Kishida, Kunio (1890–1954) By Jortner, David
Kishida Kunio is considered to be one of the founders of Japanese shingeki drama and one of the most important modern Japanese dramatists. Through his use of imagistic language and psychological realism, Kishida established the “literary” school of shingeki theatre.
Kishida was born in 1890 in Tokyo to a military family. He was commissioned as an officer in the Japanese army in 1912 but left two years later, disillusioned by military life. He entered Tokyo Imperial University in 1917 in order to study French literature. In 1919 he traveled to Paris to study with the French playwright Jacques Copeau.
Kishida returned to Japan in 1923 and introduced many of the ideas Copeau had shown him to the shingeki stage. From 1924 to 1929 he wrote numerous one-act plays for both performance and publication; these works included Kami fūsen [Paper Balloon] (1925), Buranko [The Swing] (1925), and Ashita wa Tenki [Tomorrow it Will Be Fine] (1928). These plays examined the emotional lives of their characters as they focused on issues of domesticity.
From 1929 to 1936 Kishida shifted toward writing multi-act plays for the theater. With actor Tomoda Kyōsuke and actress Tamura Akiko he founded the Tsukijiza (Tsukiji Troupe) in 1932. This was the first shingeki company based on Kishida’s literary form of modern drama. He also founded Gekisaku [Playwriting] magazine in the same year, which became a platform for Kishida to articulate and promote his apolitical view of theater as well as a splace in which to promote new Japanese playwrights such as Tanaka Chikao and Uchimura Naoya.