Puppet theater -Kokusenyakassen 2015/02/20

Last evening, I went to National Theater to watch Bunnraku which is one of Japanese traditional theater arts and is composed of three parts, namely puppet play, musical narration and shamisen( three stringed Japanese style banjo).

Last evening’s program was “Kokusenyakassen” which was written by Chikamatsu Monzaiemon (1653-1725), the greatest story teller in Edo period.

The story is about the mixed person between Chinese and Japanese who became a hero by fighting to reestablish the destroyed dynasty in China.

It was written in 1715 and was enthusiastically welcomed by townspeople in Edo era when overseas trip and trade were strictly controlled by the government. People might have strong interest in foreign affairs.

The play was opened with the simple introduction by the stagehand dressed in black from top to bottom of a musical narrator and a shamisen player. Just after the introduction, player and narrator started music immediately and puppets appeared on the stage.

The narration, commonly called as Gidayu, has traditional specific tune and intonation which became the most popular music in end of Edo and Meiji era.

Important puppets are manipulated by a main manipulator and two assistant manipulators dressed in black. We can see those manipulators clearly but strangely we do not mind their existence at all. It is obviously by the professional arts by those people.

The story went on through the happenings which moved Japanese audience by traditional Japanese style feelings of moral obligation, parental affection, couple’s love and so on with the background of Chinese style castle.

The play continued for 3 hours and ended by the mixed hero’s marching with a Chinese general.