Bunraku: Storytelling, Music & Puppetry


Graham Squires
published on 02 November 2022

Ningyo Joruri is a combination of ningyo (puppets) and Joruri (narrative music) which combines voice and shamisen. It is now known as “Bunraku” since that is now the main troupe that represents this art form. It is a comprehensive performance art created in the Edo period (1603 – 1868) by combining three art forms that each have long, but separate histories: narrative singing performed by the tayu, instrumental musicians playing the three-stringed shamisen and puppeteers.

Usually, a solo tayu plays all the roles and expresses the speech, emotions and movements of all different kinds of characters using a wide range of tones and voices and describes the scene with a combination of speech and song. His performance is punctuated by the music of the shamisen player who plays a futozao (“thick-necked”) shamisen which is very large and can produce a rich variety of sounds, from loud and powerful to quiet and delicate. Like a conductor, the shamisen player guides the speed and pacing of the performance. The puppets used in Bunraku for major roles are very large and have three puppeteers, which allows for very detailed and sensitive movement, but requires very precise coordination of the three puppeteers.

We will explore Bunraku with the help of three performers, each representing one of the three parts of this puppet theatre.

Presented by: The Japan Foundation (JF) (https://www.jpf.go.jp/e/)

<Program Credits>
Performers: TAKEMOTO Oritayu Ⅵ, TSURUSAWA Seisuke, KIRITAKE Kanjuro III, YOSHIDA Minoshiro, KIRITAKE Kansuke, KIRITAKE Kansho, KIRITAKE Kanjiro, MOCHIZUKI Tamekichi
In cooperation with: Japan Arts Council National Bunraku Theatre, BUNRAKU KYOKAI, The Bunraku-za Company, Wakayama Film Commission, Shirahama-Town, Wakayama prefecture
Additional Materials: National Diet Library Japan, Keio University Library, NHK
Supervision: Stuart VARNAM-ATKIN
Video Image Production: NHK ENTERPRISES, INC.
Video Image Producers: HAMANO Takahiro, OKAUCHI Hideaki
Video Image Director: HASEGAWA Aya

<Subtitling Credits>
English Translation: TOYOZAKI Yoko, Stuart VARNAM-ATKIN
Chinese Translation (Simplified): Ling LI
Chinese Translation (Traditional): Yunhsien LIANG
French Translation: Véronique BRINDEAU
Indonesian Translation: Dewi ANGGRAENI
Russian Translation: Tatiana SOKOLOVA DELUSINA
Spanish Translation: Mauricio MARTINEZ (https://www.japonartesescenicas.org)
Portuguese Translation: Elza Hatsumi TSUZUKI

© The Japan Foundation (JF) All Rights Reserved

End date of distribution: 17/6/2026

文楽 –語り奏でる人形芝居–


著作・製作:国際交流基金 (JF) (https://www.jpf.go.jp/)

出演: 竹本織太夫、鶴澤清介、桐竹勘十郎、吉田簑紫郎、桐竹勘介、桐竹勘昇、桐竹勘次郎、望月太明吉
制作協力:独立行政法人日本芸術文化振興会 国立文楽劇場、公益財団法人文楽協会、人形浄瑠璃文楽座、わかやまフィルム・コミッション、白浜町

スペイン語字幕翻訳:マウリシオ・マルティネス (https://www.japonartesescenicas.org)

© The Japan Foundation (JF) All Rights Reserved


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About the Author

Graham Squires
Graham Squires is a senior lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Squires, G. (2022, November 02). Bunraku: Storytelling, Music & Puppetry. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/video/2856/bunraku-storytelling-music--puppetry/

Chicago Style

Squires, Graham. "Bunraku: Storytelling, Music & Puppetry." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified November 02, 2022. https://www.worldhistory.org/video/2856/bunraku-storytelling-music--puppetry/.

MLA Style

Squires, Graham. "Bunraku: Storytelling, Music & Puppetry." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 02 Nov 2022. Web. 17 Apr 2024.