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Motherly Love and Comic Pursuits of Love Come Alive Through Puppetry and Song

Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater Presented by Japan Society, Inc. Featuring Kuruma Ningyo puppetry master Nishikawa Koryu V

Jewett Auditorium

Tuesday March 5, 2019, 6:00 PM

Boston, MA: On March 5th, the Japan Society of Boston presents Nishikawa Koryu V, the fifth grand master of the Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater, performing three female-centered stories from classic Japanese literature. The 70-minute program will offer audiences the rare opportunity to experience a full-scale production of kuruma ningyo puppetry with chanting and live shamisen music from premier performers of the kuruma ningyo and gidayu traditions.

The Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet theater group has been in the family of the founder of the kuruma ningyo style of puppetry since its invention. Kuruma ningyo is a unique style of puppetry, which developed in Japan in the 19th century in the Hachioji area of Tokyo. Artists perform, while sitting on a small wooden box with wheels (or, rokuro kuruma). Unlike the more widely known style of Japanese puppetry known as bunraku, which requires three standing puppeteers to manipulate a single puppet, the use of the rokuro kuruma allows a single puppeteer to manage one puppet. This innovation allows for more dynamic performances, as the performer can move flexibly and in unison with the puppet.

Master of vocal performance, Takemoto Koshiko, will accompany the puppetry with live gidayu music, named after Takemoto Gidayu (1651 – 1714) who created the style. Takemoto Koshiko will provide the voices of the protagonists as well as the narrator’s voice. Gidayu narration long played an integral part in Japanese all-male bunraku puppet performances with female performers collaborating with kuruma ningyo groups starting in the 1950’s. Among narrative styles, gidayu stands out as one of the most famous and perhaps most demanding as the narrator plays all parts of the play. Gidayu calls for such a vocally taxing range of tone and expression that performers often switch halfway through a scene.

The performances will depict a range of love felt by the female characters from love to sadness both intense and comical. The program opens with Yugao, a new work from Nishikawa based on a story from The Tale of Genji, in which the jealous spirit of one of Genji’s lovers comes to possess a young woman he is courting, followed by Kuzunoha, which depicts a mother’s unwavering love for her child. Tsuri On’na, a comical piece about “fishing” for a wife, closes the program on a lighthearted note.

Nishikawa Koryu V – Puppet Master

Born and raised into the world of traditional Japanese puppetry, Nishikawa Koryu V began studying kuruma ningyo when he was thirteen years old. Carrying on the name of the late-19th century performer who developed this innovative style of puppetry, Nishikawa Koryu V is the fifth-generation headmaster of the Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater group. In 1996, the group was designated an Intangible Folk Custom Cultural Asset by the Japanese government.

Takemoto Koshiko - Chanter

Takemoto Koshiko apprenticed under Koshimichi Takemoto, who now serves as chairman of the Gidayu Bushi Preservation Association, the main professional gidayu organization in Japan. She made her debut performance at Ueno Honmokutei, a theater in Japan which is regarded by many as a monument to traditional performing arts in Japan. She received the Geidankyo New-face Encouragement Award in 1976. She helped organize a joruri music concert in France, one of the first times that this kind of concert was held abroad. In 2000, she was designated an Important Intangible Cultural Property for gidayu-bushi by the government of Japan.

The two masters will be joined by associates Tsuruzawa Yaya and Tsuruzawa Sansuzu playing the shamisen, and additional puppeteers Nishikawa Ryuji IV, Nishikawa Ryusha, Nishikawa Ryuki, Nishikawa Ryukei, and Nishikawa Yoshiteru.

The performance will be held in the Jewett Auditorium of Wellesley College at 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481. The performance will be in Japanese with English projected supertitles. Admission is $45 for General, $30 for JSB Members, $15 for Students and Young Adults, and free for members of the Wellesley College community. Tickets available online.

Image: Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater © Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater.

The North American tour of Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater is produced and organized by Japan Society, Inc. Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater is supported by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan in the fiscal year 2018, The JEC Fund, and The Jim Henson Foundation.

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