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Awaji Ningyo Joruri

Awaji Puppet Theatre


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(from left)
- Shiki Sanbaso performed every year at 8 AM on 2 January in honour of Omido Shrine in Miharacho, which is the birthplace of puppet theatre.
- Scene from Keisei Awanonaruto.

Filming DateNA


Awaji ningyo joruri is the puppet theatre in Awaij. It has a long history of over 500 years. The Awaji puppet theatre consists of three elements, the joruri, the shamisen and the manipulated puppets. Joruri is a kind of traditional narrative singing.


Reasons for selection

This is an important example of puppet theatre in Japan.


Area where performed

Awaji is the name of an island located in the eastern Inland Sea, southeast of Hyogo Prefecture, central Honshu.


Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Puppet Theatre


Detailed explanation

Awaji ningyo joruri is the puppet theatre in Awaji.

Awaji is the name of an island located in the eastern inland sea, southeast of Hyogo Prefecture, central Honshu. Ningyo literally means doll. Joruri is a kind of traditional narrative singing.

The Awaji puppet theatre has a long history of over 500 years. It is said that a priest from the Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine, whose name was Hyakudayu, founded the Awaji puppet theatre tradition in the Muromachi period. In the middle of the Edo period, under the patronage of the Awaji clan, the golden age of the Awaji puppet theatre had come. There were 48 puppet troupes or za and over 1000 performers. The influence of the Awaji puppet theater tradition can be seen in other folk puppet theatres all over Japan, because the Awaji troupes were touring the provinces.

The Awaji puppet theatre consists of three elements, the joruri, the shamisen and the manipulated puppets. The futozao or largest type of shamisen is used. In joruri, the narrator or tayu recites not only the lines of all the characters but also the plot of the story. Most of stories are historical, such as Awa-no-naruto, Taikoki, and Uwajima-tenjinki.

The Awaji puppet consists of a head or kashira, a body and a costume. The principal performer operates the head and right hand of the puppet, the second supports the props and operates its left hand, and the third operates its legs.

Some of the heads have a mechanism for moving eyes, eyebrows and mouth. The principal puppeteer manipulate these mechanisms with his right hand to express the emotions of the puppet.


Publication and textual documentation

Awaji Culture Museum(ed.)
1986 Awaji Ningyo Joruri Awaji puppet play
Sumoto-shi, Hyogo: BOOKS Seikindo. In Japanese

Awaji Ningyo Shibai Shashinshu Jikko Iinkai, ed.
2000 Awaji Ningyo Shibai Awaji Puppet Theatre.
Kobe: Kobe Shinbun Jigyosha. In Japanese, English, and French.


Audio documentation

no information at present


Visual documentation

Keisei Awanonaruto
VTR. Hyogo: Awaji Puppet Theatre.

Tsubosaka Reigenki
VTR. Hyogo: Awaji Puppet Theatre.

Honcho Nijushiko
VTR. Hyogo: Awaji Puppet Theatre.


Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Awaji Puppet Theatre
936-3 Okarumo, Fukura, Nandan, Mihara, Hyogo 656-0503, Japan
Tel : (81-799)52-0260 Fax : (81-799)52-3072


Data provider

Ms. Hiroko Yamamoto
Editorial Advisor
Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
Address: 6 Fukuromachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8484, Japan