Like a Butterfly, My Nostalgia

Masataka Matsuda

Illustration by Hugo Muecke



In the world, there is a radio.
It receives waves and emits sound.
"Afternoon News and Weather Forecasts"
The sound ebbs and flows like the tide.
Soon it becomes mundane.

Evening.  The main room of a small traditional apartment.
Two chests of drawers stand next to one another.
A low dining table.   Stage left there is a television set.
Scattered around, the miscellany of everyday life.

A woman sits at the table, resting her cheek on her palm.             
Whether she's asleep or listening to the music from the            
radio, no one can tell.

The music cuts off, and a radio newscaster provides a            
typhoon update.

Radio Newscaster: "Typhoon update. Typhoon No. 18 is            
moving north off the eastern coast of Kyushu.  There is the             
possibility of heavy rain in the Kanto region, continuing            
until late tonight."

MAN: Hi, I'm home.

WOMAN: Hello.

MAN: Wow, it sure is windy out there.

WOMAN: They say there's a typhoon on the way.

MAN: Oh yeah?

WOMAN: Heavy rain they say.

MAN: Huh.

WOMAN: Dinner?  Have you eaten?

MAN: No.

WOMAN: Oh yeah - so you wanna eat?

MAN: Okay.

The woman tosses the man a pair of sweatpants.
She exits.

MAN: What are they up to over by the station?

WOMAN: (offstage) Huh?

MAN: Over by the station.  What are they doing?

WOMAN: (offstage) What?

MAN: You know, near the station.  There's some kind of construction or something.

WOMAN: (entering) Construction?

MAN: Yeah.

WOMAN: What construction?

MAN: I don't know what, but there's construction.

WOMAN: (exiting) Where?

MAN: Like I was saying, that place in front of the station.

WOMAN: (offstage) There's construction all over the place these days.

MAN: Must be a condo or something.

WOMAN: (offstage) Heh?

MAN: I said, well, they must be building a condo or some...Forget it. I'll tell you later.

WOMAN: (offstage) Tell me what?

MAN: Never mind.

WOMAN: (offstage) Give me your handkerchief, would you?

MAN: Huh?

WOMAN: (offstage) Your hanky.

The man searches for his handkerchief.

WOMAN: (entering) Oh, you know what?  Speaking of construction, I hear they're building a huge condo in front of the station.

MAN: (speechless) Well...

WOMAN: A huge condo, they say.

MAN: (dropping the matter) Okay.

WOMAN: I saw it in the newspaper, in an insert.

MAN: I see. ...What about my jacket pocket?


MAN: The hanky.

WOMAN: Wasn't there.

MAN: ...Hm, where's the evening paper?

WOMAN: It's not there?

MAN: Nope.

WOMAN: Why don't you put on your pants first?

She exits.

MAN: Huh? Oh.

The man stops searching and puts on his sweats.
He finds the evening newspaper on top of the chest and sits down at the table with it.

WOMAN: (offstage) I kept it for you, so take a look.

MAN: Huh?

WOMAN: (offstage) The ad.

MAN: The ad?

WOMAN: (offstage) For the condo.

MAN: ...Yeah.

He reads the newspaper.
Somehow she knows he's not looking at the ad.

WOMAN: (offstage) ...Take a look, would you?

MAN: Now?

WOMAN: (offstage) Yes.

MAN: Take a look and then what?

WOMAN: (offstage) Just take a look, that's all.

MAN: What's the point of just looking?

WOMAN: (offstage)....

MAN: Where is it?

WOMAN: (offstage) Don't you see it around anywhere?

MAN: No.

WOMAN: (offstage) Maybe on the chest.

MAN: Huh?

WOMAN: (offstage) Or under the table.

MAN: It's not there.

WOMAN: (offstage) Then it's got to be on the chest.

MAN: Which chest?

WOMAN: (offstage) Mine.

MAN: Heh?

WOMAN: (offstage) Isn't it inside the paper?

The man shakes the paper.

MAN: No, I don't see it.

WOMAN: Oh my. (laughing heartily) Hahaha.

