An island nation in East Asia, Japan (Japanese: 日本, Nippon or Nihon, “sun origin”) is located in the Pacific Ocean and lies east of the Sea of Japan. Neighbouring countries are China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia. The archipelago of Japan includes 6,852 islands; the four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku.

In ancient times in Japan, people believed the deities resided in the mountains, so for village festivals they set up trees, cut from mountain forests, to be temporary abodes for the gods honoured in the ceremonies. Trees with finer, smaller branches were thought to better hold the divine spirit. The sakaki (cleyera japonica) tree in particular was venerated: officiants used it in celebrations, waving its branches over their heads in ceremonies, but often sticks decorated with strips of white paper served as a substitute. The priests invited the descent of the gods, queried them, and interpreted their messages. In this manner, it is thought that puppetry began with the priests and mediums manipulating the sacred stick, and are thus the “ancestors” of the puppeteers. In the absence of documents before the 7th century when writing was introduced from China, archaeological vestiges may attest to the presence of puppets, but one cannot really be sure they were used in ancient cultural practices and rituals. But still we can form a hypothesis about their existence.

The Ancient Period (593-1185 CE)

In Japan, as in other countries of North East Asia, one finds traces of puppetry in shamanic religious services. We know, for example, that at the time of the invasion of the Korean kingdom of Koguryo (Kogoryo, Goguryeo) by the Chinese troops of Gaozu (566-635 CE), the first emperor and founder of the Tang Dynasty of China (618-909), precious puppets were part of the booty sent to the Chinese ruler. A Japanese document from the end of the 8th century glosses a Chinese Buddhist text, using the word kukutsu, later kugutsu, to designate a type of object. This word was, over time, adopted in Japan for puppet, and the manipulators were called kugutsu mawashi (itinerant puppeteers). The term appears with other words in the Sino-Japanese dictionary: Wamyō Ruiju Shō (Collection of Japanese Names, c.930 CE), where kugutsu is given as the Japanese pronunciation for the Chinese kairaishi (puppet).

The oldest puppets in Japan are from the excavations of the palace of Nara, the nation’s capital in the epoch of the same name (710-784). One puppet is about 15 centimetres tall, is of cedar and shows a bearded man wearing a cap; the piece forming the body is pierced at the shoulders and the legs, allowing the arms and legs to be attached. Similar puppets are conserved at the sanctuaries of Kohyō and Koyō, near the city of Nakatsu on the north-east coast of Kyūshū. They are made of wood, with dangling arms and legs; twine at the shoulders allows the two arms to rise, and the rod by which the puppet is held extends from one leg. These puppets are still used in festivals of sanctuaries and presented before dances inspired by bugaku, Chinese and continentally- inspired court dance introduced to Japan at the beginning of the Heian period (784-1185). Fights of sumo wrestlers figure in worship of two clashing camps of divinities. After many vicissitudes, when the “wicked” seem to win, the god Sumiyoshi intervenes to assure victory of the “good” and reverses vigorously the assembled line up of adversaries.

One also encounters puppet heads carved of wood and mounted on a rod; and held at chest level they seem to be regarded as precious objects and presumably these were used in religious ceremonies. These primitive puppets, derived from the stick held by priests and mediums, remind us that traditional celebrations still are found at certain temples and sanctuaries. Notable is the case of ceremonies consecrated to Oshira-sama, divine protector of silkworms in North Japan. The miko (female mediums) manipulate three figures that are characters in a legend narrating the origin of the silkworm, the fruit of love between a young girl and a divine horse. In fact, the miko uses the puppet at the end of the incantation to consult the spirits and does not really tell the story.

