Research ActivitiesWaseda University


Waseda Frontline Research Feature Vol.24: Adaptations of Shakespeare That Are Transnational and Reflect Societal Sensibilities: Joint Research with the University of Birmingham (UK) (Part 2 of 3)

Prof. Hiromi Fuyuki, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Field of expertise: Shakespeare (visual and imagery representation in Shakespearean Drama)

Prof. Tetsuhito Motoyama, Faculty of Law
Field of expertise: Shakespeare (reception of Shakespeare)

Prof. Norimasa Morita, Faculty of International Research and Education
Field of expertise: Film and Literary Studies (adaptation of Shakespeare plays)

Part 2: Joint research with the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, and the fostering of young researchers

A group of scholars at Waseda University, working under the March 2016 collaboration agreement between the University of Birmingham and Waseda University, has been pursuing joint research with the University of Birmingham Graduate School’s Shakespeare Institute, under the aegis of the International Research Project Creation Support Programme. The Waseda team consists of Prof. Norimasa Morita (Faculty of International Research and Education), Prof. Hiromi Fuyuki (Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences), and Prof. Tetsuhito Motoyama (Faculty of Law).
Topics here in Part 2 include:
– the appeal of Shakespeare research being conducted at Waseda University;
– collaborative activities with the University of Birmingham; and
– the influence of such activities on young researchers.
(Date of the discussion: August 26, 2020)

Collaboration with the University of Birmingham

Morita This collaboration is an epoch-making initiative in which both universities contribute research funds. In 2015, we received a proposal from Michael Whitby, Vice President of the University of Birmingham, and the deliberations towards the realization of a practical research collaboration began. The collaboration started in four fields, with not only research on Shakespeare and drama, but also research on computer science/cognitive robotics; sports science; and linguistics. The collaboration has been developing across a very wide range of fields, including the film industry; education for developing nations; environmental science; city planning/design; language education; international labor migration; social welfare; and creative writing. Waseda was greatly honored to be able to collaborate with the Shakespeare Institute, which is a treasured part of the University of Birmingham.

Fuyuki It was Professor Morita’s (Vice President for International Affairs at the time) dedication to making this collaboration happen that was central to the success of the project at that stage and it was also fortuitous that the director, Professor Michael Dobson (, was serving as the key person on the Shakespeare Institute side. Professor Dobson is vastly knowledgeable and has a good understanding of performances of Shakespeare’s works not only in the UK, but also across countries, languages, and cultures. Although Professor Dobson had never been to Japan until the collaboration with Waseda began, since that initial period he has visited Waseda many times.

Leaflet for Prof. Dobson’s lecture, Shakespeare, Rome, Temporality, from Burbage to Ninagawa,
presented November 29, 2016 at Waseda University

Morita Waseda University has its own theater museum, the Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, commonly referred to as Enpaku. Enpaku was established to commemorate the 70th birthday of Tsubouchi Shoyo and the completion of his translation of the 40-volume Complete Works of Shakespeare. As the only comprehensive theater museum in Asia, it has a collection of over one million items. The collection of the Theatre Museum is not limited to Shakespeare, and the museum is engaged in digital archiving and releasing publications.

Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum (Enpaku). The museum adopts the architecture of the Fortune Playhouse, a 17th century British theater in operation when Shakespeare was active. Enpaku was designated a tangible cultural property by Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. (Photo provided by Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum.)

Motoyama I agree that the abundant collection of the Theatre Museum is most attractive; another important factor in the success of the continuing collaboration is the wide variety of Waseda researchers involved. In October 2017, Professor Ryuichi Kodama, Vice Director of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum and a professor in the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, gave a lecture at the Shakespeare Institute, where he talked about Shakespeare from the perspective of kabuki, his field of research. The lecture was held in conjunction with a performance at the Barbican Theatre in London in memory of Yukio Ninagawa. On the following day, a joint academic event, Ninagawa Shakespeare: A Memorial Symposium, was held at the Embassy of Japan in the UK. The symposium was sponsored by Waseda’s Theatre Museum and the Shakespeare Institute, with co-sponsors: the Japan Foundation; the Embassy of Japan in the United Kingdom; Waseda University Top Global University Project Global Japanese Studies Model Unit; and the Collaborative Research Center for Theatre and Film Arts. There was a dynamic exchange between Professor Kodama and kabuki actor Kyozo Nakamura (who played one of the witches in NINAGAWA Macbeth), discussing the points of commonality between traditional Japanese theatrical arts and performances of Shakespearean plays.

