Hijikata, Yoshi (1898–1959) By Zheng, Guohe
A shingeki director and one of the most important early leaders of the modernist movement in Japanese theater, Hijikata Yoshi was the cofounder of the Tsukiji Shōgekijō and an active force in Soviet-Japanese theatrical interactions.
Born into an aristocrat family, he lost his father as an infant and grew up in the houses of his maternal and paternal grandparents. Thanks to the theater-going traditions of both families, he was exposed from an early age to theater, both traditional and its emerging modern counterparts. This led to his creation, with friends, of two amateur theatres, at the age of thirteen and eighteen. At the age of twenty one, he directed The Death of Tintagiles by Maurice Maeterlinck. His choice of this mystical piece was criticized as being detached from life and reflecting his aristocratic upbringing, a criticism that “hit my weakest spot” leaving a permanent impact on him. The impact was intensified later by the realistic and engaging stage of Hirasawa Keishichi’s Worker’s Theater. It was a sharp contrast with the theater as he had known it hither to, as rich man’s pastime. Determined to make the theater his career around this time, he became a disciple of Osanai Kaoru and together they established theater directing as a respected profession in Japan.
When his paternal grandfather died of Spanish influenza in 1918, he inherited from him the title of Count. While a college student and an apprentice director he was able to accumulate a large amount of wealth, paying off family debts. Unable to stand the Japanese theater establishment of the time and in prossession of a fortune, he left for Europe in November 1922 to study Western theater.