Toward the end of the Heian period, written and iconographical documents become more numerous. In effect, many of the performance genres that had arrived in the meantime came from China, usually via Korea. The dance and mask procession gigaku, the bugaku dance with its gagaku music thought to come from the Tang (618-907) court, and the sangaku (later saragaku or “monkey music” which involved circus acrobatics and other fairground acts), are in part originating from Central Asia. Contests or displays of strength, acrobatics, fortune telling and magic displays, dances, farces, and pantomimes – all were certainly sometimes performed with puppets. These were very popular performances of their times, as evinced by written sources which use diverse terms for these now obscurely known genres. Kairaishi-ki (Record on Puppeteers) is a court text by Ōe no Masafusa (1041-1111) which describes the puppeteers as members of a group of nomadic hunters who live in tents and travel on horseback. They perform mimes and puppet shows as they tour. Their shows include dances and spectacular fights by fantastic figures. Their women, who are also prostitutes heavily rouged and adorned, sang, and perform lascivious dances to attract passers by. These kugutsu mawashi are depicted as living on the margins and outside the social system. They are foreigners from the continent, probably Central Asia. This description poses problems in that we have no other document that confirms the presence of such an uncontrolled group of nomads. The shows themselves are documented, but it seems as though the showmen, mostly itinerant, were attached to religious centres and resident in the communities that they serviced. Considerable ink has been devoted to the etymology of kairaishi/kugutsu: scholars’ explanations range from purely indigenous origins to Indo-European sources that would make the itinerant performers descendants of Rom (gypsies). The entertainments of the time are described in other Heian documents, particularly the Shin Sarugaku-ki (New Record of Sarugaku “Monkey Music”/An Account of the New Sarugaku) written by Fujiwara no Akihira (989-1066), a high-ranking aristocrat, and the Shinzei kogaku zu (Shinzei’s Illustrations of Ancient Entertainments) written by another aristocratic scholar, Fujiwara no Michinori (1106-1159), known as Shinzei. The first document specifically mentions a puppet performance among the twenty-eight acts of sarugaku organized for a festival on the outskirts of the capital. The second document contains a drawing showing two well-proportioned puppets about one metre high sumo wrestling. They are standing, arms slightly apart, and are manipulated by a rod attached to their backs.

The Medieval Period (1185-1603)

Curiously enough, the puppeteers are no longer talked about in the next period and we have to wait nearly three hundred years for the next reference. Of course the lack of written or visual documents does not prove that they totally disappeared, but does at least signal a serious decline in popularity. Be that as it may, the puppeteers reappear in Kanmon gyoki (Record of Things Seen and Heard, 1416-1448) of Prince Sadafusa who mentions entertainments at court in 1416 by te-kugutsu, a form in which puppets execute an assortment of acts. Use of various types of puppets seems to have been rather common at court in the 15th and 16th centuries. Documents note puppets of coloured paper which are illuminated from inside as the tōrō ningyō of Annaka (a city in Gunma Prefecture, north of today’s Tokyo) and the “fire” puppets (tsunabi) suspended on strings like tightrope walkers, appearing in an explosion of fireworks: the same kind of spectacle we found in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Temples and village communities volunteered for puppetry and some of the figures were large size, representing lions, serpents, or dragons in acrobatic displays. Figures might also play well-known legendary scenes during the many festivals.

These puppets still appear today during some local festivals, matsuri, celebrated annually. One also sees scenes and arrangements of automata and puppets mounted on boxes (ayatsuri-mono, now called karakuri; see Karakuri Ningyō), which are elaborately decorated with diverse mechanisms inside. Imported from China, these diversions astonished viewers on first encounters, but did not have a theatrical basis and were originally largely curiosities for aristocrats and rich merchants’ houses. Ayatsuri-mono were not used in religious rites or ceremonies, and, therefore, ordinary people barely saw them. But, soon, the objects inspired itinerant artists who showed them and fueled their popularity. Rod figures were mostly displayed in a box slung from the manipulator’s neck giving animators’ greater freedom of movement. Figures were moved by rods that were masked by the box. Small groups presented sketches and dance numbers. This form developed all through the 15th century dominated by performers known as Ebisu kaki (Ebisu god of fortune puppeteers). These puppeteers were attached to the Shinto temple of Settsu Nishinomiya, in the area of Osaka which was consecrated to that divinity. For seasonal celebrations, especially the New Year festivals, the performers went from house to house, invoking the protection of Ebisu and other protective figures. But soon groups regularly toured the provinces presenting ritual dances of Ebisu and the three auspicious old men – Okina, Senzai, and Sanbasō – figures presented in dances drawn mostly from the related arts of , kyōgen, and kusemai dance.

Then, towards the end of the Middle Ages, the art of the puppet developed into multiple styles, according to the places and circumstances, leaving the category of religious ritual or temple ceremony behind. The presenters were intertwined with other artistic lines, especially the tellers of epic or morality tales. Soon the artists were coming from the new urban class, the chōnin, gradually replacing the blind singer-narrators attached to religious centres. Takino Kōtō and Sawazumi Kengyō adapted the shamisen, a three-string banjo-like instrument imported from China to Okinawa to accompany their narration. Their principal students coming from the urban artists followed suit. Equipped with puppets from the island of Awaji and Nishinomiya, they gave birth around l590-1600 to ningyō jōruri.