Lecture by Professor Kodama at the Shakespeare Institute (October 2017)

Kabuki actor Kyozo Nakamura at the Embassy of Japan, London (October 2017)

The symposium panel included Professor Dobson (left); theater critic Michael Billington, representing the British theater world (second from left); theater director Phillip Breen, whose work in Japan attracted considerable attention (second from right); and Rosalind Fielding of the University of Birmingham Graduate School (right). The panel developed a multilateral discussion of the achievements of Yukio Ninagawa and their impact on the United Kingdom.

Motoyama At a symposium at the Shakespeare Institute in March 2020, Professor Rieko Suzuki, associate professor in Waseda’s Faculty of Law and a specialist in 19th century English poetry, gave a lecture on George Eliot and Shakespeare. Other professors, including 19th century literature specialist Prof. Akiko Kimura (Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences), and Prof. Graham Law, (Faculty of International Research and Education), expressed great interest in this symposium. I think it is the strength of the field of humanities at Waseda University that faculty members, regardless of what their expertise is, can discuss Shakespeare from the perspective of their research and discover new common themes.

Lecture by Professor Motoyama at the Shakespeare Institute (March 2021)

Fuyuki Regarding the Ninagawa memorial performance mentioned earlier, it’s important to note that Ninagawa used many kabuki actors in Shakespeare’s plays, and I was particularly impressed by the cast (onnagata, male actors playing female roles) who played the witches in Macbeth. It’s said that there were both male and female witches in the 16th and 17th century, so “witch” in English seems not to have a single gender, while “witch” in Japanese is female. It’s interesting that in Macbeth there are the lines, “you should be women, / And yet your beards forbid to interpret / That you are so”, and that in the performance the male kabuki actor playing a witch is wearing a female kimono. That seems a good representation of “witch” in Japan too.

Morita Speaking of Macbeth, the live performance of that play on University of Birmingham Day at Waseda in November 2018 was magnificent. Mansai Nomura, master of kyogen (traditional Japanese comedic drama), played Macbeth using Japanese, while Kelly Hunter, former Royal Shakespeare Company actress who currently hosts activities supporting involvement in theater by young people with autism, performed Lady Macbeth in English. Even though there had been almost no rehearsal, the two performed in perfect harmony. Mr. Nomura’s speaking of the lines had a pleasant rhythm found in kyogen performances. There may be some special sense of communication through rhythm among actors who have experience performing Shakespeare. I hope that videos of such remarkable performances can be widely disseminated through the Shakespeare research archives.

Kelly Hunter (left) and Mansai Nomura (right) perform Macbeth in English and Japanese, respectively.

Fostering young researchers

Motoyama On the occasion of University of Birmingham Day 2018, Dr. Norifumi Hida, then research associate at the Theatre Museum (and now an adjunct researcher there) and Ms. Hunter began a joint project, incorporating into Japanese education the method Ms. Hunter uses in the UK in her work with autistic youth. The findings of their project have been released in a published paper. (Hida, N., “Shakespeare’s Dramas for Autistic Youth: About the Creation Method and Its Prospects,” Japanese Bulletin of Art Therapy 50, no.1 (2019): 44-54.)

Fuyuki We are seeing a remarkable increase in the number of opportunities for our graduate students to disseminate their research overseas. For example, a study based on an oral presentation at a January 2017 academic conference held at Waseda (Shakespeare. Film. East. West, co-hosted by the Shakespeare Institute) was published in the online journal, Teaching Shakespeare 13 (British Shakespeare Association, 2017); and Waseda graduate students have been presenting at the British Graduate Shakespeare Conference, a graduate student-centered conference held once a year by the Shakespeare Institute. When Japanese students go abroad, they can learn about the kind of research graduate students are interested in overseas and of the level of their research. This collaboration has had a great educational impact.

Presentation at the British Graduate Shakespeare Conference held at the Shakespeare Institute (on the left: presenter Kenta Kato, Waseda Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies)

Motoyama The collaboration with the Institute has uncovered interest in Japanese Shakespeare among its young scholars, and we have had opportunities to meet some of them who are interested in Japanese translations and performances.

