Looking back over the past 12 months in Japan's theater world, it's clear that one encouraging trend is a lessening of the capital's dominance.

Contemporary drama in this country has long been centralized on Tokyo, where major theaters plan their programs far in advance, booking celebrity actors or actresses to appear in works by popular directors — often even before the play has been written.

Predictably, such stagings normally sell out quickly among the same group of people, with the scarcity of tickets being taken as a key evaluation of the production.