National

Osaka bunraku theater budget cut

Kyodo

The city of Osaka is trimming its subsidy for a traditional bunraku theater because the local national playhouse failed to draw enough spectators in the 2013 season, Mayor Toru Hashimoto confirmed Monday.

As part of Hashimoto’s initiative to review subsidy appropriations, the National Bunraku Theater, situated in Chuo Ward, was required to attract at least 105,000 viewers in fiscal 2013 to be eligible for the full ¥39 million in funding from the city.

The theater said around 101,000 people visited it during the year, down about 2,600 from a year earlier. This means the theater is expected to incur a reduction of ¥7 million in its annual subsidy. The theater year ended Sunday with the last day of the first spring performances.

Hashimoto acknowledged the theater’s efforts to achieve the 100,000-viewer threshold, commending those at the frontline, including Bunraku Kyokai, the association supporting the art, as well as storytellers, shamisen players and puppeteers.

He added, “It’s not good to keep an attitude that we don’t care whether spectators come or not, because we are preserving cultural heritage.”

He indicated that further efforts are necessary, such as developing programs that will attract more fans. Hashimoto was speaking to reporters at City Hall.

Subject to cuts are outlays at the bunraku association that manages performers and plans stage productions around the country. The association has already been reducing costs, such as by not hiring replacements for people who have retired.

Bunraku is a traditional performance art that thrived in the Edo Period.

A collaboration between puppeteers, chanters and shamisen players, it has been designated by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.