Polyglot Theatre is honoured to have a warm connection with the community of Minami Sanriku, a town on the east coast of Japan.
In 2011, the area was devastated by a massive tsunami and Minami Sanriku was one of the towns on that coast most deeply affected. As part of the Australian Government disaster recovery initiative, Polyglot was invited to visit the town, offering our creative play, art and theatre as healing tools for residents and children.
From this first project, Polyglot returned regularly throughout the community’s long journey of recovery. In 2013, we took a special installation of We Built This City, called We Built This Town to Minami Sanriku, along with a building project where children designed and built their own little dream houses. In a town where so many houses were lost, this was a powerfully hopeful project. In 2015, we collaborated with NPO Acchi Cocchi from Yokohama. Acchi Cocchi is a Japanese organisation that delivers music and arts projects and have been focusing on disaster-affected communities in the Tohoku region.
The work we made together was Tusgi Wa? (What Next?) in the form of a giant Kamishibai (a form of Japanese street theatre and storytelling) presenting a popular local story through drawings and puppetry. The work created a link between elders in the town and children, and demonstrated how the road to recovery after a major disaster is more complex than simply rebuilding roads and infrastructure.
In 2018, again in collaboration with Acchi Cocchi, we presented performances of Paper Planet in all five Minami Sanriku elementary schools (Shizugawa, Tokura, Iriya, Isatomae and Natari) for students in Years 1 and 2.
We have had such a full and emotional time with new friends and huge stories, with townspeople who are brave and optimistic and prepared to give the most they have for the happiness and future of their children. This project was right, in that we brought an experience to the kids that was as resonant for the adults, in terms of the town’s spirit as well as seeing the children having fun outside the rules and structures of their school. Play was still a thing that seemed important there since the construction site of the town has only just opened up the potential for gardens and family areas.
The children were having so much fun. I never knew there is such a way that children can enjoy themselves. It was great to see them smiling.
Jin Sato, Mayor of Minami Sanriku