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Bunraku

March 4, 2012

Take a look at this video about the Japanese art of  Bunraku puppet theater (there’s a second part to watch on YouTube).

The next book we’re reading, The Master Puppeteer, is a mystery that takes place in a Bunraku theater.  On top of that, we’ll actually get to see a performance of Bunraku when we’re in Osaka.

After watching the video, use the comments section to tell us what you think about this ancient Japanese art, as well as what you have to say about getting to see it live in just a few months.

Every student in our Japan group is required to participate.  You must comment on this post with your thoughts, then come back and comment on what other people have said – you are required to make an effort to keep the conversation going by replying to at least 2 other students (more than just “I agree” or “you are right.” Give them reasons why you agree/disagree or what they said that was meaningful – make this a discussion). 

Next week we’ll be reading The Master Puppeteer by Katherie Paterson – you should begin looking for your own copy at a local library or book store soon.  Amazon.com has some cheap used copies available too.  
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56 Comments leave one →
  1. Zachary Ciko permalink
    March 4, 2012 6:25 pm

    I think the art if bunranku has a very interesting concept and I would enjoy seeing one in real life. The one thing that confused when I was watching the video early on is that there are three pupetiers, but two of them were wearing things over there head. Also I thought it was kinda creepy that they just have all these hanging puppet heads. Other than that I would enjoy seeing it live.

    • Nate Zurawski permalink
      March 4, 2012 8:33 pm

      I also thought it was very strange that only two of the puppeteers had hoods.

      • March 4, 2012 8:49 pm

        Me too. Everything I’ve ever read had all three of the puppeteers hooded.

        • Nailah permalink
          March 6, 2012 5:28 pm

          Yea it was kind of like the third one was a little out of place for not wearing it

    • Tyler Webber permalink
      March 9, 2012 5:05 pm

      I would also like to know why two of the puppeteers were wearing things on their head and would definatly love seeing it live.

    • Shane Chetney permalink
      March 11, 2012 7:59 pm

      True Nate. I was very shocked that only two of the three puppateers had hoods on

    • Jessica Sherwin permalink
      March 11, 2012 9:13 pm

      I think, just a suggestion, is that the theater they showed was different from most? I think they wanted to demonstrate the difference between the “chief” puppeteer and the underlings, since the chief puppeteer does the head motions and the right hand motions. I think they wanted to show that to the viewers. Either way, seeing one live is something I’m really excited for.

    • Bobby Cortesi permalink
      March 25, 2012 4:24 pm

      i defiantly agree i believe that bunraku is very interesting also compared to our culture.

      • Lyssette Bedolla permalink
        March 27, 2012 7:28 pm

        I was thinking the samething as I was watching the video. Japan does everything better.

  2. Nate Zurawski permalink
    March 4, 2012 8:32 pm

    After watching these videos I am super excited about seeing these beautifully crafted puppets live. All of this looks so amazing and I can’t wait to see the shamisan. It’s so weird that they ahve so many people using just one puppet and that they aren’t hidden at all.

    • Zach Ciko permalink
      March 5, 2012 5:17 pm

      I agree that it is a bit strange in how it takes son many people to use one puppet

      • Alex Walker permalink
        March 10, 2012 9:43 pm

        three heads are better than one i guess… But isn’t the puppet kind of big? It makes sense why there would be three. You have two hands, one head, and two legs/feet that all need to be able to move with in a split second.

      • Shane Chetney permalink
        March 11, 2012 8:00 pm

        Yeah it is weird. Here in America we are so used to seeing one person controlling one puppet. But there they have several people controlling one puppet.

    • Nailah permalink
      March 6, 2012 5:24 pm

      I agree they are very open and aren’t really worried about bein hidden

    • Austin Stein permalink
      March 11, 2012 2:20 pm

      I know, I too questioned the reasoning behind two puppeteers have their faces hidden while the other doesn’t. Is it tradition, or is is a fame aspect? I honestly think all three puppeteers should be hidden, as it makes more a feeling that the puppets are alive and have a mind of their own. Isn’t the goal of the puppets?

    • Sydney Bebar permalink
      March 11, 2012 3:56 pm

      Yeah, only the main puppeteer is shown while the other two are in hoods. I think they are in hoods because they are Japanese apprentices to the art of Bunrako theater.

  3. Nailah permalink
    March 6, 2012 5:27 pm

    I was very Intrigued on what they were doing…I can’t wait to see something like that. I didn’t understand why there were 2 people wearing things on their heads and the other one was just kinda there…overall it was entertaining

    • Tyler Webber permalink
      March 9, 2012 5:03 pm

      I was also wondering why two of the puppeteers were wearing things over their faces. Maybe, that is how the puppet is supposed to be handled.

    • Ben Trouvais permalink
      March 10, 2012 7:15 pm

      I think the reason why only two are wearing the hoods is because they are more like the apprentice. They are not the master puppeteer. It’s sort of like credits in a movie. Only the important actors are mentioned. They don’t show the random civilians in the credits.

