Shimamura, Hōgetsu (1871–1918) By Zheng, Guohe
Shimamura, Hōgetsu was a shingeki theater director, playwright, translator, critic, and one of the faremost leaders of the modernist movement in Japanese theater in the 1910s.
Born Sasayama Takitarō, he was adopted and became Shimamura Hōgetsu at the age of eighteen years. In 1890, with the support of his adoptive father, he became Tsubouchi Shōyō’s student in the newly created Department of Literature at Waseda University. Upon his graduation in 1894, as Shōyō’s most promising disciple, he was hired as a journalist for Waseda Bungaku, a literary magazine. From 1899 to 1901 he was first the local news director for the Yomiuri Shimbun [Yomiuri News], and then an instructor of rhetoric, art history, and Chinese literature at Waseda University. In 1902 he was selected to study in Europe as a Waseda visiting scholar, determined to gain a thorough understanding of Western theater. While studying drama, literature, and aesthetics at Oxford and in Berlin, he continued to publish in Japan as an established critic, including a thesis on Tolstoy. In addition to these activities he paid frequent visits to the theaters to watch Western plays including more than one production of Tolstoy’s Resurrection. Returning to Japan in late 1905, he became the manager of Bungei kyōkai, a theatre company launched in February 1906 out of a drama club. From 1909, when Shōyō took direct charge of the company, he became an instructor at the newly completed Bungei Kyōkai Academy, as well as serving as translator and director.