Stage | Backstage Pass

Keeping the lesson of Hiroshima alive through one family’s story

by Peter Chordas

Contributing Writer

With only a chair, a lamp and a book to assist him, Tatsushi Amano, 54, has been providing dynamic glimpses into the hardships of postwar Hiroshima since 2009.

His performance consists of a one-man adaptation of Hisashi Inoue’s play “Chichi to Kuraseba” (“Living With Father,” aka “The Face of Jizo”), which he delivers in Japanese with projected English subtitles. Set in 1948, the play involves only two characters, Mitsue and her father, and takes place in a house in a slum on the edge of Hiroshima where the roof still leaks from damage caused by the atomic bombing.

Through a series of beautifully written conversations, “Living With Father” explores fear, loneliness and the guilt of survival inherent in an age of mass destruction.

Since first discovering the story at a bookstore in 2008, the play has been Amano’s work of passion.

“The title is what first grabbed me,” he says. “I was working as a taxi driver in Tokyo and had recently become a single father of three. I felt like a complete failure. Then here was a story of hope about someone who had truly lost everything.”

Shortly after that, Amano was contacted out of the blue by a senior member of an acting group that he had belonged to 20 years prior. This friend suggested that performing the play could be therapeutic, and so Amano began practicing lines in his taxi between fares.

“I must have looked crazy,” laughs Amano, “driving a cab through downtown Tokyo and shouting, ‘Daddy!!!’ with tears in my eyes.”

At that time he also made the set-piece that accompanies all his performances: a bent floor lamp, darkly shimmering as if coated with black rain and draped with red thread to represent fate and blood connection.

Beside this creation, Amano dexterously shifts between Mitsue and her father — whose playful and at times rapid-fire exchanges often spiral from lighthearted to heartbreaking in a few lines. Yet with Amano’s skillful delivery, it’s easy to forget that only one actor occupies the stage.

Inspired by the play, Amano moved to Hiroshima in 2016, and to date he has performed ‘Living With Father’ more than 100 times on stages and at cafes, and always without compensation. In September, Amano will team up with the Hiroshima World Friendship Center and an A-bomb storyteller for a tour of three U.S. campuses — Wesleyan University, Wilmington College and Bluffton University.

“I want younger generations who don’t know about war to see this play. I want them to understand the tragedy of nuclear weapons,” says Amano, who adds that the key to that understanding is the power of imagination.

“Let’s create a world together from nothing,” he declares before each performance. “Only through imagination can we see the unseen.”

Tatsushi Amano will perform “Living With Father” at Yamasaki-ya Cafe in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, on Aug. 5 (7 p.m. start), and the Hiroshima World Friendship Center in Hiroshima on Aug. 7 (1:30 p.m. start). Performances will be in Japanese with English subtitles. For more information, visit www.matsukazenokai.com.