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Local puppet theater group in Miyazaki Pref. Wins prize for traditional culture

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kimitomo Maeda, far left, and others report receiving the award from the mayor of Miyakonojo in December.

MIYAKONOJO, Miyazaki – A group that maintains local ningyo joruri puppet shows in Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, has received the Pola Award for Traditional Japanese Culture in the regional culture category.

The group is working to pass on the Yamanokuchi Fumoto Bunyabushi Puppet Show to posterity.

“We would like to fulfill and deliver the wishes of our predecessors [the puppet show] to future generations,” said Kimitomo Maeda, 77, who heads the group.

According to the group and the city of Miyakonojo, the Yamanokuchi Fumoto Bunyabushi puppet show spread during the Edo period (1603-1867). It is passed down from generation to generation and appreciated by the locals on festive occasions.

The puppet shows stopped for a while after World War II, but were revived in 1951 when locals formed the conservation group. It was designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the central government in 1995. The puppet show is currently performed four times a year in March, June, September and November.

The Pola Award for Traditional Japanese Culture is presented annually by the Tokyo-based Pola Foundation for the Promotion of Traditional Japanese Culture to those who pursue precious traditional craftsmanship, traditional performing arts, folk arts and events.

The foundation praised the Yamanokuchi Fumoto Bunyabushi puppet show, the winner of the regional award, as “a nationally valuable traditional performing art that has been handed down to this day, with puppets each manipulated by a single puppeteer and the Bunyabushi music that used to be was played. very popular in the early Edo period.”

Because the conservation group has been teaching local elementary school students how to use the dolls for about 30 years, the foundation praised the group for “giving approximately 580 children the opportunity to experience the tradition.”

In December, Maeda and some other group members visited the Miyakonojo municipal government to report on the mayor’s receipt of the award.

“There are problems, such as a shortage of successors, but I am hopeful that some of the children we have taught will come back one day,” Maeda said. “I am grateful to the award for allowing me to learn about the culture of a rural area in the Kyushu region.”

Courtesy of Miyakonojo City
A performance of the Yamanokuchi Fumoto Bunyabushi Puppet Show last June


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