• Kabuki / Noh / Rakugo

Bunraku Puppet Plays Get National Treasure Treatment, with Puppeteer Kanjuro Kiritake, Historic Shokoji Temple

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A bunraku puppet play at Shokoji temple in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, on Tuesday

Two bunraku puppet plays, featuring living national treasure and puppeteer Kanjuro Kiritake, were performed on Tuesday at Shokoji temple in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture. Support was provided by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Shokoji is a major temple that served as a missionary base in the region for the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist sect in Toyama region, and it was designated a national treasure in December last year. Tuesday’s performance was thus a collaboration between two national treasures — one a performer, the other a building — and made use of a Japan Tourism Agency subsidy for projects to revive foreign tourism.

The two plays were “Hinomiyagura no Dan” (“Scene of the Fire Watchtower”) from “Datemusume Koi no Hikanoko” (“The Red-hot Love of the Greengrocer’s Daughter”), which depicts the young woman Oshichi’s desperate pursuit of her lover, and “Okuniwa Kitsunebi no Dan” (“Scene of Foxfires in the Inner Garden”) from “Honcho Nijushiko” (“The Japanese Twenty-four Examples of Filial Piety”), which depicts the unyielding love of Princess Yaegaki, daughter of warlord Uesugi Kenshin.

Some 100 theatergoers filled the temple’s solemn main hall, and watched Kanjuro nimbly maneuver the puppets.

A 61-year-old woman from Imizu, Toyama Prefecture, who has adored bunraku since her school days, expressed delight at the performance. “The stage was so close. I’ve never seen a bunraku performance that felt so real,” she said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A bunraku puppet play at Shokoji temple in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, on Tuesday