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Osaka's National Bunraku Theatre offering English introductory workshop in June

This year's masterpiece, "Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami" (Sugawara's Secrets of Calligraphy) is performed in this undated photo courtesy of the National Bunraku Theatre.

OSAKA -- The National Bunraku Theatre is holding the fourth edition of its "Discover Bunraku" English introduction to the traditional puppetry art on Saturday, June 15.

The event, set to take place from 2:00 p.m. to 4:10 p.m. at the National Bunraku Theater in central Osaka, offers a rare opportunity for English speakers to enjoy the intricacy and depth of one of Japan's most revered and long-lasting art forms. Internationally recognized for its beauty, UNESCO proclaimed Bunraku to be "a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity," in 2003.

Considered to be one of the most sophisticated forms of puppet theater in the world, Bunraku has a history stretching back over 300 years. Performers manipulate puppets voiced by a single narrator to tell historical dramas and tragedies, with music from the shamisen used to illustrate the characters' mood and emotions in a unique experience.

The theater has been offering introductory events to Bunraku since opening in 1984. Its annual "Bunraku performance for Beginners" program will take place between June 7 and June 20, 2019, with the English-friendly "Discover Bunraku" event on June 15.

Along with the introductory "ABC of Bunraku" event in English, attendees will also enjoy a performance of scenes from this year's chosen masterpiece, Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami (Sugawara's Secrets of Calligraphy). The play tells the story of the exile and suicide of Kanshojo, a high-ranking Heian court official.

This year's English navigator is Yagi Saki, a freelance TV announcer and Osaka native with many years of experience in Japanese mass media. Born in the U.S., raised in Osaka and with experience living in South Korea, Saki is the perfect guide for a tour into the puppet art. Her first experience with Bunraku was as a girl growing up here. She rediscovered it in adulthood, and says she loves it for the beautiful worlds it creates through music, narration and visuals.

As well as the presentation by Saki, the performance of "Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami" will be shown with English subtitles projected above the stage, and English audio guides are included in the ticket. A synopsis of the story will be available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Korean at the reception desk.

Tickets for the event cost 3,900 yen for general admission and 1,400 yen for students. The box office is now open online and over the phone. Tickets are available by visiting http://ticket.ntj.jac.go.jp/top_e.htm (No service between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.) To order by telephone, call the National Theatre Ticket Center domestically on 0570-07-9900, or on 03-3230-3000 for an IP Phone, between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. All times quoted are local to Japan.

(By Peter Masheter, Staff Writer)

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