MAN: Huh?

WOMAN: (entering) Here it is.  I had it the whole time.

MAN: ....

The woman spreads the ad out on the table.

WOMAN: ...These are three-bedroom apartments.  This one faces south.

MAN: Hmmm...So spacious.

WOMAN: Isn't it.  There's a tatami room, too.

MAN: A tatami room?

WOMAN: Uh-huh. Here.  This one.

MAN: That's a spacious tatami room...

WOMAN: And here.  A balcony.  Right?

MAN: Oh, is that a balcony?

WOMAN: Nice, right?

MAN: Yeah.  A spacious balcony.

WOMAN: Can't you say anything other than spacious?

MAN: But spacious is better.

WOMAN: We'll put a white patio table out here and...

MAN: And drink beer in summer.

WOMAN: Some chilled wine would be nice, too.

MAN: No way.  Gotta be beer.

WOMAN: Okay, beer then, but what about in winter?

MAN: It's cold in winter.

WOMAN: Well of course.  No one drinks beer on a cold balcony in winter. ...Ah, yes, shall we bring a space heater out onto the balcony?

MAN: Couldn't we just stay inside during winter?

WOMAN: Oh right.  There's a tatami room.

MAN: There you go.  How many tatami mats?

WOMAN: Eight mats.

MAN: Wow, that's spacious.

WOMAN: You said it again.

MAN: Well yeah, but eight mats is spacious.

WOMAN: But you know, those condo mats, they're smaller...

MAN: Still, it's spacious.

WOMAN: Right. ...See, a bathroom.

MAN: Yeah...

WOMAN: I'm sure it has a full bath and maybe even a shower.

MAN: Well, perhaps...

WOMAN: Is this the master bedroom...?

MAN: I suppose.

WOMAN: We'll put in a king-size bed, and...

MAN: Is that possible – a king-size?

WOMAN: It's spacious enough. We can.

MAN: Yeah.  ...So spacious...

WOMAN: ....

A pause.

MAN: Hey. ...Hey.


MAN: Something's burning.

WOMAN: Oops.

MAN: ....

WOMAN: (offstage) Any news about the typhoon?

MAN: ...Uh-huh...

WOMAN: (offstage) Any updates in the evening paper?

MAN: ...Yeah...huh, what?

WOMAN: (offstage) The typhoon!

MAN: Ah...(referring to the weather section of the newspaper) Well, it seems to be coming this way...

WOMAN: (offstage) Do you want some pickled plums?

MAN: Uh-huh...

WOMAN: (offstage) Pickled plums.

MAN: Uh-huh?

WOMAN: (entering) Do you want some or not?

MAN: Leave them out.  I'll have some.

WOMAN: Yesterday, I put them on the table, but you didn't eat any.

MAN: I will today.

WOMAN: Is that a promise?

MAN: Hard to say till the moment comes.

WOMAN: Promise.

MAN: ... I will.

The woman glares at the man while depositing the pot of
pickled plums with a click on the table.  Then she gathers
up the man's trousers and shirt which he's dropped
onto the floor.

WOMAN: ...Where's the hanky?

MAN: ...Maybe on my desk at the office?

WOMAN: ...Your desk must be covered with hankies.

MAN: ....

WOMAN: There's no handkerchief for tomorrow. ...all right?

The woman exits with the man's trousers and shirt. She
mumbles to herself.

MAN: ...My cigarettes...

WOMAN: (offstage) Did you check under the table?

MAN: I did.

WOMAN: (offstage) You've finished the pack, haven't you?

MAN: No, I haven't.

The woman reenters, holding a wooden tray.

WOMAN: Put away that paper.

MAN: Huh?

WOMAN: The newspaper.

She places bowls of soup on the table.

MAN: (removing the newspaper) Ah.

The woman exits to the kitchen.
The man searches for a pack of cigarettes.
The woman reenters.

WOMAN: It's dinner-time.  Cigarettes stink up rooms and spoil meals. ...Here.

