• Kyodo

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The Awa Ningyo Joruri troupe, a traditional Japanese puppet theater designated as part of the nation’s folk cultural heritage, will begin a five-city tour of Switzerland on Saturday.

The troupe, which performs mostly in Tokushima Prefecture, will start their tour in Zurich and travel on to Geneva, Bern and two other cities.

The tour was organized to coincide with a “joruri” exhibition by photographer Junko Sato, to be held at the Zurich University museum. Sato has taken pictures of the theater for many years.

Shigeko Togama, 53, and two other puppeteers covered in black will perform the show, with Silvain Guignard, a Swiss professor who teaches at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts, playing the Japanese lute.

Guignard will also perform the story-telling role for the audience.

Yoichiro Amari, 58, a Tokushima-based doll artist, spent three months creating the two puppet dolls to be used in the performances.

Guignard became an apprentice of the “biwa,” the Japanese lute, when he first came to Japan 20 years ago. He studied the instrument under lute master Kyokusui Yamazaki, who has been honored by the Japanese government as a living national treasure.

The three puppeteers worked with Guignard to match their movements with the music from his lute. The program includes “Nasu no Yoichi”(“Yoichi at Nasu”) and “Yodogimi” (“Lady Yodo”).

Developed primarily as folk entertainment, joruri has been performed in farming communities in Tokushima for more than 300 years. In contrast to the more commercial “bunraku” form of puppetry, Awa Ningyo Joruri typically is more showy and is accompanied by a simple but loud narration.

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