    • Alex Walker permalink
      March 10, 2012 9:45 pm

      I wonder if they guys can even see out of their hoods…

      • Austin Stein permalink
        March 11, 2012 2:23 pm

        It’s probably a thin vail of slick and fabric around the eye holes in the inside for them to see but the audience not to. That’s my best guess.

    • ebony alvarado permalink
      March 25, 2012 11:30 am

      agreed i found it pretty suspicious as to why they all ress the same but 1

  4. Tyler Webber permalink
    March 9, 2012 5:02 pm

    I think that Bunraku looks very interesting to watch. I can’t wait to go and watch one of the performances. I would also like to see more about how they are made. I think that the show will be 200 times better than how it looks on the computer screen. I can’t wait to be entertained by those crazy puppets!

    • March 11, 2012 7:54 pm

      I’d like to know more about how they are made too. I wonder what kind of materials go into making them.

  5. Ben Trouvais permalink
    March 10, 2012 7:13 pm

    I think that this style of theatre is very interesting. I liked the detail work on the heads. Unlike in American preformances where each character in every play looks different, they repeat faces and hair. I thought that this was strange and unusual. I also liked how the narrator puts the script to his head to show his appreciation. It shows that these people care about this art. I think that a theatre style like this is strange and unique, and I cannot wait to see one.

    • Sydney Bebar permalink
      March 11, 2012 3:54 pm

      I agree that the head and hair being the same is cool. But after the puppets are in costume they look totally different from each other.

    • Nate Zurawski permalink
      April 5, 2012 1:29 pm

      I also like the way the narrator puts his head up to the script, it shows that he actually does care about the art. Unlike some American actors who might just do things for money.

  6. Alex Walker permalink
    March 10, 2012 9:38 pm

    I think Bunraku looks really cool. I like the idea of the puppeteers not hiding like the usually do and how the puppets are basically down sized humans. And that guy yelling in the corner… AMAZING!!! This just adds to the confusion because there’s no subtitles!!!
    My mom and I really enjoy Jim Henson, the guy who did the Muppets and fragle rock. So I’m sure I will in enjoy going to see an act of Bunraku(That’s just crazy how it takes a day to get through ALL the acts). This is going to be really awesome!!!

    • Blair Tuider permalink
      March 12, 2012 5:38 pm

      I agree that there will be confusion in the performance because we don’t know Japanese too well, but I’m sure we will understand it because of the performance,detail, and emotion that goes into Bunrako.

      • Lyssette Bedolla permalink
        March 27, 2012 7:38 pm

        Blair you reassured me I was worry about that as well. with the acting of the puppets I think I could figure it out.

  7. Austin Stein permalink
    March 11, 2012 2:16 pm

    Bunraku has just made me speech-less. This seems amazing just by the video, and will look even better in-person! I love all the techniques used for motion that do give a better impression that they are alive, like the puppeteer’s fist as a woman’s knee. I also enjoyed seeing how only one face produced so many emotions! This is something I really forwards to watching!

    • March 11, 2012 7:52 pm

      Yeah, me too. I loved seeing how the tilt of a head could effect the show so much. It also showed just how much work they put into these shows.

    • ebony alvarado permalink
      March 25, 2012 11:32 am

      i thought the expressions were pretty coo too

  8. Sydney Bebar permalink
    March 11, 2012 3:53 pm

    I think that Bunrako seems like a really cool type of theater. I find it interesting that the puppeteers are out in the open, clear to the audience. Usually you would want to create an image for the audience to think they are real. I am so excited to go see this art, I think that it will be a cool experience. It will be different from anything I’ve seen before, and it will be something that you can not just go see in America.

    • Jessica Sherwin permalink
      March 11, 2012 9:15 pm

      I thought the puppets being out and about was really cool, especially since they didn’t have strings, but instead people! That was something that I wouldn’t have thought was common or even possible

    • Blair Tuider permalink
      March 12, 2012 5:33 pm

      I agree that this is something you won’t see in America. I am grateful for having the opportunity to see such a wonderful art form. This is something that no one can forget.

  9. March 11, 2012 7:50 pm

    I find it interesting how much work goes into making the puppets. The head, the facial details, the hair, and even the movements of the legs are very intricate processes. The Shamisen and narrator will also be very interesting. I found it odd though that respect was given to the script by the narrator, but no respect was given to the Shamisen, considerning the Japanese love and respect for their musical instuments. I can’t wait to see the show in person, and I also cannot wait to see the pupeteers. They realy can make the puppets come alive, and I’d love to see just how they do this in person.

    • Mark Burjek permalink
      March 13, 2012 4:49 pm

      I also think that the shamisen player deserves respect. That instrument does not look easy, and he does a great job at it.

    • Ben Trouvais permalink
      March 25, 2012 2:42 pm

      I think that respect should be given to the Shamisen player, too. It’s sort of like the bass player in bands today. The credit goes to the guitarist and singer. Nobody ever cares about bass.

    • Bobby Cortesi permalink
      March 25, 2012 4:26 pm

      While watching the video i also noticed that there was alot of work put into those little puppets. That tells you how serious they take everything to be.

