Bunraku Performers: Puppeteers
The puppets for major characters are about two-thirds life size, and each one is manipulated by three men: the omo-zukai, who controls the movements of the head – sometimes including opening and closing eyes and the mouth – and the movements of the right hand; the hidari-zukai, who moves the left hand; and the ashi-zukai, who controls the feet or the bottom of a female character’s kimono.
| Omo-zukai without a black hood |
(GloPAD Image 1006589)
|Kagezukai ("shaded manipulator") denotes that all performing pupeteers appear on stage hooded and in the black robe (kuroko) (GloPAD Image 1006574)|
The major characters in a scene have a remarkable range of motion and emotion. A woman weeping holds a handkerchief to her face as her shoulders move in sobs, and an angry villain raises and lowers his eyebrows in astonishment and fury. The life they project is a product of exquisite timing among the three puppeteers.
Minor characters in a play, who run errands or serve tea or deliver mail, have no need for such subtlety of movement, and consequently are handled by only one puppeteer.
| A minor character in The Battle of |
Ichinotani (GloPAD Image 1006665)
| Minor characters in Sugawara's Secrets of |
Calligraphy (GloPAD Image 1006012)