• Kyodo

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UNESCO on Friday recognized a traditional Japanese form of puppet theater as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

“Joruri bunraku” puppet theater was recognized in the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s second proclamation, along with 27 other forms of storytelling, music and performance from around the world, the organization said.

Joruri bunraku peaked in terms of artistry and skill in the 18th century. It features both serious and comical dramas and endures as a professional art form in Japan.

UNESCO released its first proclamation in 2001.

It included Noh theater and 18 other treasures with a view to raising international awareness and preservation of art forms from all areas of the world, particularly Asia and Africa.

In Joruri bunraku performances, three men operate each puppet, approximately half or two-thirds the size of a person, in intricately choreographed dances. A single chanter depicts the voice of each puppet, accompanied by three-stringed “shamisen” music.

Tamao Yoshida, designated a living national treasure for his operation of puppets, said: “I am aware of the heavy burden of maintaining the standards that merited international recognition. It has been getting hard for me recently to use heavy puppets, but I want to set a good example for young performers.”

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