bunraku ((Japanese traditional puppet theater)

Bunraku (Japanese traditional puppet theater).

Last evening, I went to National Theater to watch Bunraku.

Bunnraku which is one of Japanese traditional theater arts is composed of three parts, namely puppet play, musical narration and shamisenn( three stringed Japanese style banjo).

Last evening’s program was “onnagoroshi aburanojigoku”. That is one of the most popular Bunnraku programs which are written by Chikamatsu Monzaiemon (1653-1725), the greatest story teller of townspeople in Edo period.

Chikamatsu wrote these stories around 400 years ago but they are still vivid and touching enough to move modern Japanese just same as modern western people are moved by Shakespeare.

“onnagoroshi aburanojigoku” is a murder case. The prodigal son of a gentle and kind couple stabs a virtuous mistress of an oil merchant to death for money. The story reminds spectators of various feelings such as moral obligation, humanity, parental affection.

Kiritake Kanjurou who is the best modern puppet player manipulated the puppet of the murderer in so complete harmony that we could not distinguish the puppet from the manipulator.

Furthermore, Kiritake Kanjurou manipulated so nicely that the puppet showed us human feelings even more impressively than living actors.

However Bunraku can not be played by only one excellent manipulator, but it requires many well trained manipulators, narrators, musicians and stagehands. It is becoming an issue in Japan how to keep those precious traditional arts.