University of Pittsburgh
January 25, 2005

Pitt's Asian Studies Center Cosponsors Performance About Rising Japanese Trend of Youth Social Withdrawal

U.S. tour of award-winning Japanese play, Yaneura, debuts Feb. 7 in Pittsburgh
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—A four-meter-wide stage has been set for the performance of the acclaimed Japanese play Yaneura, which means 'attic.' Members of the Rinko-gun Theater Company perform all the play's scenes in this claustrophobic setting, the size of an actual yaneura. The Pittsburgh performance, cosponsored by Pitt's Asian Studies Center within the University Center for International Studies, is part of a four-city U.S. tour organized by the Japan Society, New York. Pittsburgh's High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, 111 Ninth St., Pittsburgh, will host the 7 p.m. Feb. 7 performance.

Written and directed by Yoji Sakate, Yaneura is a collection of two dozen seemingly disparate episodes that take an incisive look at the Japanese social issue, hikikomori, a term that literally translates as "withdrawn." It refers to people, usually in their teens and 20s, whose obsessions have led them to cocoon themselves in their rooms, devoid of contact with the outside world.

The narratives in this darkly comic play explore the implications of hikikomori as a symptom of social dysfunction in postmodern Japan, as well as the revelatory experiences of those who have been atomized by the lack of real communication and choose lives of confinement and isolation. Some scenes in the play revolve around the following stories:

• A young man desperately searching for the manufacturer of the yaneura unit in which his younger brother committed suicide, after months of confinement;

• A woman who willingly imprisons herself as an outward manifestation of her psychological inability to engage in social interaction and who compares her plight to that of Anne Frank;

• A kidnapper who locks a girl in his room for more than nine years;

• A team of mountaineers trapped in a small hut during a blizzard; and

• Two policemen hiding out in a discarded yaneura while on a stakeout.

Yaneura is performed in Japanese with English subtitles. General admission is $15, students with a Pitt ID will be admitted for $10. For more information, call

412-624-PLAY (7529).

A winner of the 2002 Yomiuri Literature Award for Best Play and the 2002 Kinokuniya Theatre Award for Best Director, Yaneura premiered in April 2002 in Tokyo.

The Rinko-gun Theater Company was founded by Sakate in 1983 and performs original works that bring to the audience a keen awareness of important social and political issues facing Japan and the international community.

Funding for the production is provided in part by Pitt's Japan Iron and Steel Federation endowment. The four-city U.S. tour of Yaneura is produced and organized by the Japan Society, New York, and is supported by a grant from The Saison Foundation for the Japan Society's Japanese Theater NOW initiative, as well as through the Performing Arts JAPAN program of The Japan Foundation and the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan. International transportation is supported in part by All Nippon Airways.