Kids and international residents in Ichinoseki are performing a play in English (and a few lines in Dutch!) about a man known as “the father of modern science in Japan.” Otsuki Gentaku was born in Ichinoseki in 1757, in a period when Japan had policies which strictly limited contact with the rest of the world, and trade was limited to that with just Holland and China. A small island in southern Japan was the only place where exchange was allowed, through which books and items from Holland facilitated the study of science from Europe. This field of study is called ‘rangaku’ in Japanese, and Gentaku greatly contributed to the field.

The play, titled “Otsuki Gentaku – opening the door to modern science in Japan,” begins in Ichinoseki where a young Gentaku is studying hard, and his desire to help people via medicine and knowledge grows stronger. He sets foot in Tokyo (then known as Edo), where he studies medicine, Western knowledge and the Dutch language. Six years later he travels down to Dejima in Nagasaki, where he meets with the Dutch at the trading post, and then returns to Edo where he works as a doctor, starts his own school, and translates various works into Japanese, spending his life opening the door to knowledge which would modernize Japan. The first four acts of the play depict this journey, while the fifth and final act is set in Ichinoseki in the 2030s, with the International Linear Collider built and running. Here, medical treatment using accelerator technology comes into play for a pair of researchers from abroad.

It is the second year for the Yamanome Civic Center in central Ichinoseki to organize a play performed by kids in English, as part of efforts to have children learn about and promote their city, and to provide more opportunities for international exchange. This year the project aims to achieve this through the English play, sports, and learning about the ILC. 16 elementary school students, two junior high school students and one high school student are taking part, as well as four Assistant Language Teachers (teachers of English at schools in Ichinoseki) and myself.

Playing with science in Sendai

Playing with science in Sendai

The project began in May with a bus trip to an international festival run by the Foreign Student Association at Tohoku University in Sendai. After indulging in a range of food from various countries, we went to the Sendai Science Museum, and had a good time playing with the various learning tools, which included learning about elements, particles, solar power and so on.

Teaching cricket to the kids

Teaching cricket to the kids

In June, the kids had a chance to play cricket, a popular sport in many Commonwealth countries around the world. Australian, Indian and Pakistani members of the Tohoku Cricket Association came up to Ichinoseki to introduce cricket to the kids, who learned the differences between cricket and baseball (a popular sport in Japan), and took little time to get the hang of it.

In July, we made a trip to the Ichinoseki City Museum to learn more about the protagonist of the play, Otsuki Gentaku. The kids also learnt about the ILC, and played with ILC cards made by the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK).

By August the script had been completed and I had translated it into English, bearing in mind that kids would be performing the lines, and so made it simpler in places but without losing much of the original meaning. There are also a number of lines in Dutch, which I asked Ms. Barbara Warmbein of DESY in Germany to translate from English to Dutch. Ms. Warmbein had come to Ichinoseki in April last year to see the ILC candidate site, along with PR staff from other particle physics institutes around the world.

Ninja blowpipe!

Ninja blowpipe!

In September we started rehearsing the play, holding sessions every Saturday. We incorporated some fun activities for the kids who were trying hard, and on one Saturday we tried “Sports Fukiya,” which was a demonstration sport at this year’s National Sports Festival held in Iwate Prefecture. Sports Fukiya uses a blowpipe to shoot plastic darts at targets – it was a lot of fun and I felt like a ninja.

The first performance of the play was in October, and the kids did really well. I found memorizing my lines in Dutch to be difficult, not to mention pronunciation, and realized how hard the kids had worked with their lines in English. Below are comments from a handful of people involved in the play.

Take a bow!

Take a bow!

Mr. Kei Yokoyama, staff at the Yamanome Civic Center and project planner, said: “This is a project in which Japanese and international residents put their ideas together. I hope the kids have felt how international exchange is fun.”

Ms. Ayano Ninomiya, the play’s scriptwriter and director, said: “I learnt many things about Ichinoseki, globalization and the ILC while writing this play about the man Otsuki Gentaku. I’ll be happy if the kids have too while taking part.”

Ms. Mikiko Soma, deputy head of the Ichinoseki City Museum, said: “Otsuki Gentaku pursued the latest in science some 200 years ago, and this has been connected with the ILC, which is state-of-the-art science today. The kids perform with a spark in their eyes, and I imagine Gentaku had the same look when he was a child. It’s a wonderful play which covers the past and makes you feel the future.” Momoka Yoshida, one of the junior high school students who performs the narration and whose younger sister is also part of the play, said: “The atmosphere is good and everyone looks forward to rehearsals, where we are able to chat with the international residents and they teach us pronunciation. I want to be proactive in other projects too, and continue promoting Ichinoseki to the world.”

Nigel Church, from the U.S. and who with his wife play the role of the husband and wife in Act Five that have moved to Ichinoseki in the 2030s to work at the ILC, said: “It’s been a good opportunity for us to learn about this part of Ichinoseki’s history, and for students to learn about other cultures. I am proud of the students, who are working very hard, and I’d like to see more opportunities for them to use English in a fun and useful way.”





一関市 ネイト・ヒル


「近代科学の扉をひらく 大槻玄沢」は一関で熱心に学ぶうちに、医学で人々を救いたい、蘭学という新しい学問を勉強したいという気持ちが玄沢の中で大きくなっていくシーンから始まります。彼はその後、江戸の土を踏み、医学や西洋の知識やオランダ語を学びます。6年後、長崎への遊学が決まります。そこにあるオランダ商館でオランダ人と交流し、江戸に戻った玄沢は藩医として開業するかたわら、自らの塾を創設し、様々な和訳等に携わるなど、一生涯かけて日本近代化のための知識の扉を開きました。劇の第1~4部はこれを物語り、最終章の第5部は2030年代のILCが実現し稼働が始まっている一関が舞台です。ここでは、ある在住外国人研究者2人が加速器技術を使った治療に救われます。