Columbia Escutcheon

Columbia University Libraries Digital Program

Bunraku Puppet Theater Project
  Path: Digital Library Projects  : East Asian Library Projects : Bunraku

December 2008.   The Bunraku web site is completed and released for public users.  It documents the Bunraku puppet theater's revival in the second half of the 20th century, through more than 12,500 slides and nearly 7,000 black-and-white photographs of rehearsals and performances.

December 2005.  The Freeman Foundation has granted Columbia’s C. V. Starr East Asian Library $126,000 to assist in the digitization and online publication of images from the Library’s distinctive Barbara C. Adachi Japanese Puppet Theater Collection.  See CU Press Release.

September 2003.  The Barbara C. Adachi Bunraku Collection was donated by Ms. Adachi to Columbia University's C. V. Starr East Asian Library in 2000. This extensive collection documents the significant post-World War II revival of popular interest in bunraku, a type of traditional Japanese puppet theater. The Adachi collection spans the 1960s through the 1990s and consists of more than 12,500 slides and nearly 7,000 black-and-white photographs of rehearsals, performances, and workshops, as well as theater programs in Japanese and English, texts of the plays performed, and audio and video recordings of interviews with masters of the modern Japanese puppet theater.

The bunraku form developed early in Japan's Edo period (1603-1868), when large, half life-size puppets, a traditional three-stringed musical instrument called the shamisen, and original dramas of contemporary or historical interest were combined to create a new type of theater. Along with kabuki, bunraku represented a major new form of truly popular culture in the developing cities of Japan. Some of the most famous works in the current repertory were written by one of Japan's greatest playwrights, Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725). Although Monzaemon also wrote for the kabuki theater, he preferred to write for puppets rather than for actors who, following the performance practices of the time, felt free to change playwrights' lines as they saw fit.

Bunraku's cultural importance spans four hundred years, from the early seventeenth century to our own time. Since the end of World War II there has been a revived interest in bunraku, and Japanese audiences have steadily grown younger. Today Bunraku performances are seen advertised in the subways and, in 2001, were even featured on a special subway farecard.

checkPublic Web Site

check Press Release, 1/23/2009


Columbia Libraries    Digital Program
Last revision: 01/26/09
© Columbia University Libraries