In 1976, Tadashi Suzuki relocated his theatre troupe, the Waseda Shogekijo—which for the previous ten years had spearheaded the new theatre movement in Japan—from its home in central Tokyo to Toga, a remote village in the mountains on the Sea of Japan coast. The move was in part an indictment of the overconcentration of political, economic and cultural institutions in Tokyo. Working from a thatched-roof house, built in the traditional “praying hands” or gassho-zukuri style, which the group had converted into a theatre, they renamed themselves the Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT).
Since then the site has grown into a complex of lodgings, rehearsal rooms, and assorted performing spaces, including a studio theatre, a second gassho-zukuri theatre, a black box theatre, an outdoor “rock” theatre, and a spectacular lakeside amphitheatre. It is in these facilities and theatres that the company is run, following the precepts of Tadashi Suzuki and under his direction. Having marked its 50th anniversary in 2015, SCOT holds singular status in Japan as a performing arts group that in addition to fulfilling the artistic vision of Suzuki on stage, demonstrates a high standard of excellence in the operation of those places and performing spaces, and enjoys the backing of both the local and national government.
Paradoxically, the move from giant metropolis to isolated mountain valley gained SCOT even more followers, who cherished the pilgrimage to this remote place as part of the total theatre experience.
Moreover, following Suzuki’s notions of the universality of theatre, this special location played host for many years (1982-1999) to the Toga International Arts Festival. Now continuing under the title SCOT Summer Season, it offers concentrated workshops in the Suzuki Method of Actor Training created by Suzuki being learnt by performing artists throughout the world and invites theatre companies from around the world not only to give performances but to live, work, and collaborate with each other. In the true meaning of the word “festival” the diverse cultures of these groups are highlighted and celebrated. And while acknowledging each other’s cultural similarities and differences, the stimulus provided by such encounters spawns entirely new notions of theatre and undoubtedly many new forms of culture.
Toga village also serves as a springboard for the international activities of SCOT. Many of the theatrical productions developed and performed in Toga have gone on to tour the globe. Since their first overseas performance at the Théâtre des Nations Festival in Paris in 1972, the company has performed in more than 84 cities in some 31 countries. In addition to offering a summer and winter festival, featuring performances by SCOT, Toga continues to serve as a center for international research activities and training of practitioners in the performing arts, as well as archiving documents and materials pertaining to the performing arts.