In spring 2016 the University of Birmingham signed a collaboration agreement with Waseda University in Tokyo, one of Japan’s leading research universities, to facilitate shared projects across a range of disciplines in both the sciences and the humanities.
In the arts, the collaboration focuses on Shakespeare, not least because Waseda was the home of the first major translator of Shakespeare into Japanese, Professor Shoyo (Frank) Tsubouchi (1859-1935), and houses the extraordinary Tsubouchi Theatre Museum. Designed to resemble a Jacobean playhouse (the Fortune), this building houses the polymathic Tsubouchi’s immense personal archive, and its collections relating to all forms of Japanese theatre and to the continuing translation and performance of Shakespeare in Asia have continued to grow. Understandably, Waseda has continued to cherish strong interests in Shakespeare and performance since Tsubouchi’s death, sending a number of MA and PhD students over the years to study at the Shakespeare Institute.
Activities within the collaboration have already included an exhibition at the Tsubouchi Museum charting the assimilation and adaptation of Shakespeare in Japan from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first, ‘Shakespeare Renaissance – from Shoyo to Ninagawa’, featuring a preface by the Shakespeare Institute’s director, Michael Dobson. In November 2016 Professor Dobson formally inaugurated the collaboration with a public lecture at Waseda, ‘Shakespeare, Rome, and temporality, from Burbage to Ninagawa.’ In January 2017 the Institute and Waseda co-organized a conference, again at Waseda, on Shakespeare, Asia and the screen, ‘Shakespeare. Film. East. West,’ featuring keynote lectures by Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto (on Kurosawa) and Russell Jackson (on post-war screen Hamlets).
It is Stratford’s turn next, and indeed London’s: on 5 October 2017 the Shakespeare Institute will host a visit from Waseda faculty, and a lecture by Professor Kodama, and then on 6 October there will be a co-organized public event at the Japanese embassy in London: 'Yukio Ninagawa, Shakespearean director (1935-2016): a memorial symposium.' This will feature contributions by Waseda and Shakespeare Institute faculty and research students, by the veteran Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington, by the theatre director Phillip Breen, and by members of the late Ninagawa’s theatre company, who will be performing their Macbeth that evening at the Barbican Theatre.
Future projects include faculty and student exchanges (one Shakespeare Institute PhD student, Rosalind Fielding, is already carrying out research on Japanese Shakespeare in Tokyo as a research associate of Waseda University); the development of a shared distance learning course on Shakespeare in Asia (in collaboration with a third major institution, the National University of Singapore); and the preparation and publication of a bilingual collection of selected Japanese stage adaptations of Shakespeare.