“Bunraku: Storytelling, Music & Puppetry”

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
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 Producer: HAMANO Takahiro, OKAUCHI Hideaki
Video Image Director: HASEGAWA Aya

<Subtitling Credits>
English Translation: Stuart Varnam-ATKIN, TOYOZAKI Yoko
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)

© The Japan Foundation (JF) All Rights Reserved

End date of distribution: 17/6/2026