Explanation of Kuruma Ningyo puppetry
1. History of Kuruma Ningyo
Kuruma Ningyo is a kind of puppetry developed at the end of the
Edo Period, in which one puppeteer manipulates each puppet. It
was different from other puppetry of the day, in which three
puppeteers were needed to manipulate each puppet (as continues to
be done by the Bunraku troupe).
- explanation of the "rokuro guruma" (wheeled box) that the
puppeteer sits on
- how the puppet's legs and feet are manipulated
- how the puppet's hands are manipulated (right hand; left or "bow"
- how the parts of the puppet's head are manipulated
levers in front and in back of the puppet's neck are connected to
various parts of the head
next, a demonstration of how the head and both arms can be
moved at the same time
That demonstrates how a puppet can be manipulated by just one
person. However, using this method, manipulation of the puppet is
difficult. Most especially, the movement of the puppet's left arm
and hand is limited. A new way of manipulating the puppets has
been invented that enables the puppeteer to move the puppet's left
hand freely, even when the puppet is dancing. In the new style, the
body of the puppeteer supports the body of the puppet, so that the
puppeteer does not have to use either hand for that purpose.
The portion of Tokaidochu Hizakurige that will be performed is one
story from a series of tales about experiences that two ordinary Edo
Period men, Yaji-san and Kida-san, have while walking from Edo
(present-day Tokyo) to Kyoto on the road called the Tokaido. In this
scene, when they have stopped near a fresh grave, they mistake a
passing child for a ghost, and hit the "ghost" with a stick to try to
drive it away. The child's cries bring his father, who becomes angry
when he sees that his son has been injured. When he attacks
Yaji-san, Kita-san flees. Yaji-san passes out from the attack. The
child and his father, thinking that Yaji-san has died, steal his clothes
and dress him in a shroud that had been hanging by the grave.
When Yaji-san returns to consciousness, seeing how he is dressed, he
thinks that he must have died. When he was alive, he did many
bad things, so he doubts that he will be able to get into heaven.
Maybe he will go to hell. He cries in dismay.