Invitation To  BUNRAKU


Golden period

The mechanisms of the dolls and the composition of the scripts have evolved significantly.

Rivalry between Takemoto-za and Toyotake-za

The lively, bustling areas of Takemoto-za and Toyotake-za
"Chikuho Koji"
(Waseda University The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum collection)

In 1703, Takemoto-za flourished with the first performance of "Sonezaki shinju." In that same year, Toyotake Wakatayu left Takemoto-za and opened Toyotake-za in Dotonbori. He was a disciple of Gidayu, and his high-pitched beautiful voice made him very popular. Wakatayu was also a skilled businessman, taking popular puppeteers from Takemoto-za and making the talented author Kino Kaion the theatre's playwright. As a result, Toyotake-za developed into a theatre competing with Takemoto-za. Through their creative and ingenious efforts to out-rival the other, they become even more popular and Ningyo joruri witnessed its golden age.

Beginnig of three puppeteers operation

"Ashiya Doman Ouchi Kagami" Playbill
from"Kamigata No.121" (National Diet Library collection)

During Ningyo joruri's peak, the dolls underwent significant transformations. It became possible for the dolls to resemble the manners of humans though the detailed movements of their eyes, mouths, and fingers. The puppeteer now inserted his hand not from the hem but from the back. The puppets also now had legs. Furthermore, it became the norm for puppets operated by a single person to be manipulated by three people. It is said that the system of three puppeteers was introduced when "Ashiya Doman Ouchi Kagami (The White Fox of Shinoda)" was performed at Takemoto-za in 1734.

Longer plays and three masterpieces

As it gained further popularity, joruri stories grew more complex and spectacular. To make each act more dramatic, it became more common for a single story to be written by several authors. The so-called three masterpieces—"Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami (Sugawara and Secret of Calligraphy)," "Yoshitsune Senbon-zakura (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees)," and "Kanadehon Chushingura (The Treasury of 47 Loyal Retainers)"—were the outputs of collaborative writing by Takemoto-za's Namiki Senryu, Miyoshi Syoraku, and Takeda Izumo II.