The kamishibai, traveling paper theater
Popularized in the 1950s in Japan, discover the kamishibai, this small traveling theater where storytellers tell stories using multiple boards inserted into a wooden frame.
When one thinks of Japanese theatre , it is very often Kabuki or Noh theater that first comes to mind. However, and even if it is not played on a stage, there is another kind of theater whose origins seem to date back to the 12th century : the kamishibai or literally “ play on paper ”.
The kamishibai is a traveling theatre , where small plays are narrated by storytellers who, to embellish the story and complete their speech, parade illustrations in front of the audience.
If the kamishibai obviously has an entertaining vocation since the main audience of these paper theaters being children, a bit like the Guignol theaters in France , its primary function was not particularly playful.
See also: Rakugo
From Buddhism to leisure
In the twelfth century, Buddhist monks traveled through Japan to convert the inhabitants. They then used emaki , rolls of paper , as a medium for transmitting their word to generally illiterate peoples. Scrolls they were scrolling on a wooden frame.
A mechanism which little by little deviated from religion towards a secular practice in the 20th century , becoming one of the favorite hobbies of children . In particular with the publication of the first kamishibai dedicated to them: "The Golden Bat" by Ogon Bat in 1923, before experiencing its golden age in the 1950s when nearly 50,000 storytellers roamed Japan to entertain young Japanese.
Read: Buddhism in Japan
An art surpassed by television
In terms of operation, we always find the wooden frame , inside which the storyteller slides images on cardboard boards . On the face facing the spectators: the illustrations , on the other, the texts that the storyteller must declaim, in case of forgetting. Each image representing an episode of the story. Once the story is over, the storyteller closes the two small shutters located on either side of the wooden panel, and continues on his way to other villages.
But the development of television and magazines gradually got the better of the kamishibai in the 1960s .
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