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Bunraku Performances

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    Bunraku Performances in May

    Performance Date : May 9(Sun.) - May 26(Wed.)
    No performance on 17 (Mon.)
    Venue : National Theatre(Small Theatre)

    Program Ⅰ (10:45–13:20)
    Shinju Yoigoshin

    Program II (14:15-16:35)
    Sho Utsushi Asagao Banashi

    Program III (17:30-19:50)
    Sesshu Gappo ga Tsuji
    Keisei Yamato Zoshi

    Ticket Prices for Each Program(tax included)
1st Grade ¥7,000; 2nd Grade ¥6,000
1st Grade ¥4,900; 
2nd Grade ¥4,200
    Seating plan

    *End times are estimates and could vary.
    *Japanese audio guides are available for rent. 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 brochure.
    *There will be intermission.

    Booking Opens
    Apr.14(Wed.), 2021

    Box Office
     0570-07-9900 (From overseas: +81-3-3230-3000) in Japanese and English
    (10:00AM - 6:00PM)
    Online Booking : https://ticket.ntj.jac.go.jp/top_e.htm
    Counter Sales at the Theatre
    available from Apr.15(Thu.),2021

    in Japanese

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

    Programme I
    Shinju Yoigoshin
    (A Love Suicide on the Eve of the Koshin Festival)

    The day’s performances begin with the last great ‘sewamono’ (domestic play) written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724). Double suicide plays always attracted big audiences, with their tragic conflict of ‘giri’ (familial duty) and ‘ninjo’ (personal feelings). First performed in 1722, this one was based on actual events that had occurred in Osaka the previous year. In the play, a son’s wife is kicked out by his evil-minded adoptive mother. The inevitable end is a classic ‘michiyuki’ scene as the reunited couple head towards death to the sounds of the Koshin Festival, in which, ironically, offerings are made for health, wealth and happiness.

    Programme II
    Sho Utsushi Asagao Banashi
    (The Tale of the Morning Glory)

    The poetess Kaga no Chiyo (1703-75), famous for her morning glory haiku, in a light summer kimono with a morning glory design
    (Kuniyoshi, c.1845)

    Watching fireflies down at the river, a morning glory poem written on a fan by a handsome young samurai for the beautiful daughter of a wealthy family, love at first sight, a running away from home, a fall from grace, a blind koto player with the stage name ‘Morning Glory’ who one day unknowingly tells her sad story to the man she loves, an attempted poisoning, laughing medicine, and a cure for blindness if drunk with blood from a dying man born in the Year of the Rat… This powerful, moving, fantastic love story, first performed in the 1830s and later very popular as a Kabuki play, created a craze for morning glory motifs on clothes, fans, hair ornaments, etc. The play ends at the famous Oi River crossing between the Shimada and Kanaya post stations on the old Tokaido Highway, familiar from Hiroshige’s prints. Many tough porters were available for carrying passengers and luggage across on their shoulders, in an open palanquin, or on a platform, as with the nervous lady in this 1872 print by Yoshitora.

    Programme III
    Sesshu Gappo ga Tsuji
    (The Tale of Tamate Gozen)

    The May flyer features the aristocratic woman Tamate Gozen in a dramatic pose, with a short sword in one hand and a large shell in the other. It’s a scene from a play created by the distinguished playwright Suga Sensuke in 1773 featuring the scandalous story of Tamate’s love for her stepson. The extraordinary scenario includes a giant Buddhist rosary and another cure for blindness requiring fresh blood.

    Keisei Yamato Zoshi
    (The Courtesan and the Tale of Yamato)

    Kuniyoshi, c.1845

    There was once a Chinese philosopher who had a dream, but when he woke up he could not be sure whether he was a man who had dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly that had dreamed he was a man… This popular dance number began as part of a 1784 Kabuki play that became a Bunraku play in 1818. A courtesan dies in place of a fugitive princess, and her grief-stricken lover commits suicide; unable to be married in life, the couple are reborn as butterflies, traditional symbols in Japan for love, transience and death. Flitting among the spring flowers, the couple recall their moments of happiness and imagine how their life might have been.
    (All prints from the Varnam-Atkin Collection)