Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater of Japan to Open Performing Arts Series

The Hamilton College Performing Arts Series starts off the Contemporary Voices and Visions series on Saturday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. in Wellin Hall with the Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater, starring Shinnai musician Tsuruga Wakasanojo XI and master puppeteer Nishikawa Koryu V.

Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo was created by Koryu Nishikawa in 1825.  Hachioji is a name of the city in a suburban area of Tokyo where the company is located.  Because a puppeteer sits on a small seat with roller wheels (rokuro-kuruma) and manipulates the puppet (ningyo), it is called Kuruma Ningyo, or wheeled puppet theater.  This wheeled seat enables a single puppeteer to move a puppet, as opposed to bunraku which requires three puppeteers to manipulate one puppet.  Currently, Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo is led by Koryu Nishikawa V.

Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo was designated as an Intangible Cultural Asset by the Tokyo Metropolitan government in 1962.  In 1996, the Japanese government designated it as an Intangible Folk Custom Cultural Asset. 

The company's repertoire consists of traditional Japanese stories shared with the Bunraku Theater accompanied by live shinnai musicians (singers and shamisen). Two shamisen players accompany the narrator/singer and the assistant narrator/singer.  A shamisen is a three-stringed instrument shaped somewhat like a banjo and played with a pick. However, unlike a banjo, the neck is not fretted, and the shamisen pick is very large (about the size of a man's hand), whereas guitar and banjo picks are very small (about the size of a man's fingernail).  The singer narrates the story while the action is performed by the puppets. This tour will feature Wakasanojo Tsuruga, shinnai singer and the 11th head of the Tsuruga School of Shinnai.  The Japanese government in 2001 designated Tsuruga as a Living National Treasure, an honor given to the very top traditional performers and craftspeople, and currently held by about 100 individuals across all fields.
The Hamilton performance will feature three pieces: Sanbaso, a celebratory puppet dance performed to taped music; Tokaidochu Hizakurige, a comical travel story of the Edo Period with live shinnai music; and Kuzunoha, the traditional famous love story of the fox, often performed in Kabuki with live shinnai music

The American Tour of Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Company is produced by Japan Society, New York, and is supported by The Japan Foundation through the Performing Arts JAPAN program; international transportation is supported in part by All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. 

Tickets for this event are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. All seating is general admission. Group rates are available. For more information or to order tickets, call the box office at 859-4331.

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