Ningyo Johruri Bunraku puppet theatre
Ningyo Johruri Bunraku puppet theatre is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre, founded in Osaka in 1684. Three kinds of performers take part in a bunraku performance: the Ningyōtsukai or Ningyōzukai (puppeteers), the Tayū (chanters) andshamisen musicians. Occasionally other instruments such as taiko drums will be used.
The most accurate term for the traditional puppet theater in Japan is ningyō jōruri.The combination of chanting and shamisen playing is called jōruri and the Japanese word for puppet (or dolls, generally) is ningyō. It is used in many plays.
Bunraku puppetry has been a documented traditional activity for Japanese for hundreds of years.
The puppets of the Osaka tradition tend to be somewhat smaller overall, while the puppets in the tradition are some of the largest as productions in that region tend to be held outdoors.
The heads and hands of traditional puppets are carved by specialists, while the bodies and costumes are often constructed by puppeteers. The heads can be quite sophisticated mechanically. In plays with supernatural themes, a puppet may be constructed so that its face can quickly transform into that of a demon. Less complex heads may have eyes that move up and down, side to side or close, and noses, mouths, and eyebrows that move.
Controls for all movements of parts of the head are located on a handle that extends down from the neck of the puppet and are reached by the main puppeteer inserting his or her left hand into the chest of the puppet through a hole in the back of the torso.
The main puppeteer, the omozukai, uses his or her right hand to control the right hand of the puppet. The left puppeteer, known as the hidarizukai or sashizukai, depending of the tradition of the troupe, manipulates the left hand of the puppet with his or her own right hand by means of a control rod that extends back from the elbow of the puppet. A third puppeteer, the ashizukai, operates the feet and legs. Puppeteers begin their training by operating the feet, then move onto the left hand, before being able to train as the main puppeteer. This process can take 30 years to progress.
All but the most minor characters require three puppeteers, who perform in full view of the audience, generally wearing black robes. In some traditions, all puppeteers also wear black hoods over their heads, while others, including the National Bunraku Theater, leave the main puppeteer unhooded, a style of performance known as dezukai. The shape of the puppeteers hoods also varies, depending on the school to which the puppeteer belongs.
Usually a single chanter recites all the characters’ parts, altering his pitch in order to switch between various characters. However, sometimes multiple chanters are used. The chanters sit next to the shamisen player on a revolving platform, and from time to time, the platform turns, bringing replacement musicians for the next scene.
The shamisen used in bunraku has a sound which is different from other shamisen. It is lower in pitch, and has a fuller tone.
Bunraku shares many themes with kabuki. In fact, many plays were adapted for performance both by actors in kabuki and by puppet troupes in bunraku. Bunraku is particularly noted for lovers’ suicide plays. The story of the forty-seven ronin is also famous in both bunraku and kabuki.
The character Osono, from the play Hade Sugata Onna Maiginu , in a performance by the Tonda Puppet Troupe of Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture.
Bunraku is an author’s theater, as opposed to kabuki, which is a performer’s theater. In bunraku, prior to the performance, the chanter holds up the text and bows before it, promising to follow it faithfully. In kabuki, actors insert puns on their names, ad-libs, references to contemporary happenings and other things which deviate from the script.
The most famous bunraku playwright was Chikamatsu Monzaemon. With more than 100 plays to his credit, he is sometimes called the Shakespeare of Japan.
Bunraku companies, performers, and puppet makers have been designated “Living National Treasures” under Japan’s program for preserving its culture.
1.How many strings is the puppet balanced on?
2.How many chanters are involved?
3.The chanters themselves make the puppets. True or False?
4.Which are the commonly employed instruments in the puppet theatre?
5.How many acts does the modern puppet theatre usually have?