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2016 BUNRAKU at MAO - Festival Incanti - Teatro di Figura


Bunraku1piccola INCANTI
Rassegna Internazionale di Teatro di Figura
XXIII Edition
Museo d'Arte Orientale

in collaboration with
Unima Japan

Introduction to Bunraku Theater
masterful lesson by Yasuko Senda (Japan)

Thursday 6th October 2016, 18:00h.
Museo d'Arte Orientale
via S. Domenico 11, Turin

Bunraku is one of the major artistic expressions of Japan in the field of performing arts, recognized as Intangible Cultural Property of the country in 1955 and also designated by UNESCO as Intangible Heritage of humanity in 2003.

This theatrical form emerged during the early Edo period around 1600 and it is characterized by the use of large puppets, manipulated on sight. Each puppet is moved by three handlers. Despite the use of puppets, Bunraku is not a children's theater. The Bunraku theater requires also the presence of skilled narrators and samisen players for the musical accompaniment.


The role of the narrator is of great importance, since it is he who allows the puppets to talk and express their feelings. The musicians too interpret and accompany the sentiments expressed by the the puppeteers and the narrator, who plays all the characters, both male and female, and uses different voices and intonations to suit each role and situation. Although the narrator "reads" from a script, there is ample room for improvisation.

The three puppeteers must carefully co-ordinate their movements to ensure that the puppet's gestures and attitudes appear realistic. The puppets, adorned with elaborate costumes and individualized facial expressions, are handcrafted by master puppet makers very appreciated.

Many of the most famous works were written by the great Japanese dramatist, Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724) In 1703, Chikamatsu was the pioneer of a new kind of drama for marionettes. One month after the double suicide of a clerk and a courtesan, Chikamatsu represented what happened in the play "Double love suicide in Sonezaki". The conflict between social obligations and human feelings, present in this work, greatly moved the audiences of the time and became the main topic of Bunraku.

During the eighteenth century, the Bunraku went into competition with the Kabuki theatre, however, at the same time, a strong relationship between the two genres was established: from the perspective of individual roles, the actors of Kabuki imitated the movements of the Bunraku puppets and the style of chanting of the narrators, while puppeteers adapted the stylistic expressions of famous kabuki actors to their puppets.

Gradually eclipsed by the popularity of kabuki, Bunraku began a commercial decline towards the end of the eighteenth century and theaters closed one after another until only the theater Bunraku-za remained. Since World War II, Bunraku began to be subsidized by the government and its popularity to grow again. Thanks to the Bunraku Association, there are regular performances at the National Bunraku Theater in Osaka and the National Theater in Tokyo.

Bunraku nowadays, attracts numerous young performers, and the aesthetic qualities and dramatic content of the plays continue to appeal to modern audiences.


senda3 Yasuko Sendahas studied the Karakuri Ningyo and other traditional forms of Japanese theatre as the Bunraku, Kabuki and Kagura (Performance from Japanese cosmology) for many years. The Karakuri Ningyo are automata that perform both in a domestic situation and in the street and are precursors of the Japanese passion for robots. Ms. Senda has been a lecturer at Shukutoku University of Aichi and is now a representative of NPO Corporation Minerva Nagoya, a Councilor of Japan UNIMA and a member of the Research Commission of International UNIMA.




Yasuko Senda (Japan)

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