From ancient times, people believed that
dolls could take the place of human beings.
Dolls were also considered incarnations of
gods and so were a part of folk religion.
Eventually, bands of performers started to
travel the country, visiting shrines and
temples and villages, and performed with
their puppets. These performers were called
Images of kugutsu-mawashi
from a collection of National Museum
of Japanese History
The Birth of Ningyo joruri
In the Edo period, puppet theater,
was all the craze throughout
and joruri, which provided dramatic
with music, came together naturally.
way, "ningyo joruri"--puppet
with narration and music--was
the backdrop of rapid urban economic
ningyo joruri became one of the
forms of entertainment for the
At the end of the 17th century, a joruri
narrator named Takemoto Gidayu appeared in
Osaka and created "Gidayu bushi,"
a form of narration which not only brought
together all the schools of joruri but also
added to this a new sensibility. He then
started his own theater company, Takemoto-za,
in Dotonbori for performing puppet plays
which became the most popular venue for entertainment
in that city.
Portrait of Takemoto Gidayu
from the collection of
the Osaka City Museum
Portrait of Chikamatsu Monzaemon
from the collection of the Osaka
Though born of a samurai family, Chikamatsu
Monzaemon discarded his birthright as a samurai
and went to Kyoto to be a writer after his
father became masterless. In his thirties,
Chikamatsu wrote joruri plays. In his forties,
he wrote Kabuki plays for the popular actor
six years his senior, Tojuro Sakata.
|The Collaboration between Gidayu and Chikamatsu
When Takemoto Gidayu started to collaborate
with Monzaemon Chikamatsu, two years his
junior, a new partnership between narrator
and writer began. Chikamatsu resumed writing
joruri plays which offered more freedom compared
to restrictive Kabuki plays, and went on
to produce many ningyo joruri scripts exclusively
for the Takemoto-za.
Present-day Dotonbori. Tablet
in from of Naniwaza Theater
marking the spot where
Takemoto-za used to be
Script of Sonezaki Shinju
|The Collaboration between Gidayu and Chikamatsu-
"Sonezaki Shinju" ("Love
Chikamatsu Monzaemon developed a new genre
of drama through his work in ningyo joruri.
It was called "sewamono," and represented
the lives of the city folk around him. His
play "Sonezaki Shinju" ("Love
Suicides at Sonezaki") which dramatizes
a double suicide incident from 1703 became
"Sonezaki Shinju" ("Love Suicides
After his friend Kubeiji swindles
him, Tokubei, an employee of
a soy sauce
store is despairing of any kind
with his lover, the prostitute
they can not be together in this
young couple put their faith
in the next
life and commit suicide together.
is from the "Tenmanya"
the play where they try to affirm
without others noticing.
O-Hatsu doll and performers
When Chikamatsu Monzaemon and
established the foundations of
puppets used in the plays were
manipulated by a single puppeteer.
soon thereafter, the form evolved
three puppeteers per puppet who
find and perfect ways to make
mimic human movement.
|Chikamatsu Monzaemon wrote many pieces for
Bunraku and Kabuki. He is often compared
to William Shakespeare.
In my town Karatsu, there is a temple named
Kinshoji, where Chikamatsu Monzaemon spent
some years of his young studying days.
Chikamatsu's another famous "Sewamono",
"Meido no Hikyaku"