An introduction to BUNRAKU

Stage

Stage view from seating area
Stage view from seating area
  • Screened-off rooms
  • Screened-off rooms
  • Narrators' platform
  • Shimote
  • Kamite
  • Building
  • Small curtain
  • Small curtain
  • Seating area

From the point of view of the audience, the right-hand side of the stage is called "kamite" and the left-hand side of the stage is called "shimote." A small curtain (komaku) printed with the crests of the Takemoto-za and the Toyotake-za, two theatres from the Edo period (1603–1868), hangs at stage left and stage right. The puppets appear and exit the stage through this small curtain. At stage left, there is the narrators' platform (yuka) that comes out diagonally into the seating area on which the narrator (tayu) and shamisen player sit and perform.

Narrators' platform

Narrators' platform (Yuka)

The narrators' platform incorporates a circular revolving platform (bon) partitioned by a screen at the center. At first, the narrator and shamisen player are seated backstage on the other side of the screen. When the revolving platform is half-rotated, the narrator and shamisen player face the audience. The next narrator and shamisen player are seated in the backstage and can make an appearance at the same time that the previous narrator and shamisen player make an exit, simply by turning the revolving platform. In this way they can be changed seamlessly in the middle of the story.

Screened-off rooms (Misuuchi)

Above the small curtain (komaku) at stage left and stage right, there are small rooms screened from the audience by a hanging bamboo blind. Sometimes a narrator and shamisen player who still have relatively less experience are seated inside the screened-off room on stage left. Such performers take turns performing at the beginning of the story or for short parts of the play. Members of the orchestra (hayashi) who perform instruments such as the flute and drum are inside the screened-off room at stage right. As the story progresses with only the joruri narrative music playing, consisting of the story-telling and shamisen music, the orchestra joins in during lively scenes, such as festival and red-light district scenes.
 

Main cast
December 2014
National Theatre, Small Theatre
Ehon Taikoki "Amagasaki"
 
Narrator: Toyotake Hanafusadayu III
Shamisen player: Tsuruzawa Seisuke
Puppeteer: Kiritake Kanjuro III, Yoshida Seigoro, Yoshida Tamaka, Yoshida Kazuo, Yoshida Bunshi (from left)
Documentary photograph (Y_D0200046500621)