Masuda String Puppets 2017 UK Tour

Puppets 01
Edo Period Puppetry since 1887

Intangible Folk Cultural Property of
Shimane Prefecture designated in 1963


16/11/2017 (Thursday)

Hosted by The Japan Research Centre, SOAS
Speech by guest speaker from Japanese Embassy
Lecture by Prof. Andrew Gerstle
Masuda String Puppeteers performance
Wine reception & DVD screening of performances
at Grand Toit Theatre in Shimane

18:30 – 20:30 (venue opens 18:15)
Kamran Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)
Ground Floor, SOAS
University of London
Russell Square,
London WC1H 0XG

Free admission 150 seats on first come first serve basis

Thornhaugh Street, Bloomsbury
London WC1H 0XG
020 7637 2388


17/11/2017 (Friday)

Private function at University of East Anglia

18/11/2017 (Saturday)

Hosted by Norwich Puppet Theatre

Matinee: Performance for children/family
14:30 – 15:45 (venue opens 14:00)

1. Kotobuki Sanbaso
Good luck opening scene
2. Keisei Awa-no-Naruto
A mother-daughter reunion story
3. Yamamoto Ichiryu-Shishi-no-Ikkyoku
A good luck lion dance

£30.00 for family (2 adults+2 children or 1 adult+3 children)

Evening event: Performance
19:30 – 21:00 (venue opens 19:00)

Part I
1. Kotobuki Sanbaso
2. Keisei Awa-no-Naruto

Part II
1. Anglo-Japanese puppeteers’ skill demonstrations
2. Yamamoto Ichiryu-Shishi-no-Ikkyoku


Norwich Puppet theatre, St James, Whitefriars
Norwich NR3 1TN
Ticket Office 01603 629921


19/11/2017 (Sunday)

Hosted by Norwich Puppet Theatre
By appointment only

Workshop for UK professional puppeteers
* Skill demonstration and tuition to handle Japanese puppets
* DVD screening of Masuda String Puppets performance at Grand Toit in Shimane
* Discussion on Anglo-Japanese puppet exchange/collaboration



Supported by the Embassy of Japan

Japan Embassy
Toshiba 2     ANA    Shimane Culture Fund

Shimane International CenterSOAS    Norwich Puppet   Sainsbury Institute   Centre for Japanese Studies

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Puppets 03      Puppets 02
© Makoto Furukawa

Masuda String Puppets
was formed in 1887 when Sankichi Yamamoto, the Edo Puppetry master in Asakusa Tokyo, and his troupe taught puppetry to the Joruri group in Masuda Town called ‘Komatsu-ren’.


Bunraku, the puppetry handled directly by the pupetteers without using strings is internationally known today. Not many people know that Japanese traditional string puppetry was as very popular in Japan from the Edo Period.


In the Izumo region of Shimane, where Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine is located, records show string puppetry (using the old Chinese style handling board with five strings) entertained pilgrims and tourists as early as 1652, in the early Edo Period. Although it disappeared after the World War II when modern entertainments such as TV and cinema took over.  Izumo-style puppetry has been preserved in the neighbouring Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Masuda Puppeteers use a 田-shaped handling board with up to eighteen strings. They are said to be the only group in Japan preserving the original Edo format handling the puppets from above the ceiling board of the puppet stage and with a Gidayu narrator, Shamisen player and percussion accompaniment. We brought the narrators and music accompaniment to London, without the puppet stage, to give performances at Victoria & Albert Museum in May 2016.  For their 2017 tour we use recorded narration and music.

Masuda String Puppeteers are currently assisting the Association for the Preservation of Izumo Puppets to revive puppetry. There are almost five hundred Izumo Puppet artefacts including puppets, their kimono costumes and stage props stored by Izumo City’s Cultural Treasure Department. We are planning to show some the artefact images at our SOAS event on 16th November.

For event information please e-mail:



Puppets 04               Puppets 05    GT 6    GT 1

IWAMI ART THEATER ‘Grand Toit’ – Small Hall                                  Award-winning theatre and art museum facility opened in Masuda City in 2005 is the    (used for Puppets)                                                                               home of Masuda String Puppets

Facility (photographs in the lower part of the link page):

Theatre event schedule:


Masuda City
is located in the south-west of Shimane Prefecture close to Yamaguchi and Hiroshima (map).

Sesshu (1420 – 1506), the Zen monk and the most prominent Japanese master of ink and wash painting in the Muromachi period, built Japanese gardens in the temples he served as a monk and left some painting works in Masuda. The record shows he died in Masuda.

Sesshu 01


Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (660 – 724), the Japanese waka poet and aristocrat of the late Asuka period known as the poet of Manyoshu.

It is believed that he died in Masuda at the last province he served as an official of the central court, his descendants became Iwami Province Governors and obtained the title Lord Masuda after the Kamakura period. The legend of his romance with the local Yosami-no-otome (the mother of Hitomaro’s son Minomaro) is well-known.

Masuda City, Shimane 01