Musicals have flourished in 2018, with many young stars also helping to sell out straight plays in which they appeared. However, the contemporary drama scene in Japan has been unusually quiet this year in terms of new works and writers.
It is fitting that Keita Asari — whose business sense and enthusiasm pioneered the musicals genre here through the Shiki theater empire he founded — could relish that success before he died in July aged 85.
His journey began in the early 1970s, when he began staging Broadway and West End musicals with Japanese casts. Then, by opening theaters nationwide, he created his own circuit that freed him from risk-averse producers and the short fixed runs they insisted upon. As a result, "The Lion King" — which Shiki premiered in Japan in 1998 — is still being staged in Tokyo and elsewhere.