Chapter 9: The Shakespeare Company Japan and regional self-fashioning
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Public policies for revitalizing rural areas in Japan have had only limited, if any, success. This could not be more evident than in the Tohoku region, the northern part of mainland Japan that sustained cataclysmic damage during the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Measures purposed to rebuild the lives of the local people have, for the most part, not taken into account the most fundamental obstacle the region faces: the disbanding of communities and the resulting diminishment of ties between people. The Shakespeare Company Japan, based in Tohoku, has continued to demonstrate an alternative approach to instilling new life into the region both before and after 2011. It has been reimagining Shakespeare through the local language, history, and culture in its productions preceding the earthquake (Macbeth of Mt. Osore), immediately after it (The New Romeo and Juliet), and more recently (Ainu Othello). These works create a liminality where “the intersubjective and collective experiences of nationness, community interest, or cultural value are negotiated.” Through these culturally hybrid works, a renewed sense of local identity forms. With their Shakespeare productions, this local theater company has been proving that the arts have a crucial role to play in accomplishing what authorities and policies have failed to do when addressing the challenges that rural areas in Japan face.

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