Friday, February 19, 2010

Bunraku at last

Finally. After twelve years of living in the Kanto plains I take myself to the National Theatre of Japan. It is a building I do not like. Like many government buildings in Tokyo it is not friendly to visitors. We are kept outside in freezing conditions while the attendants inside busy themselves with minor work which requires no eye contact with the folks who have paid at least ¥5000 stuck outside. Once inside there is a helpful desk to hire an English translation of the performance. This is helpful and vital. It is not free. However the accompanying guide is in English too. But little else.One would have thought that with an 18% drop in tourists more could be done to welcome non-speakers of Japanese. As I looked around I saw no other foreign person. Of course you wonder. Twelve years in Japan. He has not learnt the language? I know. I know. I am ashamed. I am not a linguist. But to the show. We were lucky to get a guided tour backstage. The puppet was revealed. The master explained the manipulations. We stood where they stand. And saw the gully. And the high shoes for the master so that his two assistants can duck below him. The play was a good one. The Love Suicides at Sonezaki. The Osaka company did not disappoint. The tension was exhausting. Would they do it? The title suggested so. But the final scene stretched the chord of tension tight. What did I learn? The singers change and spin in on a turn table. The main puppeter is visible but the rest wear KKK style black headgear. The story is shared with Kabuki. Japanese audience members require subtitles to understand it. The company is male. It held me. I was captivtaed by the manipulation of each puppet. The tragedy and the prolonged death wish. At one point I found that I had not put my ear piece back in and I was still visually held. I liked it.

1 comment:

keiko amano said...

Hi Tim,

I’m interested in all arts, but in recent years, especially traditional Japanese arts. But I didn’t think I could add any value to this post because I sensed much frustration of an expat rather than joy on Bunraku. I think Japan is not an easy place to live not only for expats but also for many Japanese including me for various reasons. Many things deceive us at each layer of knowledge. What may appear easy can be difficult, and what may appear hard can be quite simple. And language is a good example. Let’s face it. It takes many years to master any language including own. But, our intention counts. I believe strongly our intention counts a great deal anytime, anywhere, and with anyone.

Because of your most recent blog, I reconsidered this post. I’ve compared the two photos. The Bunraku puppet tilts forward. For some reason, I felt this significant. But the angle of the two photo shots is not the same, and also the stories and characters must be quite different. And Thai puppets tilt forward, too, I’m sure. But still, I thought about Japanese downward movements. I’ve been interested in the subtle differences in the way people move in daily life and in performances across cultures. Those movements must be different in meaning and feeling just like words. The aesthetic in each is also different. I’m curious. So, I wrote more about it. I’ll add it to my blog soon, so please read and feel free to comment