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Japan-Canada stage production to tell story of Anne of Green Gables translator

November 28, 2022 – A story of the special connection between Japan and Prince Edward Island is being brought to life on stage.

Confederation Centre of the Arts announced plans to adapt the novel Anne’s Cradle: The Life and Works of Hanako Muraoka into a play. The bestselling biography of the Japanese translator of Anne of Green Gables tells the complex and captivating story of a woman who risked her freedom and devoted her life to bringing quality children’s literature to her people during a period of tumultuous change in Japan.

Hanako Muraoka in 1919. Photo courtesy of Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin Archives.

“Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne Shirley, and Hanako Muraoka have all played an important role in promoting cultural exchange and friendship between Canada and Japan,” says Adam Brazier, artistic director of performing arts at the Centre. “Hanako’s story is riveting, and she is the reason the story of Anne became so beloved in Japan.”

Born into an impoverished family of tea merchants in rural Japan, Hanako’s fortunes changed dramatically when she was offered a place at an illustrious girls’ schools in Tokyo founded by the Methodist Church of Canada. Nurtured by Canadian missionaries who taught her, she fell in love with English-language poetry and literature. After the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the missionaries were forced to leave Japan. But Hanako found solace in a gift received from a Canadian friend: a copy of Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Amidst the wail of air-raids sirens, she began translating her copy into Japanese, fully aware that she risked imprisonment and even death if caught.

It was not until 1952 when a Japanese publisher took a chance on a story from an unknown Canadian author, and released Akage no An. The book was an immediate success, and unwittingly launched a cross-cultural literary legacy that continues to this day. The story of Anne is included in Japanese school curriculums, it spawned an animated television series as well as other books, and thousands of Japanese tourists visit Prince Edward Island every year.

“Hanako knew the misery of war, and her translation of Anne of Green Gables was a way to prove her friendship to her Canadian mentors and friends,” says Eri Muraoka, Hanako’s granddaughter and writer of Anne’s Cradle. “Through Montgomery’s words, Hanako wanted to convey to younger generations the fragility and beauty of the ordinary days we spend with our loves ones.”

First Secretary Takeshi Nukui, Centre Artistic Director Adam Brazier, and Japanese Ambassador Kanji Yamanouchi in the Sobey Family Theatre at Confederation Centre of the Arts

While on a visit to Prince Edward Island, Kanji Yamanouchi, Japanese ambassador to Canada, visited the Centre to express his excitement for the project. The Centre is hoping to present a public reading of the play at Expo 2025 in Osaka. “I am delighted to be in Prince Edward Island and have an opportunity to discuss this exciting project initiated by Confederation Centre of the Arts. Muraoka’s work is truly an asset to Canada-Japan relations,” says the ambassador. “Her beautiful translation of Anne of Green Gables and its story of true friendship was deeply enjoyed by children in Japan, and helped them feel inspired during a difficult post-war period. As Ambassador of Japan to Canada, I will give my utmost effort to support this important project for Expo 2025 and beyond.”

The Centre is currently accepting submissions from writers fluent in Japanese and English who are interested in adapting the novel into a play. The first round of submissions closes on December 31, 2022. Applicants should contact Adam Brazier (abrazier@confederationcentre.com) for details, or visit confederationcentre.com/playwright-submissions/.

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Photo cutline: (Top photo): First Secretary Takeshi Nukui, Centre Artistic Director Adam Brazier, Japanese Ambassador Kanji Yamanouchi, and Centre CEO Steve Bellamy with a copy of Anne’s Cradle: The Life and Works of Hanako Muraoka.

Media Contact: Emily McMahon, Communications Manager, Confederation Centre of the Arts
emcmahon@confederationcentre.com | 902-628-6135

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