The purpose of this paper is to re-examine the problem of the relationship between the Japanese playwright Kikuchi Kan and Irish Literature, focusing on the political and historical context of his time rather than his individual experience or thought.
In early twentieth-century Japan and Korea, Irish drama attracted a great deal of attention. Lady Gregory’s The Gaol Gate (1906) was one of the plays most noticed, though it was not considered her best work. In Japan Kikuchi adapted it as his first drama, Boto-no Ko (A Rioter’s Son), which was published in 1916 and performed in 1922. In colonial Korea The Gaol Gate was translated and performed in 1932. Such an interest in The Gaol Gate can be attributed to the discourse of those days which identified the relationship of Britain and Ireland with that of Japan and Korea.
In his adaptation, Kikuchi indicates the identification of Imperial Britain with Imperial Japan by transferring the setting of the original to Taiwan, another colony of Japan. Moreover, unlike the original, Boto-no Ko is filled with accurate descriptions of the tragic situation of colonized people. On the other hand, Kikuchi’s comments on the play seem to be designed to turn readers'/ spectators’ eyes away from such an identification with colonial reality. At the same time, his comments are also related to another discourse of identification, which identifies Japan not with Britain but with Ireland by using the criterion of national characteristics. Therefore we can reevaluate Boto-no Ko as a text representing clearly the Japanese dilemma as to how to present “the Irish problem” in early twentieth-century Asia.