Kakushinhan Theatre Company performance

‘Found in Translation: Understanding Shakespeare through Intercultural Dialogue’ was a major international conference, the largest event the Institute has yet co-organized with our research partners at Waseda University. It brought together over 150 participants, including 35 speakers from every continent in the world, ranging from PhD students and early career scholars to established professors. The three-day conference featured papers on all aspects of translations of Shakespeare, focusing especially on what might be gained from the inherently intercultural act of translation, especially interlingual translation. Topics ranged from the use of Shakespeare translation in education and de-colonisation, to Shakespeare translations in performances, archives and editorial practice. The conference also engaged a wider audience by bringing in practitioners in the shape of the Tokyo Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare Company Japan and Kakushinhan Theatre Company.

A roundtable discussion between the directors of these companies and staged readings by their actors were among the highlights of the event. The interdisciplinary nature of the conference was further reinforced by lectures by working translators of Shakespeare, including Ms Kazuko Matsuoka, who recently became the third Japanese person and the first Japanese woman to complete a translation of all of Shakespeare’s plays, and Professor Shoichiro Kawai, who is pioneering the attempt to keep Shakespeare’s rhymes in Japanese.

Conference delegates

As part of the programme, delegates also enjoyed a guided tour of Waseda University’s Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, built in honour of Shoyo Tsubouchi, the first translator to complete the translation of Shakespeare’s works. The conference included two theatre trips: to see Henry VIII at Saitama Arts Theatre in Ms Matsuoka’s translation and to see a Japanised A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Nissay Theatre, in Professor Kawai’s translation.

This truly international conference would not have been possible without Waseda University’s full support with entry visas, given that strict Covid border controls remained in place, but there can be no doubt that the fact that it took place in person created additional possibilities for dialogue. It is hoped that the conference will lead to future collaborations, including an essay collection which Is already under negotiation with Bloomsbury.

The conference organisers – Jessica Chiba, Hiromi Fuyuki, Norimasa Morita and Tetsuhito Motoyama – are grateful for the generous support from The Daiwa Foundation Award, the Global Japanese Studies Model Unit of Waseda University, the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the University of Birmingham’s International Engagement Fund, and the Leverhulme Trust.