Globe-trotting Toshiki Okada to be Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre’s artistic director from April 2026

Portrait of Toshiki Okada
岡田利規 Toshiki Okada
(c) Kikuko Usuyama

Playwright and director Toshiki Okada will become artistic director of the annual autumnal Tokyo Festival arts extravaganza from 2025. Then the following year he is set to succeed Hideki Noda when he steps down after 17 years in that role at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, which is a main Tokyo Festival venue and pivotal organizational hub along with Arts Council Tokyo and Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

A Yokohama native, 50-year-old Okada formed his chelfitch company there in 1997, naming it after his imagined childlike pronunciation of the word “selfish”. Since then he has tirelessly staged his plays both in Japan and abroad, including performances in more than 90 cities in Europe, Asia and North and South America.

In particular he has often worked in Germany, where he’s created seven repertoire works at public theatres since 2016. Among those, “The Vacuum Cleaner”, his fourth play at the Munich Kammerspiele theatre, and “Doughnuts”, his first at the Thalia theater in Hamburg, were selected among the 10 best plays of the year in 2020 and 2022 respectively.

Meanwhile, Okada’s latest work, “Homeoffice”, a post-Covid examination of home-based working, opened at the Düsseldorfer Shauspielhaus theatre on April 20.  
However, Okada doesn’t just range far and wide geographically, but across genres as varied as contemporary noh and kabuki, contemporary dance and contemporary opera. In addition he has collaborated with visual artist Shimpei Yamada to create their EIZO-Theater films purporting to be actors’ live performances, and has also curated exhibition works with the acclaimed scenography artist Teppei Kaneuji.
So, how will such a multifaceted talent as Okada lead one Japan’s foremost public theatres from 2026? Well, it’s an exciting question whose answers countless arts lovers are doubtless eagerly awaiting.

(c)Toru Yokota

“Five Days in March” had its world premiere in 2004 in Japan, where it won the super-prestigious Kishida Prize for Drama in 2005. It went on to tour in Japan and also widely in Europe, Asia, North America and Australia on the way to becoming one of the most famous of chelfitsch’s plays.

(c) Dieter Hartwig

“Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech” had its world premiere at the Hebbel am Ufer theatre in Berlin in 2009. Then in 2016 Okada staged a German-language version with German actors at Munich’s Kammerspiele theatre.

(c)Hideto Maezawa

“The Window of Spaceship ‘In-Between’”, which  had its world premiere in 2023 in Japan, is a unique project in which non-native actors perform in Japanese. This production has been invited to feature from May 18–20 at the world-renowned Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels, Belgium, prior to performances in South Korea from May 25–26.

Kilian Ponert
(c) Thomas Rabsch
Kilian Ponert, Rainer Philippi, Blanka Winkler, Belendjwa Peter, Claudius Steffens, Sonja Beißwenger, Thomas Hauser
(c) Thomas Rabsch
Belendjwa Peter, Claudius Steffens, Thomas Hauser
(c) Thomas Rabsch

“Homeoffice” opened April 20 at the Shauspielhaus theatre in Dusseldorf, Germany, and runs till June 10.