AN INTRODUCTION TO BUNRAKU




The Bunraku Puppet Theatre,which is the most refined form of puppetry in the world, is a combination of three skills each of which requires many years of training to masterpuppet manipulation, joruri recitation and samisen music.

The dolls of the Bunraku Puppet Show are about half life-size.Their eyes move. their eyebrows rise in surprise, their mouths open and shut and their hands and arms gesture gracefully and realistically.

Each of the principal dolls is operated by three manipurators who work in perfect unison. The manipurators carry the dolls on to the stage and are visible throughout the play. The chief manipurator holds the puppet from the back with his left hand by a special grip in the figure's chest and directs the puppet's right arm with his right hand. The second operator moves the left hand and the third,the legs. As a female doll has no legs as a rule, the third operator moves its skirt in such a way as to create an illusion of moving legs.

The joruri reciter, who tells the story which the puppets act, and who chants, shouts, whispers or sobs the dialogue for all characters appearing in the play, sits with his samisen accompanist, each resplendent in the traditional kamisimo dress, in full view on an elevated dais at the right side of the stage.

The samisen accompanist is no less important an element in the puppet show. The samisen provides not only a musical accompaniment to the joruri recitation but also an indication, where apprpriate, of the sound of rain or wind or other effects to heighten the atmosphere of the scene.

Most of the plays in the Bunraku repertoire are classics written in the 18th century. Though about 50 new plays have been presented after World War UAmost of them are not likely to be staged again, where as most of the classics are certain of constsnt repetition.

The Goverment is giving great support to the Bunraku Puppet Theatre, designating it as an important intangible cultural asset. In 1984 the National Bunraku Theatre was established in Osaka, the birthplace of Bunraku. At this theatre six series of Bunraku performances, each lasting about two weeks, are scheduled to be held every year.

Copyright by Bunrakukyoukai and National Bunraku Theatre
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