Edo: First Period (1603-1685)

During the 17th century, there were three kinds of puppet performances: the nō ayatsuri which, as indicated by the name, is puppet presentations of the repertoire; the sekkyō ayatsuri that presented popular medieval stories with narration in the song style of sekkyō bushi (Buddhist miracle ballad); and finally there was the already mentioned ningyō jōruri or jōruri ayatsuri – the future Bunraku. This third kind of puppet performance developed a new repertoire narrated in a brisker rhythm; it favoured the lighter musical sound of the shamisen accompaniment. The three genres were in competition in the imperial capital of Kyoto, the centre of classical Japanese culture, and Osaka, the heart of the briskly developing mercantile economy. Soon, companies were producing all over the country and well-known chanters like Satsuma Jōun (1593-1669) and Sugiyama Tango-no-jō (c.1600-c.1680) opened theatres in Edo, the country’s new political and administrative centre. Performers met good success, although a major fire in 1657 caused some to retreat to Kansai (the Kyoto-Osaka region). Toward the end of the century, the situation was well defined: ningyō jōruri reigned almost unchallenged in the world of puppetry as nō ayatsuri practically vanished and sekkyō ayatsuri was only preserved in the removed provinces to the east and north, like Sado-go-shima.

The early repertoire of ningyō jōruri began from medieval sources that were based on the respected tradition of oral narrative, with religious tales and historical, especially military, epics. There were stories of the tutelary deities of temples and sanctuaries. Amida no munewari (Amida’s Riven Breast, also known as The Chest-Splitting of Amida Buddha, 1614), for example, has a miraculous ending for the heroine who, about to be sacrificed, is replaced by Amida Buddha as victim. Historical legends told the exploits of great warriors, particularly those of the epic Heike cycle, the struggle between the Taira and Minamoto clans for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century in the Genpei War (1180-1185). These tales had been spread by the wandering singers and blind musicians, storytellers who chanted these stories all over the country during the medieval period. The quarrels of succession of the great families and the misfortunes of the rulers were popular themes. These variants had a particular appeal in Edo where the genre kimpira bushi prevailed. Created by the new generation of narrators, the genre was specifically meant for the audience of idle samurai and townsmen, hungry for scenes of combat and martial exploits. Heroes are the four brave ones, sons of warriors of Minamoto no Yorimitsu (948-1021) whose exploits had long been popular. The sons’ adventures were even more fantastical and inventive than those of their fathers. Kansai narrators elaborated on the simple, carefully written repertoire. But at the same time ningyō jōruri willingly embraced a position which, in contrast to the spare aesthetic, mixed intrigues into more complex tales of elaborate adventures and heroic exploits, including sad and sentimental scenes, love stories, burlesque sketches, and elegant dance interludes.

Later in the 17th century, the ningyō jōruri repertoire would be divided into two broad categories, sewamono (domestic plays about ordinary people, usually merchants and geishas) and jidaimono (historical plays).

The principal manipulators of ningyō jōruri during this early Edo period originally played in a manner called ko jōruri (old puppetry). Among performers in this style were Yamamoto Kakudayū (?-1700), Inoue Harima (1632-1685), and Uji Kaga-no-jō (1636-1711).

In the medieval period the performances were usually attached to temple sanctuaries or courts of aristocrats or rulers. Next, they were presented in public spaces authorized for festivals. Later, with the urban boom at the beginning of the 19th century, there appeared permanent performance areas for puppets, kabuki, and other arts. These theatres were first temporary structures, easily taken down and moved, but they signal the advance toward fixed, permanently constructed theatre spaces. Such theatres offered stability to the performances as commercial enterprises, independent of the traditional festival calendar. Although and kabuki preferred flat, open areas, the space used for puppets was generally closed, giving the impression of a proscenium arch, an extension in some ways of the earlier ayatsuri-mono box. The manipulators worked hidden behind the screen, which generally sloped down toward the public. This arrangement created a neutral space separated from the spectators, offering audiences a good view of the puppets. Long strips of cloth stretched between poles served as both the masking and the place for the setting’s décor. Generally the wings were wide and abutted on an open space. The audience’s view was concentrated on what happened in front of them and not on the manipulators or on the narrators and musicians who themselves were installed behind the puppeteers or to the side in a box which was covered by a bamboo blind. In actuality, however, the visual documentation from the period shows there was considerable variation in the position of the narrators or the visibility of artists. But, in any case, when at the houses of lords or rich merchants, the artists played in open view of the public.

