Helen Parker

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Traditional and modern Japanese theatre

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Personal profile


Dr Helen Parker read Japanese at St Anne's College, Oxford as an undergraduate. Immediately after graduation, she spent one year as a research student in Dramatic Arts at the Graduate School of Literature in Waseda University. She returned to Oxford in 1988, and continued to work on the relationships between traditional Japanese performing arts, completing a doctoral dissertation in 1993 on "Plot Repetition in Traditional Japanese Theatre, with Specific Reference to the Yoshitsune Shitsuijidai Theme". 

Dr Parker came to Edinburgh to lecture in 1990 and now teaches an Honours option on Literature and Performance in Modern Japan as well as contributing to the Honours core course in Translation from Japanese to English and a number of first and second level Japanese Studies courses. 

She also teaches on the M Sc by Research in Japanese programme and offers seminars dealing with translating from and into Japanese for the M Sc in Translation Studies.   

Research Interests

Dr Parker's main research interests lie in the traditional performing arts in Japan. Her current research project centres on kabuki and its cultural context, and examines the significance of the Ginza Kabukiza theatre, opened in April 2013, for its own community, the people of Tokyo and Japan and the international arts scene. She approaches this topic through the key themes of space (the theatre as a place to share past memories and a future vision), interfaces (integration of the theatre with its location; fusion of old and new, found in both the design of the building and approaches to performance), identities (how activity in or around the theatre reflects Japanese national identity and the individual identities of users) and the politics of culture (kabuki’s role in showcasing Japanese culture, and how it is linked to the concepts of soft power and nation branding.)

Dr Parker is also interested in Noh in contemporary performance, and activities undertaken by Noh performers to engage with new audiences in Japan and internationally. Additionally, she is working on kabuki history in the post-occupation period, with reference to a collection of photographs compiled in the period 1953-55 by kabuki scholars Aubrey and Giovanna Halford.  Other interests include gender and cross-dressing in both traditional theatre and more recent forms such as the work of the all-female Takarazuka Revue Company. Beyond the study of theatre, she is interested in the history of Japanese women, especially in the modern period, and in Japanese-English literary translation.  

Dr Parker's blog about the re-opening of the Kabuki-za in April 2013 can be accessed here:


My research in a nutshell

Education/Academic qualification

Oriental Studies, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Plot Repetition in Traditional Japanese Theatre, with Specific Reference to the Yoshitsune Shitsuijidai Theme, University of Oxford

Award Date: 1 Jan 1993

External positions

Chair (voluntary capacity), Japan Foundation Endowment Committee

1 Jun 2022 → …


  • PI Oriental languages and literatures


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