Narrator and Japanese man of the theatre, innovator in ningyō jōruri (see Bunraku). Born to a peasant family in the Osaka area, he began his career as a student of Kiyomizu Rihei. Marking the clear and powerful elocution of Inoue Harima-no-jō and the more nuanced and delicate delivery of Uji Kago-no-jō, Takemoto Gidayū worked on synthesizing the art of these two great masters of “old” jōruri, creating a new style of narration, called gidayū bushi, which little by little supplanted the earlier styles and was finally adopted by almost all ningyō jōruri professionals.

Unable to open his own theatre in Kyoto, he toured the provinces before establishing himself in Osaka in the Dōtonbori theatre district where he opened the Takemoto-za in 1684. Placing importance on scripts of great literary quality and poetry, he provided author Chikamatsu Monzaemon with his marvellous talent as a narrator, allowing this theatre to triumph over rivals.

Takemoto Gidayū experienced a grave financial crisis at the beginning of the 1700s, but, thanks to the success of Chikamatsu’s newly invented sewamono (domestic tragedy) plays, financial difficulties were resolved. Not only did he intelligently align himself with the greatest playwright of the era, but also he hired the best artists for each aspect of puppetry. Therefore, he performed with Takezawa Gen’emon and puppeteer Tatsumatsu Hachirobei, forming the triumvirate that made the Takemoto-za the centre of puppet theatre in the period.

He left manuscripts of particular importance, showing techniques of performing and a number of great narrators in his lineage performed under the name Takemoto. His immediate successor was Harima-no-jō (Masadayū I, 1691-1744). His style continued through the Meiji period with figures like Nagatodayū (1814-1890) and Settsudayū (1836-1917), both masters of the Bunraku-za. And it was passed to Koshijidayū IV (1913-2002), who was a “Living National Treasure” of the Kokuritsu Bunraku Gekijō (National Bunraku Theatre). Current holders of the lineage name who are, likewise, designated as Living National Treasures are Takemoto Sumitayū VII (b.1924) and Takemoto Tsunatayū IX (b.1932).

(See Japan.)