Event Details
Awa Ningyo Joruri Performance: Japanese Drama performed by professional puppeteers from Tokushima Prefecture
Performance Demonstration

Awa Ningyo Joruri Performance: Japanese Drama performed by professional puppeteers from Tokushima Prefecture

June 24, 2023 through June 25, 2023
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Join us for this 90 minute program including an explanation and a video of Awa Ningyo Joruri,  a demonstration and hands-on experience of how to operate the large puppets, and the performance of "Keisei Awa no Naruto, The Scene of the Pilgrim’s Song."

The same program will be presented on Saturday June 24, and repeated again on Sunday June 25.

The Narutoza Puppet Theater Troupe will perform "The Scene of the Pilgrim’s Song," from the play, Keisei Awa no Naruto.

The Narutoza Puppet Theater Troupe will perform "The Scene of the Pilgrim’s Song," from the play, Keisei Awa no Naruto.

The story is about a man named Jurobei and his wife Oyumi, who are embroiled in the struggle for dominance within the Tokushima domain. This is the most frequently performed puppet drama in Tokushima and it depicts local characters from Tokushima.  The drama is a collaboration of five playwrights, including the renowned Chikamatsu Hanji.

“The Scene of the Pilgrim’s Song,” is about the affection between parent and child. Here, Jurobei and Oyumi  had to change their names and go undercover to become thieves and live in Tamatsukuri in Osaka. Their aim was to recover a stolen heirloom -- a sword that belongs to the lord of their domain. They had to leave their infant daughter, Otsuru, behind, in her grandmother’s care. 

Now, several years later, Otsuru is nine years old. Clad as a pilgrim, she is on the Saikoku circuit of Buddhist temples dedicated to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. Unaware that it is her parents’ home, she calls on their house. 

Oyumi realizes that the girl is her own child. However, she does not reveal her identity to her daughter for fear that brewing legal troubles, that she and her husband will face, could bring disaster upon the girl as well. Stifling her tears, Oyumi sends the girl on her way, but as she listens to the departing girl singing "A Pilgrim’s Song," which is about  love between a parent and child, the distraught mother cannot keep herself from following after the girl to bring her back. The scene ends with the heart-rending sight of Oyumi, unable to suppress her motherly passion.


Tayu (narrator): Shiju Nagano of Tomowakakai

Tomowakakai is a tayu (narrator) group that was established in 1997 under the leadership of Tomowaka Takemoto. This is Tokushima’s largest storytelling group, with 20 current members. The activities of the association are wide-ranging, and they actively participate in competitions in Tokushima Prefecture and elsewhere, including Awaji and Osaka. In addition, performances are held every year at the Inukai Rural Stage and the Kamaze Rural Stage.

Shamisen (a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument): Tomowaka Takemoto

Shamisen musician, Tomowaka Takemoto studied under Machiko Toyozawa and debuted on stage in 1976. In 1996, she became a disciple of the late Tomoji Tsurusawa (one of Japan’s National Living Treasures), and in 1997 she took the name “Tomowaka Takemoto.” In 2007 she appeared in the Ningyo Joruri performance of Awa no Geinoh at the Tokyo National Theatre, and in 2013 she appeared in the Gidayu Concert at the National Engei Hall in Tokyo. She has also participated in many overseas performances and holds Gidayu-bushi workshops for elementary and junior high schools. In 2002 she received the Ningyo Joruri Chinamikai Association Encouragement Award, in 2009 the Ningyo Joruri Chinamikai Association Women’s Category Encouragement Award, and in 2017 the Tokushima Arts and Culture Encouragement Award. Tomowaka Takemoto holds certification as a bearer of “Important Intangible Cultural Heritage.”

Narutoza Puppet Theater

Narutoza Puppet Theater was formed in 1980, when its founding director Kobayashi Shunsei, his family, and six other friends joined together to create the troupe, occasioned by the receipt of two special puppet heads. These puppet heads were carved by the master Oe Minosuke IV, a native of Naruto City who had created most of the puppet heads that were used by the Osaka Bunraku Puppet Theater after their puppets and equipment had been destroyed during World War II. The two puppets that Narutoza received were Oyumi and Otsuru, the mother and daughter characters in the play Keisei Awa no Naruto. Starting with performances at local schools in Naruto, the troupe collaborated with children’s organizations to produce pieces that were performed at the Otsuka Art Museum. They also performed at the grand opening of the outdoor stage at the Bart Garden theme park and at Nishinomiya Shrine in Hyogo Prefecture, among others, always seeking to convey the charm of traditional Awa puppetry to audiences within and without Tokushima Prefecture. Currently, puppeteers ranging in age from their 30s through their 70s perform with Naruto Puppet Theater under the leadership of the third director, Murakami Kyoko.