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Puppets of Nostalgia: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of the Japanese "Awaji Ningyo" Tradition

Puppets of Nostalgia: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of the Japanese "Awaji Ningyo" Tradition

Jane Marie Law
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 338
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  • Book Info
    Puppets of Nostalgia: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of the Japanese "Awaji Ningyo" Tradition
    Book Description:

    Puppets of Nostalgiais the first major work in any Western language to examine the ritual origins and religious dimensions of puppetry in Japan. In a lucid and engaging style accessible to the general reader, Jane Marie Law describes the "life, death, and rebirth" ofawaji ningyo shibai, the unique form of puppet theater of Awaji Island that has existed since the sixteenth century. Puppetry rites on Awaji helped to maintain rigid ritual purity codes and to keep dangerous spiritual forces properly channeled and appeased. Law conducted fieldwork on Awaji, located in Japan's Inland Sea, over a ten-year period. In addition to being a detailed history and ethnography of this ritual tradition, Law's work is, at a theoretical level, a study of the process and meaning of tradition formation, reformation, invention, and revitalization. It will interest scholars in a number of fields, including the history of religions, anthropology, cultural studies, ritual and theater studies, Japanese studies, and social history.

    Focusing on the puppetry tradition of Awaji Island,Puppets of Nostalgiadescribes the activities of the island's ritual puppeteers and includes the first English translation of their performance texts and detailed descriptions of their rites. Because the author has lived on Awaji during extended periods of research, the work includes fine attention to local detail and nuanced readings of religious currents in Japan that affect popular religious expression. Illustrated throughout with rare photographs, the book provides an in-depth view of a four-hundred-year-old tradition never so thoroughly revealed to Western readers.

    Originally published in 1997.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7295-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-1)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. 2-2)
  5. Introduction. Of Stories and Fragments
    (pp. 3-16)

    The man was in his sixties, going bald, with bits of gray hair around his temples. He sat on the bench outside the Awaji puppet theater, on the promenade overlooking the swirling Naruto Straits. On the other side of the enormous whirlpools, the island of Shikoku could be seen through the bright sunshine. It was late afternoon, and the direction of the whirlpools indicated the water of the Pacific Ocean was flowing into the Inland Sea of Japan. In several hours, it would flow back out once again. The cape at the southern tip of the small island of Awaji,...

  6. 1 In the Shape of a Person: The Varieties of Ritual Uses of Effigy in Japan
    (pp. 17-48)

    I first saw a performance of Awaji ningyō in the fall of 1978, when I happened into the dilapidated theater on the waterfront of Fukura Bay, in a small fishing village in the southern part of the island. The theater was in a large hall located over a souvenir shop. A few dozen folding chairs were set up in rows for the audience. Downstairs, one could buy seaweed from the nearby Inland Sea, and trinkets with a regional flair.

    That day I saw the pilgrimage scene fromKeisei Awa no Naruto, the story of a young girl who, separated from...

  7. 2 Kadozuke: The Outsider at the Gates
    (pp. 49-88)

    It is the third day of the first month of the year. In a small village facing the Inland Sea, an elderly man makes his way through the narrow streets carrying on his shoulder a small bag and on his back a box wrapped in a black cloth. He wears short trousers, ahaoribelted at the waist, and straw sandals. The bag on his shoulder holds a small hand drum and a flute, and in the box on his back are puppets, each almost a meter in length, with their costumes and implements. As he walks through the village,...

  8. 3 A Crippled Deity, a Priest, and a Puppet: Kugutsu and Ebisu-kaki of the Nishinomiya Shrine
    (pp. 89-136)

    In this chapter, we turn to a discussion of the early puppeteers in Japan commonly calledkugutsu, and examine the fragmented evidence from the Heian period through early Tokugawa describing their activities. This term is the earliest in Japanese which specifically refers to manipulated dolls, as opposed to static ritual objects such as the examples of various kinds of ningyō discussed in chapter 1.

    Ideally, a history of these ritual puppeteers could begin in the early period of state formation in Japan and unravel as a rich narrative spanning nearly fifteen hundred years, linlcing up the scattered references to kugutsu...

  9. 4 A Dead Priest, an Angry Deity, a Fisherman, and a Puppet: The Narrative Origins of Awaji Ningyō
    (pp. 137-163)

    In the last chapter, we saw that puppeteers called Ebisu-kaki lived in the Sanjo district near the Nishinomiya shrine and were employed there as low ranking officials. They performed rituals to spread Ebisu worship and worshipped an epidemic deity called Hyakudayū. These Ebisu-kaki were extremely popular by the mid to late sixteenth century, judging by the numerous references to them at the time. By the middle of the sixteenth century, they began to expand their range of performances to include dramatic skits. The tradition of appeasing the deity Ebisu through ritual puppetry was said to have started when a priest...

  10. 5 Puppets of the Road, Puppets of the Field: Shiki Sanbasō, Ebisu-mai, and Puppetry Festivals on Awaji
    (pp. 164-203)

    When these Dōkumbō-mawashi from Awaji visited homes and performed on fishing docks and near shrines, what did their rites and puppets look like? How were these puppeteers organized among themselves? How were their performances received? What happened to their puppets when they were broken and could no longer be used? How do people living on Awaji today remember these performances? These are some of the questions addressed in this chapter.

    As I have pointed out, evidence for a study of ritual puppetry is fragmented, due to the low status of puppeteers and the popular, oral, and highly localized nature of...

  11. 6 Puppets and Whirlpools: Icons, Nostalgia, Regionalism, and Identity in the Revival of Awaji Ningyō
    (pp. 204-264)

    In September of 1957, at the invitation of the All Japan Regional Performing Arts Convention (Zenkoku kyōdo geinō taikai),¹ a puppeteer from Awaji presented a brief demonstration of puppet manipulation at the annual meeting held in a Tokyo hotel. The audience was predominantly foreign, and the entire demonstration took only about a half an hour. Attending the event was the director of the National Museum of Moscow in the Soviet Union. He was fascinated with the large puppets, wanted to offer an invitation for Awaji ningyō to perform in the Soviet Union, and asked to which theater on the island...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 265-266)

    Since the research for and writing of this book were completed, a major earthquake hit Hyōgo prefecture in Japan. Awaji was the epicenter of the quake. While none of the people connected with the theater lost their lives or homes, the damage on Awaji was considerable. The main highway which traverses the island was repaired only in March 1996, a full fourteen months after the quake.

    As a result, the business at the theater has been very bad, and people are again worried that Awaji puppetry will be nothing more than a passing tourist attraction. When I spoke with Umazume-san...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 267-300)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-312)
  15. Index
    (pp. 313-322)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 323-323)