Terayama, Shuji 1935-1983

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Terayama, Shuji 1935-1983
(Terayama Shuji)


Born December 10, 1935, in Aomori, Japan; died of a kidney ailment, May 4, 1983. Education:Attended Waseda University.


Founder of Tenjo Sajiki theater company, 1967. Director of films, including Pastoral Hide and Seek, c. 1975; Collections Privées, 1979; Fruits of Passion, 1981; and Saraba Hakobune, c. 1982.


Grand prize, San Remo Festival, 1968.



Youth in Fury, 1960.

Epitaph to My Love, 1961.

My Face Red in the Sunset, 1961.

Namida o Shishi no Tategami,1962.

Nanami: Inferno of First Love, c. 1969.

(And director) Emperor Tomato Ketchup, c. 1970.

Buraikan, 1970.

(And producer and director) Sho O Sutevo, Machi E Devo, 1971.

(And director) Pastoral Hide and Seek, c. 1975.

(And director) The Boxer, 1977.

Sado, 1978.

(And director) Kusa-meikyu, 1983.


Chi wa tatta mama nemutte iru, 1960.

Aomori no semushi otoko, 1967.

Kegawa no Mari, 1967.

Shoo suteyo machi ni deyō, 1968.

Inugami, 1969.

Garigari hakase no hanzai, 1969.

Jinriki hikoki soromon, 1970.

Knock, produced in Tokyo, Japan, 1970.

Jashumon, 1971.

Ahen sensō, 1972.

Nuhikun (title means "Directions to Servants"), 1978.

Lemming, 1979.

Hyakunen no kodoku, 1981.


Terayama Shuji zenkashu (poems), Chusekisha (Tokyo, Japan), 1982.

Sayonara Terayama Shuji: tsuito tokubetsugo (poems, essays, correspondence, chronological list of works), Shinshokan (Tokyo, Japan), 1983.

Ware ni gogatsu o: Terayama Shuji sakuhinishu(poems), Shickosha (Tokyo, Japan), 1983.

Terayama Shuji haiku zenshu (poems), Shinshokan (Tokyo, Japan), 1986.

Gogatsu no shi: Poems of May: A Collection of Miscellaneous Poems, translations by David A. Schmidt and Fusae Ekida, Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1998.


When Shuji Terayama was eighteen and still a student at Waseda University in Tokyo, he won a magazine award for his poetry and used the money to found a theater group. However, his university career was cut short when he was hospitalized for three years with a kidney inflammation.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Terayama wrote a large number of stage plays, radio dramas, magazine articles, film scenarios, and a novel, becoming known largely because of the shocking and violent nature of his work. He founded a theater company, Tenjo Sajiki, in 1967. The name conveys his love of audiences composed of ordinary people rather than elite, highly educated theatergoers. The company's first play,Kegawa no Mari, was presented in New York City in 1970 on a tiny stage only twenty feet wide and with a low ceiling. However, in that small space he presented a work large in scope and innovation, earning the attention of Japanese theater buffs throughout the world.

In 1970 Terayama's play Knock caused so much controversy in Tokyo that several members of the cast were arrested. The film Pastoral Hide and Seek was the Japanese entry in the 1975 Cannes film festival, and in 1985, Saraba Hakobune (title means "Farewell to the Ark"), a film he had directed, also appeared at Cannes. A writer in Variety commented, "Terayama fills the pic with off-the-wall, magical moments, and it is frequently gripping. … As in earlier Terayama films, much of the acting is theatrical and flamboyant." Although Terayama was highly honored in Japan and Europe for his work, his plays were rarely performed in the United States, and those that did make it to New York were mostly off-Broadway productions. He often helped aspiring artists in the theatrical world, hiring young costumers, artists, and performers for his works.

In an obituary in the New York Times, Glenn Fowler wrote of Terayama, "His works had a wide range, and if they had one thing in common it was their shock effect." His play Directions to Servants, which appeared off-Broadway in 1980, was based on an essay by satirist Jonathan Swift. The original satire gave rules for servants' behavior but at the same time showed how those rigid rules allowed servants to manipulate and exploit their masters. Maria Myers wrote in theDrama Review that Terayama's interpretation "is a play of images created through the use of exaggerated theatrical elements: sound, makeup, costumes, props (including machines as extensions of physical man), lighting, and at times nonsense dialog." The play included hard rock, Eastern music mingled with Western, and actors breathing fire. It was performed in Japanese, but Fowler quoted a critic who said the language was not a barrier because "Mr. Terayama is not concerned with words but with images, and with images he succeeds wonderfully well."

A collection of Terayama's poems, Gogatsu no shi: Poems of May: A Collection of Miscellaneous Poems,was the first full collection of his poetry to be published in English. Terayama died of a kidney ailment on May 4, 1983.



International Dictionary of Theatre, Volume 2:Playwrights, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.

Sorgenfrei, Carol Fisher, Unspeakable Acts: The Avant-garde Theatre of Terayama Shuji and Postwar Japan, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 2005.


Drama Review, March, 1981, Maria Myers, review ofDirections to Servants, pp. 79-94.

Variety, May 15, 1985, review of Saraba Hakobune,p. 20.



New York Times, May 14, 1983, Glenn Fowler, p. 12.

Times (London, England), May 14, 1983.

Variety, May 18, 1983, p. 82.