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About us

A Theatre as an Forum

ZA-KOENJI Public Theatre is a theatre for contemporary performing arts. The theatre is funded by the city of Suginami in Tokyo and managed by Creative Theatre Network (CTN), a non-profit organization led by president Ren Saito. The theatre produces, presents and supports a wide range of cultural activities for the community of Suginami, enabling people of all ages to see and take part in many art forms from drama and dance to music and storytelling.
Director and playwright Makoto Sato, is the Artistic Director. His vision is for ZA-KOENJI to become a forum or Agora; a meeting point where the communities of Suginami can come together with local, national and international artists.

ZA-KOENJI Public Theatre Artistic Policy

To create new theatre and to revive important past productions by Japanese and international companies.
To present a high quality artistic programme for children of cross generational appeal, designed to be understood and enjoyed by both children and adults. This programme shall include: a. New theatre productions offering children opportunities to develop their appreciation of the performing arts. b. Workshops offering children practical experience of making theatre. c. Picture book readings and activities for children at the cafe Henri Fabre.
To present plays recommended by the Japanese Playwrights Association (JPA). A special collaboration with JPA has made it possible for the ZA-KOENJI to collect and archive plays and other materials relating to contemporary Japanese drama. The archive shall be open to the public, offering a valuable cultural resource to the local community.
To open a theatre academy in collaboration with selected universities and other Japanese public theatres. The purpose of this academy is to offer specialised theatre training and to promote and develop young talent. This expertise will benefit community arts events as well as enabling young theatre practitioners to develop their skills to professional level.
To become a cultural hub owned by the community, and using performing arts and festivals as a tool to regenerate and invigorate the city. Among many local arts events and activities, Za-Koenji will support three key festivals: a. "Koenji Awa Odori" an important and popular festival held in August to celebrate the traditional Japanese folk dance Awa Odori, for which Koenji is renowned. b. "Suginami Engeki Sai" an established theatre festival run by the city of Suginami each March. c. A brand new large-scale festival to be launched in Autumn 09, designed to unite the theatre and the community.
To offer two theatres spaces, ZA-KOENJI 2 (civic hall) and AWAODORI HALL, for hire by local community and professional groups and companies. Groups may hire either space for up to 3 days. Applications can be made through the internet service, "Sazanka Netto".
To increase attendances at the theatre through the "Namichike" ticket scheme, offering a book of 4 vouchers at a reduced price which can be exchanged for tickets to any Za-Koenji performances throughout the season.


ZA-KOENJI 1, Main Auditorium An exciting flexible flat space, allowing a range of different stage and seating configurations with a capacity of 230.
ZA-KOENJI 2, Civic Hall A 250 - 300 seater conventional theatre space with fixed raked seating, and suitable for drama performances, dance, concerts, conferences or lectures.
AWAODORI HALL, Studio Theatre A space mainly dedicated to “Koenji Awa Odori” but which may have additional use as a rehearsal or workshop space, and for hire to amateur companies.
Archive The ZA-KOENJI archive holds published plays, scripts and other materials relating to contemporary Japanese theatre.
Cafe Henri Fabre A welcoming and comfortable cafe which can also be used as a venue for drama readings, lectures and children’s activities.


Creative Theatre Network (CTN)
A non-profit organization, CTN is funded by Suginami City to promote and develop cultural activity in the city, create professional development opportunities for staff, artists and local people, and to devise and manage a programme of theatre in education. Playwrights in Suginami city founded CTN in July 2005 in collaboration with independent arts consultants and a group of producers, directors, actors, technicians and managers selected from other leading public theatres and cultural centres. The acting president is Ren Saito, a playwright. CTN is designated to manage ZA-KOENJI Public Theatre by the city of Suginami and has appointed a team of theatre specialists to manage the theatre. The first of its kind in Japan, this cultural organization will play a vital role at the heart of the community and has already been recognized as a national model, inspiring other cities across Japan.


