The Bunraku Stage

The audience watches the action from the front of a stage that has three partitions (手摺 Tesuri).


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Bunraku stage
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The first partition hides the stagehand who dashes across the stage to draw the curtain.

Bunraku Stage: View from the wing Bunraku stage (More views from the wing)
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The second partition is designed to conceal the lower body of the main puppeteer and left-arm puppeteer. It serves to hide all but the shoulders and hooded head of the leg-manipulator as well as movements of stage-hands. With the second partition, a puppet is seen to walk firmly on the ground, while the audience knows that it is carried by puppeteers and its legs are moved by the leg-manipulator.

Bunraku stage: view from the wing
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Bunraku stage: view from the audience
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The third partition is a raised platform, which usually represents the interior of a house. Puppets sit on a tatami mat where there is no platform to sit on.

Bunraku stage
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Bunraku stage
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Bunraku stage
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The three puppeteers work in unison. Junior puppeteers start out learning their craft as leg operators (足使い ashi-zukai), spending ten to fifteen years to master the leg manipulation. Only then can they move up to spend another ten to fifteen years to master left-arm operation (左使い hidari-zukai). It is a long apprenticeship before he is assigned to be a main puppeteer (主使い omo-zukai).

Pupeeteers training

 

 

 

Links:

Bunraku: The Performers (Puppeteers)

Bunraku: The Performance (The Love Suicides at Sonezaki)

 

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