The woman puts an ashtray and a lighter on the table.
The man comes to the table.
It seems like there are cigarettes.

WOMAN: Aren't you going to smoke?

MAN: Where are my cigarettes?

WOMAN: How should I know?

MAN: Where did they go?

WOMAN: I told you I don't know.

MAN: But I'm sure I saw them.  That's weird.

He stands up.

WOMAN: Eat some pickled plums.

MAN: What for?

WOMAN: Tangy and tasty.

MAN: That's got nothing to do with cigarettes.

WOMAN: ....

Casually, she takes the lighter and heads toward the kitchen.

MAN: Hey, leave it here.

WOMAN: I need it.

MAN: What for?

WOMAN: To light the stove.

MAN: Why?

WOMAN: Cause the pilot light's out.

MAN: Use a match.

WOMAN: We're out of matches.

MAN: Why didn't you stock up?

WOMAN: Since you're not smoking, why can't I take it?

MAN: I'd like to smoke. ...But we're out of cigarettes, right?

WOMAN: I said I don't know what happened to your cigarettes...

The woman exits with the lighter.
The man sits and thinks.

MAN: Where did I leave the pack last night?

WOMAN: (offstage) Oh, drop it already.

MAN: I'll go get some.

WOMAN: (offstage) It's raining outside.

MAN: But they're just down the street.

WOMAN: (offstage) Wait till tomorrow morning.

MAN: Tomorrow morning.

WOMAN: (offstage) You can do without.

MAN: Yeah...

WOMAN: (offstage) So wait till tomorrow.

MAN: ...Yeah...

The woman reenters.

WOMAN: ...Dinner is served! (She sets out two plates) Bon appetit.

She starts eating.

MAN: What, didn't you already eat?


MAN: Why didn't you just go ahead?

WOMAN: Cause eating alone's no fun.

MAN: ...Well, that might be true, but weren't you hungry?

WOMAN: I could eat a horse.

MAN: Really. ...I wonder if...


MAN: If there's any worcestershire sauce?

WOMAN: Here.

MAN: This is worcestershire?

WOMAN: Yes, worcestershire. What's wrong?

MAN: See, cause, remember, the other day...(He tastes the sauce) This is soy sauce.

WOMAN: Pardon me?

MAN: It's definitely soy sauce.

WOMAN: Well then, I'll take your plate, and you can eat mine.

MAN: That's okay.

She takes his plate and switches it with hers.

WOMAN: I prefer soy.  I like soy.  Besides, it's healthier.

MAN: No kidding.

WOMAN: Cause too much worcestershire will raise your blood pressure (holding out the jar) Soy sauce?

MAN: (pulling his plate close to him) Thanks.  No.

The woman keeps eating as if nothing has happened.

MAN: ...Where's the worcestershire?


MAN: I said worcestershire.

WOMAN: ...How about some pickled plums?

MAN: Listen.

WOMAN: you know it's seasoned already...

She stands and exits to the kitchen.

From the table, the man picks up a small packet that looks
like seasoning flakes and sprinkles it over his bowl of rice.
The woman returns and hands him a jar that is identical to
the soy sauce container.

The man, receiving the container, sniffs it.

WOMAN: It's worcestershire.

MAN: You need to buy a different kind of jar.

The man, still suspicious, pours the sauce over his plate and starts eating.


It indeed is worcestershire sauce.  He is relieved.

But as he chews, he notices something strange in his mouth.

MAN: ...Uh?

WOMAN: What's the matter?

MAN: Well...

WOMAN: ...Well what?

MAN: Well, something...

WOMAN: ...Spit it out.

MAN: ...Yeah. (The man spits it out.) ...It's a rubber band.

WOMAN: Oh, a rubber band.

She snatches it up and throws it away.
And she returns to her dinner as if nothing has happened.

MAN: ...How many times are you going to feed me rubber bands?

WOMAN: I'm sorry.

MAN: ....

WOMAN: ...The way things were going, I was meant to eat it.

MAN: But I ate the rubber band.

WOMAN: ...You didn't swallow it.