President: Ren Saito
Artistic Director: Makoto Sato
Executive Director: Tetsuo Kuwaya
Production: Megumi Ishii (Executive Producer)
Masaaki Izumi
Hiroko Kominami
Chie Kondo
Sachiko Ninomiya
Toru Sakai
Yosuke Sasabe
Press & PR: Naoko Mori
Technical: Kenji Iwasaki (Technical Director)
Yukio Endo
Lighting: Shigeo Saito (Head of Lighting)
Naoki Kurosawa
Toshihiro Onodera
Sound: Takeshi Shima (Head of Sound)
Tokoha Utsumi
Administration: Masanori Kaji
Michiko Sakai
Front of House Manager: Emiko Soeda


Makoto Sato
Playwright and Director, Artistic Director of ZA-KOENJI
Sato was born in Tokyo in 1943. In 1966, he founded the Free Stage Company and opened “Underground Free Stage” a venue in Roppongi, Tokyo. His most important work was centred on the activities of the theatre company known as the “Black Tent.” The company’s first production in 1970 was The Dance of Angels with Flaming Wings, an adaptation of Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade. In the 1980s, Sato and his colleagues developed a new concept of “Asian Theatre” centred on a critical re-evaluation of Japanese society. He collaborated with several South Asian companies and more recently has collaborated with European theatre companies. Sato has attracted media attention as a director of opera, dance, revue, drama, and the marionette theatre company, Youkiza. From 1997 to 2002, he was the first artistic director of Setagaya Public Theatre. He is at present the director of Kamome-Za and of the Suginami Culture Association.
Ren Saito
Playwright, President of ZA-KOENJI
Saito was born in Pyongyang, North Korea in 1940. He left Waseda University to enroll with the Actors Theatre Training School, graduating in 1966. Saito is a founding member of the Free Stage Company, which later became the Theatre Centre 68 (the present Black Tent theatre company). He received the 1980 Kishida Drama Award for Jazz Musicians in Shanghai, the 1997 Kikuta Kazuo Theatre Award for Canary, the 2005 Kinokuniya Theatre Award and the 2006 Tsuruya Nanboku Drama Award for Spring, Impossible to Bear. He has written a number of historical plays, including as Cusco (1982), Grey Christmas (1983), and The Festival of Ikaruga (1983). He is the President of Creative Theatre Network, a non-profit organization.
Toyo Ito
Architect of ZA-KOENJI
Toyo Ito graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1965. His main works include Sendai Mediatheque, Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre, TOD’S Omotesando Building, Tama Art University Library (Hachioji campus), and Hospital Cagnacq-Jay in France, among others. He has received the Architectural Institute of Japan Prize, the Japan Art Academy Prize, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement from the 8th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale, the RIBA Royal Gold Medal and the 6th Austrian Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts.


Za-Koenji is committed to working with local, national and international partners to fulfill its creative potential, developing innovative, exciting and original theatre projects for Suginami and Tokyo audiences. The city of Suginami has also entered into two major partnerships to develop its cultural policy through Za-Koenji. The two partners of the city are the Japanese Playwrights Association and the Koenji Awaodori Ren Association. Through partnership working, the city and Za-Koenji aim to increase support for and participation in the arts in Suginami city and to increase access to drama, dance and music across the community.
JPA (president: Yoji Sakate) is an association for both professional and amateur playwrights. The key roles of JPA are:
  • To protect the artistic and moral rights and interests of playwrights and to promote and increase access to Japanese drama.
  • To promote opportunities for exchange between playwrights and enable them to share information and experience.
  • To contribute to the development of the performing arts in Japan through exchange with international playwrights and theatre professionals.
The Association also publishes journals, promotes contemporary Japanese dramatists overseas, has an annual award for new writing and organizes events to promote new work. All these activities are run by the playwrights themselves.

With the cooperation of JPA, ZA-KOENJI Public Theatre plans a wide range of cultural activity to develop and increase access to the performing arts.
The Koenji Awaodori Ren Association

ZA-KOENJI Public Theatre contributes to the Koenji Awa Odori by allowing public access to the Awaodori Hall throughout the year.
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