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Traditional Japanese Performing Arts - Ningyo Joruri

This video, titled "Tokushima's Wooden Ningyo Joruri Puppets|Footprints of the Puppets "AWA DEKO" (人形浄瑠璃を支える徳島の木偶 Footprints of the Puppets “AWA DEKO”), was uploaded by Joruri Kaido (浄瑠璃街道).
It introduces Ningyo Joruri, a traditional Japanese culture.

Ningyo Joruri is a type of puppet theater in which a story is performed by three puppeteers, a tayu (joruri narrator), and a shamisen player.
In this article, we'll introduce the puppets behind Ningyo Joruri, a traditional Japanese performing art.

The History of Ningyo Joruri, a Traditional Japanese Performing Art

Awa Ningyo Joruri is a traditional Japanese art form that has been handed down in Tokushima Prefecture for centuries.
Ningyo Joruri, which originated in Osaka in the Edo Period (1603-1868) as a form of mass entertainment, is a composite art form in which the tayu, shamisen, and the puppets work together to create a wonderful story.

In addition to being enjoyed as a form of mass entertainment, Ningyo Joruri is often performed with the same high artistic quality as bunraku, and performed as a Shinto ritual.

The Artisans Behind Ningyo Joruri Puppets

The puppets used in Ningyo Joruri are called "deko," and most of the heads of deko are hand made by puppeteers in Awa.
The construction of the wooden figurines is so elaborate that referring to them any differently would be to disrespect the craftsmanship of the artisans.
Awa Deko are a larger variety of puppets used in Ningyo Joruri, so paulownia wood is used as a material to make them lighter.

The puppets are designed to manipulate facial expressions and gestures through mechanisms inside their heads, and the craftsman's elaborate techniques are indispensable in creating each masterpiece.
You can see how Yoichiro Amari, an Awa Ningyo Joruri Craftsman, creates the puppets at 1:04 in the video.

The face is carefully carved out of paulownia wood with a carving knife, cut in two in front of the ears as seen at 2:02, and then mechanisms to control the eyes, mouth, and eyebrows are placed inside the hollowed-out head.

Learn More About Ningyo Joruri, a Traditional Japanese Performing Art

In Tokushima Prefecture, there's "Matsushige-cho Rekishi Minzoku Shiryokan, Ningyo Joruri Shibai Shiryokan," a museum where visitors can learn about the history and culture of Japan’s Ningyo Joruri.
At the museum, visitors can learn about the types of puppets, the materials used to make them, how they're made, the techniques used by the artisans, and the steps to completing one.

The Tokushima Prefectural Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater and Museum (徳島県立阿波十郎兵衛屋敷), where you can see Ningyo Joruri performances up close, is also a great place to visit.
If you're looking to experience traditional Japanese culture, we highly recommend stopping by and checking out a performance.

Summary of Ningyo Joruri, a Traditional Japanese Performing Art

The artisans who make the elaborate wooden puppets are essential to Ningyo Joruri, a traditional art form loved by many.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the amazing culture of Ningyo Joruri, a traditional Japanese performing art that has been loved through the ages.

Written By
Dec. 14, 2020
Japan
坂崎 なお(Nao Sakazaki)
Interested in Japanese culture and traditions! I'll be introducing lovely scenery to you!
Exploring the World of Ningyo Joruri - Traditional Japanese Puppet Theater. Discover the Amazing Process of Creating These Priceless Works of Art Made by Skilled Puppeteers!
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