Sumire's Hair Salon

  • 2011/2012 Season
  • Performed in Japanese

In 2008, Chong Wishing's Yakiniku Dragon made him the talk of theatre circles that year. Chong wrote the script and directed the production, which was a joint project involving Japanese and Korean theatre companies.

His play Tatoeba No ni Saku Hana no Yo ni is set in the 1950s, a period which saw the start of the Korean War; Yakiniku Dragon, which depicts a Korean family living in Japan, is set around 1970, when Japan hosted its first World Expo amid a period of rapid economic growth.
His latest work is set in the early 1960s, a period right in the middle between those of his two previous plays. It takes place in a coalmining town in Kyushu. The story centers on a Korean woman with permanent residence (i.e. "Zainichi Korean"), working as a hairdresser, who is remarried with a Japanese man who works the mines. The play focuses on a lawsuit over a mining accident which drags on for 20 years. Chong himself will direct the play.


Winter 1963, in the Kyushu countryside.

At "Sumire", a beauty salon set amid housing built by a mining company for its employees, voices ring out in celebration of a wedding which will take place the following day. The hairdresser Takayama Sumi will marry Tsukamoto Eiichi, a miner. Both have lost their first spouse and thus know a similar sadness, but look forward to starting anew together.

Suddenly, a siren blast announces an accident at the mine.

Eiichi and the husband of Sumi's younger sister are rescued from the cave-in, but suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. They suffer from seizures and are unable to return to work. They and other such victims are looked at with disdain by many in the community.

Under current Japanese law, the government will pay for their medical treatment—but there is a three-year limit. Sumi and a number of others take a stand to fight for the creation of a special law to help victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. They hand out leaflets while singing union songs, and begin an all-out effort to win people to their cause.

There is conflict between different unions, and Sumi and the others are defiant against both the company and the unions. They carry on the fight, but the struggle drags on for some 20 years as the coal industry continues its steady decline.

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