  10. Shane Chetney permalink
    March 11, 2012 7:57 pm

    I think the art of bunranku was very exciting to watch and I would enjoy seeing one in real life. Every puppet show ive seen on tv, the pupateer is hidden somehow. But in this theater, they are in the open and perfectly visible. I can not wait to see one of these in Japan. It will be very different than anything here in America

  11. Jessica Sherwin permalink
    March 11, 2012 9:07 pm

    As I watched the to videos of Bunrako, I was fascinated by the unique way of performing puppets. Before I watched the videos, and saw the word “puppeteer”, I though strings and/or just a man doing all the work, but I was definetely proven wrong. I really liked Bunrako and its art, since I love the history of Japan and how people in that time lived their lives. Knowing we are going to see one when we go to Osaka makes me want to squeal in even more joy that I get a chance to see something amazing as this.

    • Hannah Schram permalink
      April 9, 2012 3:43 pm

      I thought the same exact thing about the puppets. I thought they would be just puppets on strings with one man controlling it. It amazed me how it takes three men just to do one puppet!

  12. Blair Tuider permalink
    March 12, 2012 5:28 pm

    When I was younger, puppets were never a big deal to me, but after watching this video of Bunrako, I was amazed. This art form is very marvelous and beautiful. I am excited to go watch the performance in person. I loved the fantastic detail on the puppets and how simple movements can change the whole emotion of a character. I noticed that in Japan they show the puppeteers’, other puppet shows I have seen the puppeteer has been hidden behind a screen or curtain. This shows me the work the puppeteers’ go through to put on a wonderful performance. Going to see a performance such as Bunrako is exciting, and I can not wait to go see it in a few months.

    • Mark Burjek permalink
      March 13, 2012 4:53 pm

      I find it funny how a lot of us had never really appreciated puppetry(myself included), and after seeing this everyone is intrigued to see it and find out more about it.

  13. Drew Burjek permalink
    March 13, 2012 4:43 pm

    I thought Jeff Dunham was cool, but this seems awesome and hilarious. The puppets are so life-like, that about half way through the video I remembered that they were puppets. These people are very talented, and the whole experience seems riveting. The narrator is my favorite. It’s hysterical because you don’t know what he’s saying, and that almost adds to the performance. I am so very excited to see this, and also excited to read our next book.

  14. Mark Burjek permalink
    March 13, 2012 4:44 pm

    Sorry the post above this that says drew is actually mine. I was signed in under his name.

  15. Bobby Cortesi permalink
    March 19, 2012 4:36 pm

    i believe that this ancient art of japan explains alot about the japanese culture. It shows what many japanese enjoy, this also explains how many cultures like the japanese are different than ours because if bunraku were in the U.S. not many people would think much of it. With todays technology im surprised many in japan still enjoy it but based on what we learned in class about how the japanese still practice traditions and make sure they still live on through them it makes sense. Since we are going there in a few months i think it will be interesting to see but i wonder how we will understand it?

  16. ebony alvarado permalink
    March 25, 2012 11:27 am

    i thought it was very interesting, and thought that this will be an awsome expirience to see. id like to kno more about how they create their puppetts too

    • Cj moody permalink
      March 28, 2012 3:55 pm

      I said the same thing, its cool right?

  17. Lyssette Bedolla permalink
    March 27, 2012 7:21 pm

    this ancient japanese art is pretty amazing I like all the work that is put towards this. they really want every detail to be perfect. watching this video gets me pretty excited to see the real thing.

  18. Cj moody permalink
    March 28, 2012 3:54 pm

    I thought the video was REALLY interesting and cool. I can’t wait to see this when we go

  19. Yazmine Thomas permalink
    March 28, 2012 5:49 pm

    I love the Japanese puppet art it looks realistic when it’s zoomed in on the puppet !It’s different from the little puppet shows we have ,ours are so small and not much thought goes into our puppet shows . But this is well thought-out and it shows!

    • Hannah Schram permalink
      April 9, 2012 3:47 pm

      I agree with you about our puppet shows being small with not much thought. I thought Sesame Street was so amazing but Bunraku definitely changed my mind on that.

  20. Hannah Schram permalink
    April 9, 2012 3:41 pm

    I used to think regular amatuer puppet shows were cool, but Bunraku is so life-like and interesting. I cant imagine how complicated it is to just control one puppet with two other people! I find it very interesting how the puppets are made especially with the young women that transforms into a demon. Compared to puppet shows that we see, Bunraku has more thought and culture into their shows and I’m looking forward to seeing one of the shows live in Japan.

  21. Persephone Allee permalink
    April 16, 2012 6:45 pm

    The bunraku performance is one of my most anticipated things right now to do while we are in Japan. To be honest, I find the performance to be entertaining but I don’t speak Japanese so I am not becoming attached to a story line. What I found the most intereesting would have to be the making of the puppets and their props. It is an art that I am fascinated with and I can’t wait to see the actual performance in just a few short months. To see the pieces close up and in person will be a great experience!

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