The Puppet Theatre of Japan

The Puppet Theatre of Japan

The Puppet Theatre of Japan

The Puppet Theatre of Japan

Excerpt

A short sail from the busy port of Kobe lies the island of Awaji, a steppingstone between the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku. The Japanese call Awaji the cradle of the puppet theatre. The people of its prosperous farming and fishing community are characterized by the mixture of past and present found everywhere in Japan: they take their produce to market in three-wheeled lorries and have radio and television in their homes; they go to the local cinema or amuse themselves in the ubiquitous pin-ball saloon and chat over coffee or ice cream in the cafés of Sumoto, the principal town. In spite of these modern pastimes, every man and woman in the place is inspired by pride in the local puppet drama.

The Puppeteer

The name of Awaji is synonymous with puppetry. At one time every family on the island was connected with puppets in some way. It is different now, and even in Awaji there is a declining interest in traditional ways due to the changing social pattern of modern life. Nevertheless, the old theatre still remains active, and at the present time there are four different puppet troupes recruited from the local farmers, fishermen, and shopkeepers.

The leader of the principal troupe is a woman, Ichimura Rokunojo. This is her stage name; in private life she is Toyada Hisae, a redoubtable old lady and a native of Kyushu. She is a striking example of the indomitable spirit . . .

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