Emergence of Takemoto Gidayu
Takemoto Gidayu who belonged to a Ningyo joruri troupe is a narrator who earned great popularity. He skillfully portrayed the state of mind of the characters in the play using his expansive vocal range and powerful voice. After he left the troupe and became an independent narrator, Gidayu acquired practice through his tours, and in 1684, opened the Takemoto-za theatre in Dotonbori, Osaka. Through various trials and endeavors, Gidayu breathed new life into narrative art, so much so that joruri became synonymous with Gidayu-bushi.
Chikamatsu Monzaemon's active contribution
The first new work performed at Takemoto-za was "Shusse Kagekiyo (Kagekiyo Victorious)." This work was written for Gidayu by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, an author who stepped into the world of performing art while being a samurai, and made Gidayu-bushi an established form of theatre. From then on, Chikamatsu went onto create countless joruri masterpieces at Takemoto-za. The number of joruri written by Chikamatsu in his lifetime exceeds 100 works, including "Sonezaki shinju (The Love Suicides at Sonezaki)" performed in 1703 and became a major hit, as well as "Meido no hikyaku (The Courier for Hell)," "Kokusenya Kassen (The Battles of Coxinga)," and "Onna Koroshi Abura no Jigogu (The Woman-Killer and the Hell of Oil)."
Pioneering of a new category
"Sonezaki shinju" is based on an actual suicide of a couple that took place in Osaka, one month before the play's first performance. Until then, joruri plays were jidai-mono (historical plays) based on historical events and whose main characters were samurais and aristocrats. In "Sonezaki shinju," Chikamatsu wrote about events taking place on the streets, featuring townspeople as the main characters, creating a new category of plays called sewa-mono (contemporary, domestic plays). Sewa-mono drew enormous popularity among the commoners, so much so that love suicides occurred in succession and the shogunate banned the performance of works dealing with love suicides.