Many types of puppets were used in the Edo period: three types were important, all of which are distinct from glove puppets, and the last of which eventually resulted in Bunraku. The first was characterized by a thin torso and under the sheath the figure was moved by a mechanism (karakuri ningyō) and with strings. The second type was manipulated by three rods under the puppet’s costume – with one for the head, and one for each arm. Perhaps this style was imported from China, where to the present day one finds similar puppets. This technique was primarily used by artists presenting plays. Such figures were used in many places in Japan for propitiatory dances inspired by nō. An example is Shiki-sambasō (felicitous Sambasō) given for traditional celebrations. It was with this type of Sambasō figure (an old man who brings luck), for example, that itinerant artists performed. The last type of figure was constantly perfected and eventually developed into ningyō jōruri.

Fundamentally, this last-mentioned figure consisted of a narrow board that formed the shoulders of the puppet and which was traversed by a rod on which the head is mounted. The oldest specimen of this type is armless, with simple dangling kimono sleeves. The manipulator passes his hands under the costume, holds the head rod in his left hand and slides his right hand into the right sleeve of the puppet’s costume to make diverse gestures, holding props directly in the puppeteer’s hand. From the 1670s, the puppets were improved by the addition of hands, feet, and finally fingers, making for a more complex manipulation system. The evolution was aided through the popularity of karakuri ningyō, automatons with mechanisms – springs and strings – which were sometimes animated by using elements, like water, sand, or mercury. At first, these figures were more a festival attraction (misemono) than theatrical devices, but in 1662 Takeda Ōmi opened a theatre specializing in mechanical puppets, giving performances where automatons were sometimes combined with puppets animated by hands. In this period, ningyō jōruri borrowed from the karakuri ningyō to create special effects and performance models: various acrobatic feats, metamorphoses and transformations, apparitions, and fantastic creatures were found. However, some troupes in Edo also presented string puppets, which had some success although not displacing the popular ningyō jōruri.

Edo – Genroku Period to the End of the Shogunate (1688-1868)

With the arrival of the Genroku (1688-1704), which is considered the Japanese equivalent of the Renaissance, the repertoire evolved and the genre developed, leaving behind ko jōruri’s medieval heritage.

Because of the quality of performances, the Takemoto-za and the Toyotake-za, two theatres in Osaka, dominated the world of ningyō jōruri. Certainly, other theatres were active in Kyoto, Nagoya, and Edo (later renamed Tokyo), but the drama creations and perfection of technique came from these two companies that produced the best artists who sometimes circulated between the two houses. The Takemoto-za could count on the work of the incomparable Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725) and the puppets of Tatsumatsu Hachirobei which allowed Takemoto Gidayū (l651-l714) to deploy his full singing and narrative resources. Gidayū developed a new chanting style which completely supplanted previous ones, and it was adapted by almost all subsequent narrators to the point that gidayū bushi (literally, singing in Gidayū’s style) became almost synonymous with ningyõ jōruri. The Toyotake-za (see Toyotake Wakadayū) also lined up artists of great talent and the house playwright Kinokaion (1663-1742) created plays of great quality.

In the first part of the 17th century, there were many innovations that later defined the definitive style. With the advent of more developed libretti and more sophisticated writing, the narrators ceased to include direct address to the audience and moderated the comic sketches and other interlude numbers (given in the way that kyōgen comedy alternates with seriousness). These older characteristics disappeared from the programme.

To allow the elaborate choreography of many puppets, the scenic space was expanded and the staging structure was provided with a frame in front of a flat area. Various mechanisms allowed spectacular set changes in full view of the audience.

