INVITATION TO KABUKI Guide to Japanese Traditional Performing Arts KabukiINVITATION TO KABUKI Guide to Japanese Traditional Performing Arts Kabuki

Production and MusicDistinctive Expressions

Ningyoburi (puppet-like acting)

This refers to the actor performing in a way that imitates the movements of puppets in gidayu-kyogen, the repertoire transferred to Kabuki from Ningyo-joruri (Japanese puppet theatre). It is used for many onnagata (female roles) particularly in scenes that reach the heights of the young female character’s emotions. Characters that perform ningyoburi are supported by the puppeteers who stand behind them, and move as if they were puppets. When the ningyoburi reaches its height, the actor does not speak and the play proceeds with takemoto narration.

November 1999
National Theatre, Large Theatre
“Honcho Nijushiko” ‘Kenshinyakata Okuniwa Kitsunebi’ scene
Yaegakihime: Nakamura Ganjiro III (Sakata Tojuro IV)
Ningyotsukai (puppeteer): Nakamura Kanjaku V (Nakamura Ganjiro IV)

Ningyoburi by Yaegakihime in the scene commonly known as ‘Kitsunebi’ (Foxfire) of “Honcho Nijushiko” (The Japanese Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety). The movements of Yaegakihime (the princess), who wants to save her lover with all her heart, are expressed through ningyoburi.