato-ku, Tokyo. It is a seven-minute walk from Hamamatsucho Station on both the JR Yamanote and Keihin Tohoku train lines. The theater is a nine-minute walk from Daimon Station on the Oedo Subway Line. Tickets cost ¥3,000-¥9,000 for adults and ¥3,500-¥4,500 for children. For reservations and more information, call 0120-489-444 or visit www.shiki.jp.