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Photo caption: A scene from Act 1 of Imoseyama Onna Teikin (An Example of Noble Womanhood).
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Let us first consider the history of what might be termed the two pillars of Bunraku: joruri and the joruri gidayu-bushi, or joruri narrative singing. Gidayu-bushi, as can be glimpsed from its name, was established by Takemoto Gidayu (1651-1724), and is a special form of vocal music. From ancient times in Japan, vocal music was divided into two categories: utai, or singing, and katari, or reciting and chanting. In brief, the difference between them is that utai had definite melodies, rhythms, and tempo, whereas the main emphasis of katari was on explaining the plot. Katari took the tale-chanting style of heikyoku\the chanting of the Tales of the Heike to biwa (a lute-like instrument) accompaniment, seen as the ancestor of narrative arts-to tell its tale. At the time when heikyoku was very popular, performers turned to sources other that the Tales of the Heike, and among them, those who became known as joruri performers gained much attention. It is uncertain exactly when joruri was first born, but it is thought to have been in about the middle of the Muromachi period (ca. late fifteenth century). The name joruri derives from a medieval story called the Tale of Princess Joruri and the Twelve Guardian Deities; because the art became so popular, it began to be used to chant other tales as well, but because of its association with the tale of Princess Joruri, the form also became known as joruri. In around the mid-sixteenth century, the sanshin was brought to Japan from the Ryukyuan kingdom of Okinawa, and it was later developed into the shamisen (like a three-stringed banjo) that came to be used in the performances\and this caused joruri to make rapid progress musically. It was at the end of the sixteenth century that this shamisen music was first used in the puppet theatre, with strung marionettes.

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Copyright 2004, by the Japan Arts Council. All rights reserved.

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