|photo: Tsunan Shinbun|
This autumn, I went to Niigata to see a Yubiwa Hotel’s performance, titled “But I was so in love ---Tsunan-machi Okura snow shed version,” or あんなに愛しあったのに〜津南町大倉雪覆工篇, held at the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale. Yubiwa Hotel is one of my favorite performance units and I had longed to see this performance since I saw it last timeat Ichihara Art×Mix in 2014.
Shirotama Hitsujiya, the director of Yubiwa Hotel has a unique way of making dramas. She trys to find “treasures” of the local area by doing ethnological research and creating stories based on them. This time, the drama is set in Tsunam-machi, a remote area in Niigata pref., which has heavy snow in winter.
We got to the Tsunan-machi Okura snow shed, which Hitsujiya selected as the stage for this performance. The Okura snow shed, located just along the Shinano River, used to be a snow shelter to protect the local road and people from heavy snow. We, the audiences were asked to walk back and forth through the snow shed with the actors as the story went on. Basically, the shed became the tunnel that connects the real world with fantasy.
Having heavy snow, sometimes over 4 meters a day in winter, and a decreasing population, Tsunan-machi has a lot of difficulties. The drama starts when the schoolgirls who belong to “social study club” introduce the history and some legends of the region. The play seems to raise several important matters; how can we cope with this situation and how can we figure out any solutions. However, it’s not a social scientific drama, on the contrary, soon before we know it, we are drawn into a beautiful fantasy.
One schoolgirl says;
“Teacher, can we also become snow? If so, we would be able to come back here again.”
I think these words are a great invention of this drama because it is a fantastic solution to the problem that this remote area has.
And then, winter comes and snow starts falling on the ground of Tsunan-machi with a snow fairy, or yukimushi. The aerial dance that expresses the snow fairy was breathtaking and we saw the image of people coming back to their hometown by transforming themselves into flakes of snow.
Although there aren’t so many words in this drama or possibly because there aren’t so many words, the performance appeals to our senses and we feel at one with the fantasy that Hitsujiya created.
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