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Bunraku 文楽 (Japanese Puppet Plays)

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Bunraku 文楽 (Japanese Puppet Plays)
  • Description

    Photobook. First edition. 2 vols.

  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1972
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 41.3 centimetres
    • Width: 27 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    One of the most beautiful book-productions in post-war Japan, and undoubtedly another milestone in Domon's oeuvre. The art of Bunraku puppet plays was developed in the 17th century and supposedly reached the peak of its popularity in the 18th century. It is a highly complex art form where wooden puppets are moved on a stage by one to three puppeteers to the accompaniment of a shamisen player and a narrator. The skill of the puppeteer lies in his ability to submerge his whole existence beneath the role of puppet, i.e. to become invisible. Lower ranking puppeteers (so-called 'black children' kuro-ko) wear black robes and masks to help them achieve that aim, but for a master of the art such artificial camouflage is unnecessary. Although first published in 1972, Domon had taken most of the images before the war. One of the most evocative photographs is the left hand of the Yoshida Bungoro (1869-1962), the most renowned master of bunraku during the 20th century. Clearly visible are the calluses that develop from the pressure of the control-mechanism on the thumb and middle finger. Many of the images are taken backstage. Exquisite book-design by Tanaka Ikko. Only two copies in OCLC. (Titus Boeder, 4/07)


  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2007 Oct 10-2008 Feb 17, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
    2015 April-October, London, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from Prehistory to the Present'

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • PB.28 (Photobook number)

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Object reference number: JCF16146

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