72: Futon and Daruma

1 Jun

This is the first Japanese play I have read as part of this project. Ryo Iwamatsu wrote Futon and Daruma in 1988 and was awarded the Kishida Kunio Drama Prize for it. The translation I read is by Masako Yuasa.

jeans and a book

Coming to it for the first time, without any preconceptions, I was struck by the Pinteresque feel of the drama. Characters talk obliquely around problems, sentences aren’t finished and there are many pauses written into the text.

The action in the play takes place in real time in the husband and wife’s room, late at night, after a wedding. The home belongs to ‘The Husband’ and it was his daughter who was getting married. The house is now crowded with guests, many of whom want to stay the night. We meet his sister, his wife, her ex-husband, his business associates or friends, his wife’s brother and the brother’s wife, a maid, the maid’s boyfriend and a driver over the course of the drama.

In her prologue, Masako Yuasa says that “Futon and Daruma explores the confused state of mind of Japanese men; that of the father, the husband and the brother in the domestic atmosphere from the author’s very male point of view. Considerably male-centred and chauvinistic, society in Japan traps Japanese men and makes it impossible for them to talk about their private lives; instead they are expected to maintain their pride in being the leading sex, a belief which they are unable to surrender.”

There are overt examples in the text of men treating women badly, demanding sex and using force to try to get it, and also many examples of women behaving submissively or fearfully, depending on your reading. The wife’s younger brother Kazuya is the worst: drugging his wife because he fears she’ll mumble in the wedding and abusing her for chewing gum, even though he’s the one who gave it to her.

KAZUYA: Tokie …
KAZUYA: I said come here.
KAZUYA: Quickly.

TOKIE slowly gets up and goes to KAZUYA.

KAZUYA: Sit down.
TOKIE: (She sits down)

KAZUYA abruptly pushes TOKIE down on THE HUSBAND’S futon.

TOKIE: What are you doing?
KAZUYA: I want to make love.
TOKIE: Someone, someone might come in.
KAZUYA: We’ll be finished before they do…
TOKIE: You can’t…

TOKIE resists KAZUYA; however he cannot stop himself as she has already excited him.

For me, the most telling line was in the stage direction above. “He cannot stop himself as she has already excited him.” This could be something that has suffered in translation, but the notion that she has somehow excited him by reluctantly walking over and that he now cannot stop himself is abhorrent. Fortunately someone walks in before things go too far, although, if Tokie was a real person, you wouldn’t have much hope for her wellbeing outside of this scene.

As a western woman reading Futon and Daruma, my sympathies were with the female characters but I could see that the men were also floundering. Kazuya’s cruelty to his wife could stem from the fact that he has to beg for money from his sister and brother-in-law, and that he feels like a supplicant. The Husband’s inability to talk directly with his wife, means that he goes to her ex-husband to find out what might be troubling her. The two men talk about her desire for a place of her own incredulously, finding it impossible to believe that she could be doing anything serious enough to warrant a room outside the house. They dissect her while she’s in the room with them, discussing her sexual inhibition and lack of desire, occasionally asking her a question, but never waiting for her reply.

Publisher: Alumnus

Cast: 8M, 4F

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