chapter  17
45 Pages

Miracle at Yaguchi Ferry: A Japanese Puppet Play and Its Metamorphosis to Kabuki

A large proportion of the plays in the Japanese kabuki theatre are maruhon mono: that is, plays originally written for and performed by the puppet the­ atre. Indeed, though kabuki boasts masterworks of its own, it would be far poorer without the contributions of the puppet theatre. It is not surprising that puppet works have been so freely borrowed by the actors. Up through the middle years of the eighteenth century, Japan's greatest playwrights for the popular theatre were, by and large, those who devoted their talents to the dolls. While there are obvious similarities between the two theatres, they differ precisely because one is based on a long-standing narrative tradition adaptable to puppets, whereas the lifeblood of the other has always been the skill of great families of actors.