Morita One serious issue is that everywhere in the world the number of literature scholars, not just Shakespeare researchers, is decreasing. It would be so beneficial if, by expanding opportunities for joint research across countries, we could create an opportunity for young researchers in other fields to become interested in Shakespeare research, and perhaps enter the field. I hope that our efforts will, in a broad sense, be a catalyst for the revitalization of Shakespeare research.

The third session discusses future collaboration and research activities, including performance.

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 3


List of collaborative events with the University of Birmingham
Date Venue Contents
2016/11/29 Waseda Univ. (Organizer: Faculty of Letters, Arts and Science / Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum) Lecture “Shakespeare, Rome, and Temporality, from Burbage to Ninagawa” by Prof. Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Univ. of Birmingham
2017/1/21-22 Waseda Univ. (Organizer: Faculty of Letters, Arts and Science / Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum) Lecture “’Offence’s gilded hand’: Fighting Corruption in Three Postwar Hamlet Films” by Prof. Emeritus Russel Jackson, Univ. of Birmingham; International conference “Shakespeare.Film.East.West.
2017/10/5 Univ. of Birmingham Lecture “Ninagawa Macbeth & Japanese Classical Plays” by Prof. Ryuichi Kodama, Vice Director of The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, and others
2017/10/6 The Embassy of Japan in the UK (Organizer: Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum /  The Shakespeare Institute) Joint symposium “Ninagawa Shakespeare: A Memorial Symposium”
2018/11/26-27 Waseda Univ. (Organizer: Faculty of Letters, Arts and Science /  The Shakespeare Institute) Univ. of Birmingham Day at Waseda Univ. (Symposium: Adaption Shakespeare for the Stage Today; Lecture “Tragedy and Performance in the Time of Shakespeare” by Prof. Tiffany Stern, Shakespeare Institute, Univ. of Birmingham)
2020/3/5 Univ. of Birmingham Joint symposium “Novelizations of Shakespeare in the Anglophone World and in Japan”
Related Links

Prof. Hiromi Fuyuki

Professor in Waseda’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences since 2011. Graduated from Waseda University Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 1990, held the posts of full-time lecturer at Takushoku University, and full-time lecturer and associate professor at Waseda University. Currently, in addition to her vigorous research activities, Prof. Fuyuki is serving as Associate Dean of Waseda’s Research Promotion Division.
Prof. Fuyuki’s publications include “English Literature as a Canon: On Translation of Shakespeare” (joint authorship, in How Modern Humanities in Japan was Shaped), Bensei Publishing, 2019; The Text Made Visible: Shakespeare on the Page, Stage and Screen (co-edited with Prof. Motoyama), Sairyusha, 2011; and Language and Culture in Shakespeare (editor), Waseda University Press, 2007.
Prof. Fuyuki is a member of the Shakespeare Society of Japan.


Prof. Tetsuhito Motoyama

Professor in Waseda’s School of Law since 2016. Master of Arts in Shakespeare Studies from the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham; Ph.D. from International Christian University Graduate School of Comparative Culture. Has held posts as assistant professor and associate professor at Waseda University’s School of Law.
Prof. Motoyama’s publications include “The Shakespeare Company Japan and Regional Self-Fashioning” (co-authored with Fumiaki Konno) in Bard Bites, Edgar Elgar Press, to be published in 2021; and The Text Made Visible: Shakespeare on the Page, Stage and Screen (co-edited with Prof. Fuyuki), Sairyusha, 2011.


Prof. Norimasa Morita
Professor in Waseda’s School of International Liberal Studies since 2004. Received an MA in English Literature (coursework in English) from Waseda University; and both MA and Ph.D. in English Literature (coursework) from the University of Kent. Prof. Morita has held posts as professor in Waseda University’s School of Law; and prominent positions including Senior Dean of Waseda’s Faculty of International Research and Education, and Waseda University Vice President for International Affairs. His publications include Japan Beyond Borders, Seibunsha, 2020; and Marginalia: Hiding Literature/Hidden Literature (co-editor), Otowa Shobo Tsurumi Shoten, 1999; and translations of works including Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman (Chikuma Shobo, 2020); Liquid Modernity by Zygmunt Bauman (Otsuki Shoten, 2001); and The Illusions of Postmodernism by Terry Eagleton (Otsuki Shoten, 1998)


This talk was held at Building #8 and The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum on Waseda Campus.

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