MAN: Well, of course not, I spat it out...  But what would've happened if I'd swallowed it without noticing?

WOMAN: It'd come out all right.

MAN: What if got stuck somewhere inside?

WOMAN: It wouldn't stick, no way...

MAN: It would stick, it's a rubber band.

WOMAN: Stick where?

MAN: Somewhere ... around here.

WOMAN: In that case, you'd live happily ever after with the rubber band.

MAN: No way...

WOMAN: ...So.

MAN: Huh?

WOMAN: What do you think?

MAN: What?

WOMAN: The condo.

MAN: The condo?


MAN: The one in the ad?

WOMAN: Uh-huh. ...Shall we visit it?

MAN: Visit and do what?

WOMAN: Take a look.

MAN: Take a look and what?  Listen...looking at it won't lead to living in it.  Sure we can hope, like, the super shows up and says, hullo, you two looking at the condo, please, why don't you come move in?

WOMAN: No, but ... we'll just take a look ... and cheer up.

MAN: Cheer up the condo?

WOMAN: Not that, but ... like, someday, we'll be able to live in such a place, and that'll cheer us up.

MAN: ... Are you serious?

WOMAN: I'm always serious.

MAN: ....

translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Andy Bragen

Read the original in Japanese

Read translator’s note

Masataka Matsuda was born in Nagasaki Prefecture in 1962. He started his career in drama in 1990 while a student at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, founding the Jiku Gekijo Company as the writer-director. After disbanding the company in 1997, he has been writing original plays for Seinendan, Bungakuza and other companies as well as some films. His early lyrical plays revolve around quiet personal conversations. Matsuda has received numerous awards, including OMS Drama Award (1994), Kishida Kunio Drama Award (1996), Yomiuri Drama Award (1997), Yomiuri Literature Award (1998), and Kyoto Cultural Encouragement Prize (2000). In 2004, he founded marebito theater company as the writer-director in order to explore the boundaries and possibilities of theater. His recent plays with marebito theater company have taken a dramatic shift for experimentalism, and have been produced in Seoul, China, India, Egypt and the United States, as well as in major Japanese cities. Matsuda was selected as "the most avant-garde and experimental theater artist" in 2009 by Theatre Arts, the leading critical journal of the Japanese theater. He is a visiting professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design.

Kyoko Yoshida was born and raised in Fukuoka, Japan. She was a participant of the 2005 International Writing Program at University of Iowa. Her stories have been published in The Massachusetts Review, Chelsea, The Cream City Review and The Beloit Fiction Journal, among other places and she is working on a novel about the visit of American Negro League baseball players to Japan in the 1930's.  Yoshida's translations include poems by Kiwao Nomura with Forrest Gander and a play by Masataka Matsuda with Andy Bragen. Currently, she is translating "Park City", Matsuda's new play about Hiroshima.  A 2008 Visiting Scholar at Brown University, she teaches English at Keio University and lives in Yokohama.

Andy Bragen has earned honors that include a Workspace Residency with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission, a Tennessee Williams Fellowship from Sewanee: The University of The South, a Jerome Fellowship, a New Voices Fellowship from EST, a Dramatists Guild Fellowship, and residencies at Millay Colony and Blue Mountain Center. His plays and translations have been seen and heard at numerous theatres across the country, including The Guthrie, The Goodman, P.S. 122, The Playwrights Center, Queens Theatre in the Park, Rattlestick, EST, Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep, Repertorio Español, the University of Rochester, Ars Nova, and Soho Rep. For more information, click on his website.

"A typhoon leaves a marriage in the dark. When a couple's search for candles uncovers reminders of a forgotten tryst, a tide of memory and grief floods their lives."

The English translation of "Like a Butterfly, My Nostalgia" was developed at the 2007 PlayLabs Festival at the Playwrights' Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota) as part of the U.S.-Japan Contemporary Plays and Playwrights Exchange Project, an international collaboration organized by The Playwrights' Center and the U.S./Japan Cultural Trade Network, Inc. in association with The Saison Foundation and Arts Network Japan, with additional funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.