In 2019, French theater director Ariane Mnouchkine traveled to Japan to receive the prestigious Kyoto Prize, awarded by the Inamori Foundation for "innovations to theatrical expression (that) have been globally influential." In her lecture at the award ceremony, Mnouchkine recalled her first visit to Japan in 1963, a voyage that became hugely significant to her work.

She boarded a ship in the port of Marseille, France, which took her through the Suez Canal, stopping at Aden in Yemen, and Mumbai (then Bombay), India, before arriving at its destination in Yokohama.

Her first two months in Japan were frustratingly “lost in translation” since she spoke no Japanese and the majority of Japanese people she encountered spoke little English or French. However, with the aid of French journalist Marcel Giuglaris, who was fluent in Japanese, Mnouchkine was able to connect with Japanese culture in a more meaningful way. She watched a range of kabuki, noh and bunraku performances, all of which influenced her understanding of theater forms.