Performers of Bunraku
Bunraku Kyokai was founded by the Japanese government and other parties in 1963. Upon its establishment, all narrators, Shamisen players, and puppeteers became members of this organization, and Bunraku became a government-protected traditional performing art. Successors are trained not only through the traditional method of accepting disciples by Bunraku performers, but also through the training program newly offered by the National Bunraku Theatre.
Gigeiin training program
The National Bunraku Theatre offers two-year training for young aspiring performers of Bunraku (gigeiin). In the first year, all trainees learn the basics of narrator, Shamisen player, and puppeteer. In the second year, trainees learn about one of the three based on which they find suitable and their respective wishes. The trainees also study koto, kokyu, utai (singing component of Noh), Kyogen, buyo dance, Japanese etiquette, and the history and plays of Ningyo joruri.
Mastering the art
Once the trainees have completed this basic training, they then become disciples of gigeiin who actually perform on stage, receive a stage name, and begin their full-fledged training. For example, it takes around 10 to 15 years of experience as the foot puppeteer (Ashi-zukai) or left puppeteer (Hidari-zukai) to become the main puppeteer (Omo-zukai). The path to becoming a master performer requires many years of continuous training. While the world of Bunraku is rigorous, anyone with skills in this art can become an outstanding stage performer without being born into a Bunraku family. Some performers, even after reaching an advanced age, engage in additional training to further polish and refine their skills.