The masters, becoming the real stars, abandoned their screened or curtained areas that hid them from the public. Now they played in full view. This marked the arrival of degatari (where tayū narrator and shamisen player appear on an open dais) and dezukai (visible manipulators). These characteristics of ningyō jōruri (see Bunraku) allow the spectator to see at once the puppets and the working artists involved. Finally, at the end of the 1730s, the system of three manipulators (sannin-zukai) was favoured. With the help of his two assistants, the master attained perfect synchronization of the head, arms, and feet. This development finally supplanted other options. (See also Yoshida Bunzaburō.) Of course, the older puppetry style with a single manipulator remained in some groups that presented at local festivals and in remote areas, as on Sado Island (Sado-Ga-Shima), but otherwise the new system prevailed.

Puppet theatre reached its height between 1730 and 1760 in the plays of Takeda Izumo, Namiki Sōsuke and their collaborators (see Takeda (family)). These works multiplied spectacular tableaux and bravura displays which needed the three-man manipulation and perfection of scenic techniques. Although these works were triumphant, this did not stop ningyō jōruri from having a crisis in the middle decades of the 18th century, as it sunk before the rising tide of the popular kabuki, which borrowed from the puppet theatre’s repertoire. Kabuki was always the more flamboyant art and could count on the power of talented actors and, before long, great playwrights whose plays were more in tune with contemporary society than those of jōruri authors. Difficulties also arose from the three-person manipulation, which impacted heavily on theatre budgets. Nonetheless, due to the efforts of a line of puppeteers from Awaji Island, the genre recovered somewhat in the first part of the 19th century when Uemura Bunrakuken I (1737 1751?-1810) became a central figure in a professional troupe that played regularly in temple precincts in Osaka (see Bunraku-Za, Chikamatsu Hanji.)

Modern Period (1868-1945)

Radical changes came with the Meiji era (1868-1912), but ningyō jōruri kept a steady audience at some houses. In 1872, Bunrakuō, a descendant of the first Bunrakuken, opened his own theatre, the Bunraku-za, leading a handful of companies that no longer exist. These last decades of the 19th century were enlivened by the challenge to the Bunraku-za tossed down by the Hikoroku-za (founded in 1884). The two companies were rivals for the best talents, particularly the great shamisen player Toyozawa Danpei II (Toyozawa Dampei, 1827/1828-1898), the extraordinary manipulator Yoshida Tamazō (1828-1905), and a string of great narrators in the Takemoto line such as Ōsumidayū Koshikidayū, Settsu Daijō and Nagatodayū. Nonetheless, the two groups functioned as conservatories and preserved the great classics, faithfully following the canonical interpretations. Artists of this period neither modernized with the times nor expanded the repertoire. Finally, toward the turn of the 20th century, came another collapse. The Bunraku-za (which employed 110 artists) was acquired by the theatrical conglomerate Shōchiku (Shochiku Company Limited) which held the puppet company as a specialty troupe in the art of Bunraku which had become by now the name of one of the genres of ningyō jōruri.

However, independent of the Bunraku-za some professionals attempted in the mid-19th century to solve their economic problems by developing a new technique which allowed a single animator to control the whole Bunraku figure. The technique, kuruma ningyō (literally, “puppets on wheels”, also called “cart puppetry”), used a small, wheeled wagon on which the manipulator sat, and it achieved some success in the Tokyo area. A professional company in Hachiōjī (on the outskirts of Tokyo) still practises this art.

Another development took place a little later at the beginning of the 20th century when women were finally allowed to perform as solo operators of a figure. Called Otome Bunraku (young woman’s puppets), the style achieved some popularity and is practised and taught by the troupe Ningyō-Gekidan Hitomi-za (Hitomi-Za Puppet Troupe). The technique employs a puppet of slightly reduced proportions and has an ingenious system of strings to attach the figure to the head, waist, and knees of the puppeteer: the manipulator uses her body and not just her hands to animate the puppet. The solo performer is accompanied by a singer (gidayu) who provides narration and song, and a shamisen player, who provides the music. These last two genres can be seen as evolutions of Bunraku and present the same repertoire.

Contemporary Period (Since l945)

After the war, the Bunraku-za, whose theatre was destroyed by American air raids, revived; firstly, in 1946 in temporary premises and from 1956 in a new building in the theatre district of Osaka. Nonetheless, the postwar ideologies split the Bunraku-za artists into two groups, the progressive Mitsuwa-kai and the conservative Chinami-kai, both operating in different sites.

