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Long-lost, centuries-old Bunraku puppet play performed in Niigata Pref.

A scene from the ancient puppet play "Echigo no Kuni Kashiwazaki Kochi Hoin Godenki" is performed in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, on Sept. 24, 2017. (Mainichi)

KASHIWAZAKI, Niigata -- A long-lost Bunraku puppet play, whose lone original copy was taken overseas during the Edo period and lay for many years at the British Library in London, was performed on Sept. 24 in this city, with which its main character is associated.

The play, penned in 1685 and titled "Echigo no Kuni Kashiwazaki Kochi Hoin Godenki" (The life of the high priest Kochi of Kashiwazaki, Echigo domain) was performed at an event marking 10 years since the 2007 Chuetsu earthquake struck Niigata Prefecture. The performance of the play in its native land followed one in London in June.

Waseda University professor emeritus Bunzo Torigoe, 89, rediscovered the play 55 years ago, and Japanese literature scholar Donald Keene, a professor emeritus at Columbia University, had worked with him to see it performed again. Keene said it was wonderful.

The play is based on the life of the high priest Hochi, whose remains -- mummified in the 14th century -- are kept at Saisho-ji temple in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture. It was performed on Sept. 24 by Keene's adopted son Echigo Kakutayu and the Saruhachi-za troupe set up by Nishihashi Hachirobee, a practitioner of "Bunya Ningyo," a type of traditional puppetry passed down on the Niigata Prefecture island of Sado. Spectators applauded the enthusiastic performance.

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