Gidayu-bushi and libretto (yukahon)
The narrator moves the story along by skillfully changing his voice, while the sound of the shamisen reverberates next to him. This type of musical performing art is called joruri, and its leading example is gidayu-bushi that was invented in Osaka during the Edo period.
The narration of gidayu-bushi consists of styles, such as kotoba (the lines of the characters), jiai (the depiction of the scene), and fushi (almost like singing with the shamisen).
The script and method of recitation that the narrator copies out himself using a calligraphy brush is called "libretto (yukahon)." Before reciting, the narrator first raises the libretto to eye level. This is a way of showing profound respect to the lines and narration techniques which have been passed down from his predecessors.
The narrator's voice expresses the emotions of the characters
There is no microphone in front of the narrator, who may recite continuously for as long as one and a half hours. The narrator pushes his voice out from the bottom of his abdomen, so that his voice reaches and the story is communicated to all corners of the spacious theatre. Furthermore, the narrator must recite in such a way that the numerous characters can be distinguished. The narration of gidayu-bushi may sound exaggerated the first time you hear it. But it is in fact a carefully crafted vocal technique for expressing the emotions of the characters. It takes decades of training for the narrator to master this technique.