In the 1950s, Bunraku tried a few experiments at modernization in repertoire, adopting Western dramas such as Hamlet and opera libretti – Madame Butterfly, La Traviata – and some pieces set in the 19th century Meiji era. But, judged less than successful, these attempts were not pursued. It quickly became clear that the future lay not in innovation, but, as with opera, in preservation of the repertoire that offered artists the possibility of using all the facets of their talents and displayed the incomparable aesthetics of traditional ningyō jōruri. Moreover, the maintenance of Bunraku proved a heavy responsibility for Shōchiku. After losing the older masters who remained true to the form, the enterprise was given up as financially unviable and government authorities were called upon to intervene. In 1963, the Bunraku Kyōkai (Bunraku Association) was established as a non-profit organization to manage the troupe. Reunified, the groups, by 1984, were merged and established as the National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka (see Kokuritsu Bunraku Gekijō). The survival of Bunraku, recognized and protected as a “National Treasure” was assured. At the same time, the puppets of Awaji successfully reorganized as an association, Awaji Ningyō Kyōkai: in addition to giving performances in the Awaji theatre (see Awaji Ningyō-Za), this group was dynamic in organizing national and international festivals and contests. Performances of traditional puppetry are also given on the island of Sado (Sado-Ga-Shima) and in the context of local festivals, ritual celebrations, and folkloric presentations that are organized throughout the archipelago.

The art of string puppetry is also upheld by the Yūki-za (founded 1635) which continues the tradition of one of the first theatres of Edo. It also presents modern avant-garde plays. The Takeda-za, which comes from the same lineage, presents mostly for children or television, also.

Globally, Bunraku has had international recognition and official protection –proclaimed in 2003 as a UNESCO “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”. With the fashion for folk heritage performances and local festivals, survival of this traditional puppet theatre is assured.

Material artefacts are conserved principally at: The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum at Waseda University in Tokyo, founded in memory of Dr Tsubouchi Shōyō (1859-1935, an important theatre researcher-playwright); at the City Museum of Osaka; and at the National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka. Waseda University and the National Theatre in Tokyo have specialized theatre libraries.

Looking at the diverse forms of modern puppet theatre, we find all types of puppet manipulation systems – glove (hand), string, rod puppetry, sometimes combined with shadows or actors. Puppets were also often used in the service of the progressive movement. Toward the end of the 1920s, Ningyō-Gekidan PŪKU (PUK Puppet Theatre) was founded, a progressive group that remains active to the present as a centre of contemporary puppetry and which is the most important and active company in Japan. In the period after World War II, a number of amateur and professional groups formed in the wake of PUK, and these groups helped popularize the genre.

In today’s Japan there are approximately 130 professional puppetry companies and over 2,000 active amateur groups. UNIMA-Japan (NIHON-UNIMA) has 270 members, comprising professional companies and amateur groups as well as individual researchers (2013 figures). The organization’s two principal roles are to disseminate Japanese puppetry abroad and to act as a communication medium between puppeteers in Japan and abroad.

Japanese puppet companies and groups mainly perform in nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools. Most prefectures in Japan have a non-governmental department that arranges performances throughout the year, known as Zenkoku-Oyako Gekijo-Kodomo Gekijo-Renrakukai (Association for Organizing Family Audience). Community activities supported by local authorities involving puppetry are also active; each year approximately 100 puppet festivals are held locally. These performances increasingly not only target children but adults as well, consequently there is a wide and diverse programme of performances. According to UNIMA Japan statistics, in 2012 there were about 1,700,000 attendances at puppet theatres throughout the country.

Nevertheless, in 2014, the influences of the current recession and the changing policies regarding the Japanese education system have had a significant effect on puppet theatre. At the moment, the situation is not optimistic for puppeteers. However, fortunately, our history shows that Japanese puppeteers have overcome difficulties they have faced by applying dynamism and producing new, creative works so there will always be a bright future for puppetry in Japan.

(See also Hyakki-Dondoro, IIDA Ningyōgeki Fesuta (IIDA Puppet Festa), Ningyō-Gekidan Kurarute (La Clarte Puppet Troupe), Ningyō-Gekidan Kyōgei (Kyōgei Puppet Theatre), Ningyō-Gekidan Musubi-Za (Musubi-Za Puppet Theatre), Ningyō-Gekijo-Takenoko (Takenoko Puppet Troupe), Saibata-Ningyoza-Asahi-Wakateru-Ichiza (Saibata-Asahi Wakateru Puppet Troupe), Takeda Sennosuke.)


