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Old Tales Revisited: The Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater

  • In the northern part of Tokushima City, situated just above the Yoshino River, there sits an old-fashioned mansion that quietly keeps hundreds of years of tradition alive. The Awa Jurobe Yashiki (Puppet Theater and Museum) specializes in a unique style of historical drama, known as ningyo joruri or bunraku, that combines puppetry, narration, and music provided by a shamisen (a traditional Japanese instrument). Visitors can see performances throughout the year, learn about the history of puppetry in Japan, and enjoy the serene garden on the grounds.

    Old Tales Revisited: The Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater

    Old Tales Revisited: The Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater

    The history of bunraku in Japan goes back as far as the 11th century, when wandering puppeteers would perform for donations. It wasn’t until the 17th century that a formal theater was established in Osaka, catapulting the art form to new levels of popularity and establishing a new cultural touchstone. In 2003, UNESCO recognized the art form of bunraku as an intangible cultural heritage, further preserving it for future generations.

    Old Tales Revisited: The Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater

    Old Tales Revisited: The Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater

    Three people operate a single puppet simultaneously, which allows for an amazing range of subtle, lifelike movements. The heads of the puppets can be manipulated by a series of triggers. With just the pull of a trigger the puppeteer can make the puppet nod its head, open its mouth, shift its eyes, and more. The master puppeteer controls the head and the right hand of the puppet, another controls the left hand, and the final puppeteer controls the feet. All the performers are dressed in black so that they blend in with the background and don’t distract the audience from the movements of the puppets.

    Old Tales Revisited: The Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater

    Old Tales Revisited: The Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater

    To accompany the puppets’ movement, music is played by a shamisen, which is a type of three-stringed plucked instrument. This style of music will be easily recognized by anyone who has ever seen a movie set in historical Japan. While the shamisen player provides music, a narrator chants and sings the story. The puppeteers don’t actually speak, so the narrator provides the dialogue between the characters. When all these elements are combined, live ningyo joruri performances serve as a testament to the skill and artistry of the performers behind them.

    Old Tales Revisited: The Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater

    Old Tales Revisited: The Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater

    The Awa Jurobe Yashiki presents several classic tales that became popular during the golden age of puppet theater in Japan, such as the Act of the Pilgrim Song, a story about a family separated from their daughter by political turmoil and a need for secrecy. The museum portion of the grounds displays a collection of dolls with information on their construction and the history of puppet theater in Japan. Visitors can also stop by the traditional garden next to the main house to admire the scenery and relax after a show.

  • Tickets and Show Times

    Tickets and Show Times

    Tickets and Show Times

    Visitors can see performances at 11am and 2pm on most days. Their regular hours are from 9:30am to 5pm, so visitors can have a look around the museum or garden included on the grounds. From August 11th to the 16th, there are shows at 10am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 3pm. During this week, they also stay open until 6pm. Ticket prices are 410 yen for adults, 300 yen for high school and university students, and 200 yen for children.

    Tokushima Prefectural Awa Jurobe Yashiki (Puppet Theater and Museum)
    Address
    Tokushima Pref. Tokushimashi Kawauchichou Miyajimahonura 184
    Phone
    0886652202
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