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1 COMPAKATIVE i ama Volume 30Winter 1996-97Number 4 Kori Torahiko and Edith Craig: A Japanese Playwright in London and Toronto Yoko Chiba ? Before Kori Torahiko (1890-1924) left for Europe in 1913, he was already well known among the literary circles of Japan as a precocious young talent who had made a sensational début at the age of twenty. While for several decades after his premature death Kori's reputation was in eclipse, he has recently begun to regain high critical esteem as Japan's first international writer. That his name is remembered in the West is a testament to two remarkable English women artists of his day: Hester M. Sainsbury (1890-1967) and Edith Craig (1869-1947). Sainsbury was a poet-artist who later married the architect-painter Frederick Etchells, one of the original members of Vorticism and its journal Blast, founded by Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis.1 Edith Craig, the daughter of Ellen Terry and Edward William Godwin and the sister of Gordon Craig, was a theater director. Kori was only thirty-four when he died at the height of his career in a sanitarium in Switzerland in October 1924. At his death-bed were his lover Hester Sainsbury and her father, Dr. Harrington Sainsbury, 431 432Comparative Drama a famous physician and one-time private doctor to Queen Victoria .2 In a sojourn of less than eleven years in Europe, Kori had made a significant contribution toward bridging the gap between the theaters of East and West in the early twentieth century. In August 1913, while still a student in the English Department of the Imperial University of Tokyo, Kori set sail for Germany with the intention of studying and writing drama. Thereafter he made Europe his home with the exception of one short trip back to Japan in 1920. Constantly battling ill health throughout his life, he would leave behind eleven plays, several short stories, poems, and over a score of essays and translations, in Japanese and English. He wrote at the beginning under the penname of Kayano Jisoichi (or Nijuichi). A minor figure in Japanese literature, Kori had a uniqueness and influence on later generations of writers that cannot be overemphasized. In 1936, his complete works were published posthumously in two volumes together with a third volume of his friends' memoirs, including Hester Sainsbury's foreword. Kori's uncanny literary taste foreshadows the style and imagination of Mishima Yukio (1925-70), who describes him as the only playwright of early modern Japan.3 Not surprisingly, therefore , Mishima was hailed at his own début in the mid-1940's as the reincarnation of Kori Torahiko. Indeed, the two writers share various impressive similarities: dandyism, precocious brilliance, short height, ill health, a taste for the exotic and the strange, a similar predilection for European literature, an elaborate and elegant literary style, and so on. It may even be said that Mishima continued what Kori had left unfinished by emulating his style and perfecting it.4 Above all, it was under Kori's influence that Mishima wrote his plays based on Noh, as duly acknowledged by him.5 Kori is the first modern dramatist of Japan whose plays were produced outside the country with Western actors. This happened in London, where he had escaped from Germany at the outbreak of World War I. Kanawa: The Incantation was produced by Edith Craig and her Pioneer Players in the Criterion Theatre in December 1917, while The Toils of Yoshitomo: A Tragedy of Ancient Japan, also directed by her, was staged in October 1922 at the Little Theater, where it had a run of three weeks. In November of the following year, the latter play found its way to Canada, where audiences saw its North American première at Hart House Theater of the University of Toronto. All of these productions, meant for serious theater-goers, received high critical acclaim not Yoko Chiba433 only for their exoticism but also for their intrinsic dramatic value. Kanawa: The Incantation, a play adapted by Kori from the Noh play Kanawa, was translated by him into English, whereas The Toils of Yoshitomo is his original English play based on twelfth-century history...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 431-451
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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