Puppet Think

The Implication of Japanese Ritual Puppetry for Thinking through Puppetry Performances

Authored by: Jane Marie Law

The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance

Print publication date:  July  2014
Online publication date:  July  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415705400
eBook ISBN: 9781315850115
Adobe ISBN: 9781317911722


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During the 1980s when I was conducting research on the history, demise, and revival of Awaji puppetry, one of my main contacts on the island of Awaji was an elderly woman who, after her husband was killed during World War II, worked part time as a puppeteer to make a little extra money. We spent a great deal of time together, and because my studies were focused on the issue of revival and on the loss of a context for a tradition that had once been very important in her life, we spent many hours talking about her experiences during the war. She was a follower of a new Japanese religion, Reiyūkai, and one of her core practices was reciting the title of the Mahayana Buddhist scripture, the Lotus Sūtra, on a daily basis after reading the names of people who had died on that particular date during the war. (Mahayana refers to the stage of Buddhism that spread to Japan from India via China.) One day, while I was staying at her house, we read a very long list of names of people killed when a passenger boat had been bombed (presumably by American bombers) and sunk. She was very moved remembering how she had heard of the event over the radio as a young woman during the war. We read the names and then she chanted the title of the Lotus Sūtra.

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