  • Adachi, Barbara. Backstage at Bunraku. New York (NY): Weatherhill, 1985.
  • Brandon, James, ed. Chūshingura. Studies in Kabuki and the Puppet Theater. Honolulu:Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1982.
  • Dunn, Charles J. The Early Puppet Drama in Japan. London: Luzac, 1966.
  • Gerstle, Andrew. Circles of Fantasy: Convention in the Plays of Chikamatsu. Cambridge (MA): Harvard Univ. Press, 1986.
  • Gerstle, Andrew, Kiyoshi Inobe, and William Malm. Theater as Music: The Bunraku Play “Mt. Imo & Mt. Se: An Exemplary Tale of Womanly Virtue”. “Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies”. No. 4. Ann Arbor (MI): Univ. of Michigan, 1990.
  • Keene, Donald. Bunraku: The Art of the Japanese Puppet Theater. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1965.
  • Law, Jane Marie. Puppets of Nostalgia: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of the Japanese Awaji Ningyō Tradition. Princeton (NJ): Princeton Univ. Press, 1997.
  • Ortolani, Benito. The Japanese Theatre: From Shamanistic Ritual to Contemporary  Pluralism. Princeton (NJ): Princeton Univ. Press, 1995 (revised ed.).
  • Pimpaneau, Jacques. Fantômes manipulés: Le théâtre de poupées au Japon [Manipulated Ghosts: The Puppet Theatre in Japan]. Paris: Université Paris 7, Centre de publication Asie orientale, 1978.
  • Scott, A.C. The Puppet Theatre of Japan. Rutland (VT) and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1963.
  • Sieffert, René, and Michel Wasserman. Arts du Japon: Théâtre classique. Paris: Maison des Cultures du monde/POF, 1983.
  • Chikamatsu, Monzaemon. Chikamatsu’s Five Late Plays. Trans. A. Gerstle. New York (NY): Columbia Univ. Press, 2001.
  • Chikamatsu, Monzaemon. Les Tragédies bourgeoises [Domestic Tragedies]. Trans. René Sieffert. 4 vols. Paris: POF, 1991-1993.
  • Chikamatsu, Monzaemon. The Battles of Coxinga. Trans. Donald Keene. London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1951.
  • Jones Jr., Stanleigh H., trans. and ed. Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy. New York (NY): Columbia Univ. Press, 1985.
  • Jones Jr., Stanleigh H., trans. and ed. Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees. New York (NY): Univ. of Columbia Press, 1991.
  • Keene, Donald, trans. Major Plays of Chikamatsu. New York (NY): Columbia Univ. Press, 1961.
  • Sieffert, René, and Michel Wasserman, trans. Le Mythe des 47 rônin. Paris: POF, 1981.
  • Chikamatsu no jidai [The Times of Chikamatsu]. Vol. 8.
  • Jōruri no tanjō to ko-jōruri [The Birth of Jōruri and the Old Jōruri]. Vol. 7.
  • Konnichi no bunraku [Bunraku Today]. Vol. 10.
  • Ningyō Jōruri butai-shi [History of the Staging of Ningyō Jōruri]. Ningyō butai-shi kenkyū-kai, ed. Tokyo: Yagi Shoten, 1991.
  • Ōgon jidai no jōruri to sono go [The Golden Age of Jōruri and its Aftermath]. Vol. 9.
  • Senda, Yasuko. Karakuri Ningyo: Japanese Automata からくり人形. Trans. Tom Slemmons. Nagoya: Senda Yasuko Publishing, 2012. (In English)
  • Torigoe, Bunzō, Mikiko Uchiyama, and Tamotsu Watanabe, eds. Iwanami Kōza. Kabuki-Bunraku [The Iwanami Reviews: Kabuki and Bunraku]. 10 vols. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998.
  • Tsunoda, Ichirō. Ningyō-geki no seiritsu ni kansuru kenkyū [Research on the Training of Puppet Theatre]. Osaka: Asahiya Shoten, 1963.
  • Uchiyama, Mikiko. Jōruri no jūhasseiki [The Eighteenth Century in the History of Jōruri]. Tokyo: Benseisha, 1989.
  • Uno, Koshirō. Gendai ni ikiru dentō ningyō shibai [Traditional Puppet Theatre Today]. Tokyo: Bansei Shobō, 1981.