Many important things happened all over the world in 2011 other than the gigantic earthquake on March 11 in Japan and the radioactive leakage from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The year saw political upheavals in many Arab countries, the killing of Osama bin Ladin, European sovereign debt crisis, terrorist attacks in Norway, the “Occupy Wall Street” movements, riots and lootings in the UK, etc. Many of them are still on-going, and the list could go much longer.
One important feature of natural disasters, though, is that a “man-made disaster” is a contradiction in terms. Etymologically disasteroriginally meant a planet in an astrologically ill position (dis– +astro “star, planet”), which is beyond human power. All man-made crises are battles where there are victories and defeats in the end, whereas natural disasters are more about making us listen to someone or something that transcends the mortal, because it is pointless to wage any war against what is after all unbeatable — or more precisely, what admits no victories or defeats by definition. Consequently, disasters often lead to changing our views upon where we stand in relation to nature which we are simultaneously a part of and are excluded from — “excluded,” because overwhelming disasters confirms that nature does not lend its ears our complacent optimism. For instance, Voltaire thought that, despite all the miseries in the world, he lived in “the best of all possible worlds,” but, as Adorno observed in his Negative Dialectics, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake “sufficed to cure Voltaire of the theodicy of Leibniz.”
This does not mean, of course, that there are no social sides to natural disasters. Immediately following the observation above, Adorno wrote that “the visible disaster of the first nature was insignificant in comparison with the second, social one, which defies human imagination as it distills a real hell from human evil.” While no looting was reported in Japan after the 3/11 earthquake (but stockpiling was rife), the disaster of the social nature took the shape of the country’s complacent nuclear policy that made possible the massive radioactivity leakage from the power plant in Fukushima in the first place, and the botched attempt by the Japanese government in their crisis management. More relevantly to the Japanese theatre scene — or at least the scene in Tokyo — the sensibility of many theatre makers and theatre goers was torn between the visible (of the first nature) and the invisible (of the second, social one). There was also the split of sensibility between people of the most affected areas in the north-eastern part of Japan called Tohoku, and the residents of Tokyo and its surrounding areas, which also shook violently but suffered only minimal damage.
The focus of this “Theatre and Disaster” section is the post-3/11 theatre in Japan. Four out of the five articles in this section are from Japanese contributors including the section editor. The section editor is from Japan, but the editorial intention of this is not self-pitying; it is rather to offer a documentation of the post-3/11 milieu in Japan for future reference in our future inquiry into how disasters can affect theatre as well as how theatre should react to an emergency like this. The only non-Japanese article in the section is the one contributed by Zain Ahmed and Hajirah Mumtaz (Pakistan), whose “Theatre in a Time of War” shows that the disasters the Pakistani theatre has had to face were not only the post-9/11 political milieu; they can be dated back from the military dictatorship that started in 1977, or even more further back, the Dramatic Performance Act that came into effect during its colonized years. The article helps us realize that theatre in the time of any disaster ought to be discussed in a long-term perspective, as the situation in Japan is still too immature to allow any such attempt, the other articles basically concerning the theatre scene in Japan after the earthquake in March 2011.
The four articles on the aftermath of the quake in Japan are arranged roughly in a chronological order. Kojin Nishido’s article was originally issued as a message from the president of the Japanese section of the IATC a little over a month after the quake in response to many words of compassion and support from overseas. After thanking his international colleagues, he begins his search for relevant reference points in the past experience that are analogous to the situation immediately after 3/11. He finds some in the theatre of 1995, in the heel of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that killed. 6,434 and devastated the city of Kobe. The two shows of the year that he looks back on were important in two points. First, they did not directly touch upon the 1995 quake, but came to be perceived in a radically changed context. The other point is that they were produced by companies of the most affected areas — Joshua Sobol’s Ghettodirected by Tamiya Kuriyama for the Hyogo Performing Arts Center, and S/N from Kyoto-based Dumb Type.
Hiroyuki Masaki reports the immediate responses from various theatres in different areas of Japan after the 3/11 earthquake. This is a translation of his article published in the IATC Japan’s quarterly Theatre Arts 47(June 2011). His article documents various factors theatre people in Japan had to consider in making their decisions, actions, and evaluations, which showed wide regional differences.
The section editor Manabu Noda discusses the divided sensibility of theatre people including the artists and the audience in Tokyo between the visible and the invisible after the 3/11 earthquake. He argues that the sensibility of the Tokyoites was divided because the televised images of tsunami-related devastation was so powerfully visible that it seemed at least to give some shape to the tragedy in contrast with the frustratingly unnamable and ungraspable opacity surrounding the meltdown in Fukushima. He, then, goes on to discuss how the theatre scene Tokyo attempted to give shape to what is ultimately unnamable by investigating some of the shows that touched on the quake and its aftermath.
“Caught in between Solidarity and Hesitation: The 3/11 Earthquake and Theatre in Japan” by Morihiro Niino discusses theatrical responses from three different sectors: the most affected Tohoku, far less damaged Tokyo, and overseas. What he elucidates in particular through the two key words of solidarity and hesitation is the contrast between artists in the most affected areas and those in Tokyo. Between the articles by Niino and Noda, there is an overlap in terms of the performance discussed, but I left them as they are because it is a good way to show differences and similarities in the ways post-3/11 theatre was received in Japan.
 Manabu Noda is Professor at Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan. As a theatre critic and researcher, he has written on British and Japanese acting and theatre history. He is currently on the editorial board of the Theatre Arts (IATC Japan).
 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. by E. B. Ashton (London: Routledge, 1973 ), p. 361.