The first thing Yojiro Ichikawa said when we sat down for our recent interview in a Tokyo rehearsal studio was, "Shall I speak in English?"

For the director of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Tell Me on a Sunday," which has its Japan premiere next month, that was a natural question, given that he is virtually bilingual and he knew I lived a long time in London.

In the event, I opted for Japanese — first asking the fast-rising 34-year-old dramatist how he came to be so good at a foreign language many Japanese study for years but can hardly speak at all.