A Kabuki theatre, coloured woodcut triptych by Utagawa Toyokuni, c. 1800; in the British Museum


A Farce


by Yoshiro Takayasu (translated by Toshiya Kamei)


atsuko had been at loose ends ever since her only son left home and started college.

Then Kiiko, a friend from her high school days, came to visit her. Back in high school, she was in the drama club, and now she was a member of a small theater group that mainly consisted of their high school friends. Kiiko came to suggest Matsuko join the theater group. Matsuko, too, had some experience acting in the drama club, so she decided to join right away.

Matsuko’s husband was a serious and kind man who worked in the town office. When Matsuko joined the theater group and got home from practice late at night, he didn’t complain one bit, and he was supportive, saying that he would go to see their performance sometime.

The theater group was at a crossroads. The audience seemed to have grown tired of what they had performed up until that point, and they increasingly felt the need to tackle something new for the group’s survival. It was then that the leader fell ill and was hospitalized, and Kiiko was chosen to replace him.

“The leader said he would leave it to us to come up with an idea for a new play,” Kiiko said. A few days later, they agreed to give comedy a try.

“What are we going to do about a script? It’s boring to do an existing scenario. I don’t think we’ll find anything good.”

“It’s no use copying the Yoshimoto comedy troupe.”

“Yeah, slapstick isn’t art.”

“No, theater is entertainment. We should forget about art.”

“I disagree. Theater is a comprehensive art form.”

They continued to argue until they realized it was past midnight.

“Matsuko, you forgot to call your husband. He’ll go ballistic,” Kiiko said.

“Don’t worry. My husband is so nice to me.”

“That’s a telltale sign that he has something to hide. Some husbands are good to their wives because they keep mistresses.”

Matsuko laughed her off.

A few days later, Kiiko said, “Say, what about the story of a woman who makes a bet whether her husband will cheat on her? A friend of hers who bets against her seduces her husband in order to win the bet. It will make you anxious watching him almost succumb to temptation. In the end, he goes back to his wife, and they live happily ever after.”

“Oh, that sounds like me and my husband. I want to play the role of the wife if that’s okay with you. But I don’t understand why she’s jealous.”

“Well, you agree, Matsuko. How about you all?”

All those who were present that day agreed, and it was decided immediately that Kiiko would write a script.

“This play won’t use funny dialogues to make the audience laugh, but we’ll entertain them by presenting the suspicious behaviors of men and women in a comical manner. So it’ll have fewer dialogues than a normal play, but we’ll spend the same amount of time. Your acting skills will be tested.”

Before anyone knew it, Kiiko volunteered to direct the play. Shortly after she started writing the script, she began to frequent Matsuko’s house.

“I can’t quite grasp the character of the serious husband. Let me observe your husband.”

While sipping her tea, Kiiko glanced at Matsuko’s husband.

One month had passed. Once the script was finished, they began reading through their parts together.

“I find it difficult to play this character because I’ve never been jealous,” Matsuko said.

“What are you talking about? Too late to back down now.”

“Because my husband only has eyes for me. I’m too happy to play an unhappy character.” Matsuko seemed to brag about her married life.

One Sunday, Kiiko visited Matsuko’s house while she was out shopping. She whispered something to Matsuko’s husband, who was in the garden by himself. When Matsuko returned from shopping, Kiiko suddenly clung to her husband.

“What are you doing, Kiiko? What are you two doing?” Matsuko shouted, throwing her shopping bag on to the floor.

“Now you know how it feels like to be jealous, don’t you? I asked your husband to play along.”

“You’re lying, Kiiko,” Matsuko said. “Is it true, honey?” she asked her husband.

“Yes, she did.”

“It’s a lie. I’m sorry, but could you leave, Kiiko?”

Matsuko was so snappish that Kiiko left, unable to calm her down. Matsuko never went back to the theater group.

“It was really her idea. You’re not thinking about divorcing me, are you?” her husband said a few days later.

“Of course not. It would be a farce to get a divorce now,” Matsuko said, glaring angrily at him.


About the author & translator:


Yoshiro Takayasu lives in Togane, Chiba, where he edits Village Tsushin. He is the author of several poetry collections, including Mukashi mukashi (1982) and Jigenkyo (1987). In the US, Toshiya Kamei has published English translations of his fiction and poetry in The Broken Plate, The Dirty Goat, Gargoyle Magazine, Metamorphoses, Nebo, and Visions International, among others.






























「じゃあ松子は賛成ね。他のみんなは どう?」

























きり劇団に顔を出すことはなくなった。数日して夫君は 言った。


すると松子 は目をつり上げながら言った。