WASEDA ONLINE

RSS

The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Campus Now : Midsummer Issue (Jul.) > Messages to Their Second Century

Campus Now

Midsummer Issue (Jul.)

Messages to Their Second Century

Developing unconventional professionals who are capable of free thinking

Mr. Uzuhiko Tanaka
President of Tokyu Bunkamura

Bunkamura was established in 1989 as Japan's first large-scale composite cultural facility. The facility features a creative space that is structured around a concert hall, theater, museum, and mini-theater. Since its establishment, the facility has transmitted new culture from the Shibuya neighborhood. We held a discussion with Mr. Uzuhiko Tanaka, who was worked to develop Bunkamura since its initial establishment. Mr. Tanaka spoke about episodes during his time as a student and his expectations towards Waseda University.

Theater revealed my own future

-Mr. Tanaka, how did you spend your time as a student?

I felt a strong admiration for Waseda since I was a child. My philosophy as a student was "I don't know what will happen in the future, so I want to spend my 4 years at Waseda thinking about my life". I searched for a department where I could study freely. What I found was the theater major in the School of Letters, Arts, and Sciences I.

Upon entering the school, I found that all of the other students were extremely familiar with theater. There were many individual who later performed in the world of theater, such as the playwrights Mr. Kunio Shimizu and Mr. Minoru Bechaku. This created an environment where I could not help being stimulated. During my first year as a student, an event occurred which had a large influence on my future. One of the older students asked me to help with the graduation performance. The role that I was given was to sell as many tickets as humanly possible. I had never sold anything like that before, so I started by buying a map. On the map, I examined the area between the Takadanobaba neighborhood located close to Waseda and the Ogikubo neighborhood where my parent's house was located. In this area, I marked the symbols that the map's legend used for educational institutions. Relying on my markings, I sold tickets to high schools and junior colleges. I sold well over 300 tickets. When I reported to the older student, he seemed very surprised and asked me how I had sold the tickets. I remember well how he treated me to a meal of Japanese oden as a reward for selling so many tickets. At that time, the older student told me that "selling tickets is part of the work involved in production". From that time, I developed an interest in behind-the-scenes work.

Even now, I am what you could call a "practical worker". Rather than becoming bogged down in fruitless debate with my colleagues, I like to actually perform work onsite. From my time as a first year student, I chose the path of a producer as naturally as I was being drawn to the light of a lighthouse.

A theatrical perspective breaks down stereotypes

-What is the most useful thing that you learned during your time at university?

I really benefited from acquiring a "theatrical perspective". At Bunkamura, we transmit art from a variety of fields that cannot be fit into a framework. These fields are not limited to theater but also include film, art, and a wide variety of music such as opera and orchestra concerts. For example, this theatrical perspective was very useful when I produced a performance of "Madame Butterfly" in 1995. This was around the time when I happened to see a performance of "Lady MacBeth" in London. I was shocked to see the singer playing the role of Lady MacBeth giving a superb singing performance while lying on a steel pipe bed being lowered from the ceiling and while being hung upside-down. Normally, this kind of position would never be taken because the singing of the opera performer is given first priority. However, I was struck by the realization that "opera can become this interesting when theatrical performance is added!" Therefore, I immediately began negotiations with Mr. David Papagni, the famous director who had created the performance. I threw 3 years of the capital prepared by our company into these negotiations. The result of these efforts was a Madame Butterfly dressed in a negligee. I was scolded by one customer who said that "I don't want to see something like a Madame Butterfly dressed in a negligee!" However, this shocking performance served to heighten acclaim for the work. At that moment, I thought to myself "I'm glad that I studied theater".

Human beings are creatures that regret what has not been done.

-What do you expect from Waseda University?

I hope that Waseda will continue to produce professionals that do not fall into conventional patterns. There are many Waseda graduates who are active not only in theater but also in all other fields. These individuals were unconventional students, so they are able to think freely. In other words, they are able to do revolutionary things.

During my time at Waseda, I also performed activities which were slightly different from other students. One example is an episode from when I held a graduation performance together with other students majoring in theater. It was sad to see the performance end after showing only in Tokyo and everyone involved was feeling reluctant to break up the group. At the time, one of the members mentioned that there was a good place to hold a performance in his home town of Nada, and he proposed that we give a performance there. Upon him making this statement, another member stated that there was a good place for performances in the city of Nagoya. In this way, we began to conduct performances in areas outside of Tokyo. Also, there are many famous student theater groups at Waseda University, and students from every school participated in these groups in addition to theater majors. However, from the time that I was a first year student, I refrained from participating in such groups. Instead, I created a coterie magazine with my friends who were theater majors and held performances in rural areas. This kind of action was rare at the time, and I remember that faculty from the university happily stated that "recently, there aren't any students who undertake those kinds of activities". I was extremely happy to receive this kind of praise from my instructors. I hope that university management, faculty and staff will warmly watch over and support students who are attempting to do something new.

-Could you give a message to the mothers and fathers of children?

Please accept the thinking of your own child. Let them act freely to do what they want and help them to find the light of the lighthouse. People do not regret doing what they want, even if they make mistakes. People are creatures that regret what they have not done. I understand the mothers and fathers may worry, but please believe in your child.

Mr. Uzuhiko Tanaka
President of Tokyu Bunkamura

Born in Tokyo in 1940. Graduated from the Waseda University of School of Letters, Arts, and Sciences I in 1965. Entered Tokyu Agency Inc. in 1974. Transferred to Tokyu Department Store Co., Ltd. in 1984 and was involved with Bunkamura since the stages of development and planning. In 1988, assumed the position of Director at the same time that Tokyu Bunkamura Inc. was established. Established a number of systems, including a "franchise system" in which franchise contracts were conducted with orchestras and theatrical groups and the special characteristics and appeal of each party to the contract was utilized to the fullest extent. He also established Japan's first "official supplier system" in which culture and the arts receive long-term support and production from corporations, as well as a project entitled "Producer's Office" in which individuals who are active at the forefront of various fields of culture and art participate in planning and operation. Bunkamura was honored with the Mecenat Award in 1999. He assumed the position of Vice-President at Bunkamura in 2001, and assumed his current position of President in 2007.