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Bunraku Performances

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    National Theatre has implemented measures for our visitors to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.For more information click here.

    Bunraku Performances in September

    IMPORTANT NOTICE: CANCELLATION OF PERFORMANCES on September 5 & 6

    Performance Date : Sep.5(Sat.) - Sep.22(Tue.)
    Venue : National Theatre(Small Theatre)

    In September, there will be different four programmes.

    Programme Ⅰ (11:00–12:35)
    Kotobuki Ninin Sanbaso
     (A Double Sanbaso Celebration)
    Komochi Yamanba
     (The Pregnant Mountain Ogress)

    Programme II (13:45-15:55)
    Yari no Gonza Kasane Katabira
     (Gonza the Spearman)

    Programme Ⅲ (17:00-18:30)
    Ehon Taikoki
     (A Picture Book of the Taiko Hideyoshi)

    Ticket Prices for Programme Ⅰ・Ⅱ・Ⅲ (including tax)
    Adults:
1st Grade ¥5,500; 2nd Grade ¥4,600
    Students:
1st Grade ¥3,900; 
2nd Grade ¥2,300

    *To secure appropriate spacing between seats in all directions, ticket sales will be limited to 50 percent of normal capacity.
    *End times are estimates and could vary.
    *Audio guide: Available for rent in English and Japanese. Click here for details.
    *Subtitles: Available only in Japanese. Displayed on screen beside the stage.
    *English synopsis is available. It is included in the paid Japanese program.

    Programme Ⅳ (19:45-21:00)
    Discover BUNRAKU
    Guidance
    Tsubosaka Kannon Reigenki
     (The Miracle at Tsubosaka Kannon Temple)

    Ticket Prices for Programme Ⅳ(including tax)
    Adults:
1st Grade ¥4,500; 2nd Grade ¥.3,800
    Students:
1st Grade ¥3,200; 
2nd Grade ¥1,900
    Seating plan

    *To secure appropriate spacing between seats in all directions, ticket sales will be limited to 50 percent of normal capacity.
    *End times are estimates and could vary.
    *Free audio guide is available. (English and Japanese)
    *Subtitles: Available only in Japanese. Displayed on screen beside the stage.
    * Free English synopsis is available.




    Organized by Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan Arts Council (National Theatre)

    Booking Opens
    available from Aug.14(Fri.), 2020

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    Box Office
     +81-3-3230-3000 (10:00 - 18:00(JST)) in Japanese and English
    Online Booking : https://ticket.ntj.jac.go.jp/top_e.htm
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    Counter Sales at the Theatre : available from Aug.15(Sat.),2020



    A View from the Stalls
    (by Stuart Varnam-Atkin, Japanologist and writer)

    Programme Ⅰ
    Kotobuki Ninin Sanbaso

     (A Double Sanbaso Celebration)


          The long-awaited restart of performances will be launched very appropriately with one section of Okina, the ceremonial dance play that has long been presented at the New Year or the start of a theatrical season in Japan’s traditional performing arts. A mysterious collection of songs, dances and dialogues with many variations, Okina probably dates back one millennium to ritual dances of the 10th century, and it’s regarded as representing the roots of Noh.
         The most lighthearted section titled Sanbaso is essentially a dance of celebration and fertility. The familiar character of Sanbaso is easily distinguished by his eboshi hat (often with a red hinomaru motif), large fan, and the pine tree and crane motifs of his kimono design. Here are three depictions of Sanbaso: a Kabuki actor performing him like a marionette (Kunisada, 1850s); a Bunraku puppet on a 1933 New Year’s greeting card hand-painted by the artist Shintaro Suzuki (1895-1989); and the dance being performed by two children (Kuniyoshi, 1840).

      


          This time there will be two Sanbaso dancers. Listen out for the heavy stamping, which symbolizes preparation of the soil for planting, and the golden bells that suggest seeds and fertility. And also enjoy the virtuoso shamisen accompaniment which has been described as ‘fiendishly difficult’.

    Komochi Yamanba
    (The Pregnant Mountain Ogress)


          The second half of Programme I is a fanciful 1712 play written by the great playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon. Based on the Noh play Yamanba, it transports us back to the world of mythology and legend and the very familar hero figure of Kintaro (‘Golden Boy’). Versions of his story appear in many Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki plays and ukiyo-e prints, and there are lots of references to him in manga, anime, and video games.
          Originally named Kaidomaru, he was brought up in the mountains by a woman known as Yamauba or Yamanba, who is often depicted as an aged ogress (rather like this 1922 print by Ogawa Usen, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Chikamatsu’s death) but sometimes as a young and beautiful woman, as in this 1802 print by Utamaro.

     


          The muscular boy grew up with the local wildlife, regularly fighting with bears, giant carp and ogres. He’s still a popular character, and Kintaro dolls are displayed on Children’s Day (formerly Boy’s Day) in May, with the wish that children will grow up equally strong and bold. One version of the legend goes that Kaidomaru was a real young man scouted by a retainer of the mighty warrior Minamoto no Yorimitsu.
          The Bunraku version provides the background to all this, centred around the story of a courtesan called Yaegiri. It features a lover in disguise, a revenge story, a ritual suicide, and the miraculous conception of Kintaro by fire. Prepare to be amazed!



    Programme Ⅱ
    Yari no Gonza Kasane Katabira

     (Gonza the Spearman)


          Programme II features four acts of another Chikamatsu play from 1717. An exciting saga full of complicated relationships, jealousy, and revenge, it features a young, handsome ‘Spearman’ called Sasano Gonza. It includes something for just about everyone: a horse race, tea ceremony secrets, crawling through a hedge in a barrel, silent frogs, meaningful kimono sashes, accusations of adultery, actual adultery, an elopement, and a final fatal ambush at a bridge in Kyoto. What more could you desire from the Bunraku team?



    Programme Ⅲ
    Ehon Taikoki

     (A Picture Book of the Taiko Hideyoshi)


          This play dating from 1799 is sometimes described as the final classic puppet play of the Edo Period. The title literally means ‘The Picture Book of the Taiko Tales’, and it was based on a bestselling book about the historical leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-98) who had the title of ‘Taiko’. It includes the assassination of Oda Nobunaga by Akechi Mitsuhide, which is also the planned finale of this year’s NHK Taiga Drama series. During the Edo period, it was forbidden for real samurai to be portrayed on stage, so these famous fighting men appear with names just slightly changed: Harunaga (Nobunaga), Hisayoshi (Hideyoshi) and Takechi (Akechi).
          The two emotional acts being performed this time depart somewhat from the actual story in their showing of what went on in Mitsuhide’s family after the assassination and the promise of a final showdown between him and Hideyoshi. It’s bracing samurai content. Note the splendidly expressive ‘Bunhichi’ kashira (head) of the puppet playing Mitsuhide.



    Programme Ⅳ
    Tsubosaka Kannon Reigenki

    (The Miracle at Tsubosaka Kannon Temole)


          This popular play, first performed in 1879, was written by a distinguished shamisen player and his wife. Based on legends concerning the Tsubosaka Temple in Nara and its statue of Kannon the Goddess of Mercy, it’s a heartwarming story about how sincere faith and a married couple’s deep love can lead to a miracle.
          The humble couple are Sawaichi, a blind shamisen teacher, and his wife Osato. Osato eventually persuades her husband to go with her to the temple to pray for his sight to be restored. He asks her to leave him at the top of a cliff to fast and pray for three days… No more spoilers!

    (All prints from the Varnam-Atkin Collection)


    in Japanese