Now a language-school teacher in Tokyo, Gareth Hinchley worked for Britain's chief forestry agency before coming to Japan in 2005. Originally from Manchester, he'd done a bit of writing as a child but hadn't pursued it seriously before he wrote "Dick Whittington," the upcoming production by Tokyo Theatre for Children.

"Taking the first step to write this show was hard," he said in a recent chat, "and if it wasn't for my grandmother's encouragement when she was alive, I would have never had the idea to try to be a writer."

"Dick Whittington," which Hinchley also directs and costars in, is a children's musical loosely based on a 17th-century English folk tale about a country boy who leaves home with his cat to find his fortune and ends up as Lord Mayor of London. In Hinchley's version, Dick travels to Tokyo to try to become a singer.