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Awaji Puppet Theater

Awaji puppet shows began about 500 years ago when Hyakudayu, who is said to be father of puppeteers crossed over to Awaji from Nishinomiya and taught the art to local people. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the 44 theaters were vying for supremacy, not only in Awaji but all over Japan. There are approximately 80 puppet theaters remaining in the country. Bunrakuken Uemura, the founder of Bunraku, which is a certified world's cultural heritage, is from Awaji Island, and traveled with a puppet show in his youth. Awaji puppet theater is currently designated a inportant intangible folk cultural asset by the government, and shamisen player Yuji Tsuruzawa is designated a living national treasure.
Puppets have historically been used in conjunction with religious events the world over, and Awaji puppet shows are no exception. The shows have been held to pray to Ebisu for abundant fishing and safety of fishermen. Following the death of Hyakudayu, puppet shows have become established as sacred seasonal events to pray for protection of homes, land and ships.

Awaji puppets consists of high artistic quality kashira, trunk and clothing. The puppets are manipulated by three puppeteers dressed in black. One controls the legs, one the left hand and the other the right hand and kashira. The puppet comes to life when the three work in perfect coordination. Combined with the dramatic storytelling of the gidayu and the dignified plucking of the samisen, the rustic stage comes to life with emotions that exceed those of a real human being.

Awaji Puppet Theater Web site

Danjiri and Danjiri Chorus

Awaji Island has a profusion of festivals. There is said to be a total of 300 danjiri in the greater Awaji area. The main is the futon danjiri with five layers of red futons. The danjiri are pulled around by shrine parishioners in spring and fall. Created as a group performance based on puppet shows as a sideshow for festivals, the danjiri chorus is also known as jorurikuzushi. The chorus skillfully takes highlights of the story and puts melodies to them. The songs are arranged using danjiri taiko drums and clappers, and there are chorus tsurebusi and solos called puppet katarikomi like storytelling and furi like fork ballad. Katari is placed in the intervals of the chorus and solos. Many chorus groups have sprung up recently and contests are held. The singing is now considered a folk art of Awaji.

Waka that have Awaji Island as a theme

[ The Anthology of Myriad Leaves ]
  • 灯火の明石大門(あかしおほと)に入(い)らむ日や漕ぎ別れなむ家の辺り見ず  (柿本人麻呂)
  • 天ざかる鄙(ひな)の長路恋ひ来れば明石の門より大和島みゆ  (柿本人麻呂)
  • 玉藻刈る敏馬を過ぎて夏草の野島が崎に船近づきぬ  (柿本人麻呂)
  • 淡路の野島が崎の濱風に妹が結びし紐吹きかへす  (柿本人麻呂)
  • 飼飯の海の庭よくあらし刈り薦(こも)の乱れて出づ見ゆ海人の釣船  (柿本人麻呂)
  • 天地の遠きが如く  日月の長きが如く  
    おし照る難波の宮に  わご大君国知らすらし  
    御食国  日の御調と  淡路の野島の海人の
    海の底沖ついくりに  鰒珠さはに潜き出
    船並めて仕へ奉るし  尊き見れば  (山部赤人)
  • 難波潟潮干に立ちて見わたせば淡路の島に鶴渡る見ゆ  (詠み人しらず)
  • 荒磯越す波をかしこみ淡路島見ずや過ぎなむここだ近きを  (詠み人しらず)
  • 粟島に漕ぎ渡らむと思へども明石の門波いまだ騒げり  (詠み人しらず)
[ A Collection of Ancient and Modern Poetry ]
  • わたつみのかざしにさせる白妙の浪もてゆへる淡路島山  (詠み人しらず)
[ New Collection of Ancient and Modern Poetry ]
  • 淡路にてあはと遙かに見し月の近き今宵は所がらかも  (凡河内躬恒)
  • 秋深き淡路の島の有明にかたぶく月を送るうらかぜ  (慈円)
  • 春と言えば霞にけりな昨日まで浪まにみえしあはぢ嶋山  (俊恵法師)
[ Kinyosyu / Ogura Hyakunin Isshu ]
  • 淡路島通ふ千鳥の鳴く声に幾夜寝覚めぬ須磨の関守  (源兼昌)
[ Sankashu ]
  • あはぢ嶋せとのしほひのゆふぐれに須磨よりかよふ千鳥なくなり  (西行法師)
[ Kinkaisyu ]
  • 淡路島かよふ千鳥のしばしばもはねかくまなく恋ひやわたらん  (源実朝)
[ Shuiguso ]
  • あはぢしま千鳥のわたるこゑごとにいふかひもなき物ぞかなしき  (藤原定家)
  • 淡路島ゆききの舟の友がほにかよひなれたる浦千鳥かな  (藤原定家)
[ Shin Chokusen Shu / Ogura Hyakunin Isshu ]
  • 来ぬ人を松帆の浦の夕凪に焼くや藻塩の身もこがれつつ  (藤原定家)

Modern literature that has Awaji Island as a backdrop

  • Junichiro Tanizaki, “Tade Ku Mushi mo Sukizuki”
  • Ryotaro Shiba, “Na no Hana no Oki”
  • Kaoru Funayama, “Otose”
  • Nobuko Yoshiya, “Aru Nyoninzo”
  • Ayako Miura, “Chiiroba Sensei Monogatari”
  • Kazumi Takahashi, “Sange”
  • Yuu Aku, “Setouchi Shonen Yakyudan”, “Kiga Ryokou”, “Korogaru Ishi”, “Radio”
  • Kenjiro Haitani, “Shima de Kurasu”, “Tonbogaeri de Hi ga Kurete”
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Awaji Yumebutai International Conference Center
1 Yumebutai, Awaji City, Hyogo 656-2306 Japan Phone: 81-799-74-1020 FAX: 81-799-74-1021
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