Japanese Paper Theatre Performance –prototype of Manga
Manga has been recognized as effective tools for expression and communication with children by many, including educators and specialists in children’s culture. Of special interest in the period from the 1920 to 1940: a time when the relationship between Kamishibai and popular culture was particular vibrant. Around 1950, when Kamishibai began to declined due to the growing popularity of TV, characters and certain form of expression found in Kamishibai have been transformed into Manga. Before TV arrives in Japan in 1954, more than 10,000 Traveling storytellers entertained nearly five million children and people every day with Kamishibai or Paper Theater performance. Some of story tellers were would be Manga writers who were rejected by major publishers, then became cut –price and cut- throat outlet of paper theatres. Kamishibai was seen everywhere on the street in Japan until early 1970.
In post-war society, street kamishibai was among the few entertainments that children could enjoy. In 1946, one year after the end of the war, a kamishibai work titled Ogon Bat (Golden Bat) was reproduced by Kata Koji, who wrote the story and painted the pictures. Around then, street kamshibai regained the popularity that it once enjoyed before the war. Children rushed to alleys to view kamishibai shows on hearing the sounds of clappers or drums beaten by kamishibai performers, who brought a wooden frame and picture cards on bicycles. Kam-shibai performers also sold candies and sweets to kids which was one of the mean of their income. Kamishibai was used as a media of education at that time.
Even though street kamishibai performers disappeared from the alleys, never to return, kamishibai shows continue to entertain children at elementary schools, kindergartens and childcare centers. In 1991, kamishibai was introduced to Vietnam. Today, kamishibai, a cultural asset invented in Japan, is being introduced throughout Southeast Asia, Europe and North America.
Kamishibai performance and Workshop
September 2008, first full scale Kamishibai tour in UK and Ireland was coordinated by mu:arts in collaboration with Kyoto Manga Museum. We featured legendary kamishibai performer Yuushi Yasuno and his young assistant Yumi Yasuno, at Barbican Centre (London), Liverpool Biennial , Urbis (Manchester), Chester Beatty Museum (Dublin). We also gave workshop for teachers to teach Japanese using Kamishibai.
We presented nostalgic Kamishibai stories including Ogon Bat and original pieces including young Osamu Tezuka’s episode. At workshops, participants created their own version of 4-scenes Kabishibai and challenged Kamishibai performance which was a great success. Helen McCarthy and Paul Gravett, both authors and noted manga historians, gave seminar – Manga and Kamishibai- in conversation with Yushi Yasuno and Yumi Yasuno.
Yasuno Yuji (nicknamed as Yassan), is a Kamishibai – performer in residence at Kyoto International Manga Museum, born in 1943, qualified as Kamishibai performer in 1972 and has performed Kamishibai for over 40 years.
Very sadly, Yassan, one of the greatest Street Kamishibai perfomer in 21st century, died in August 2012.His legacy and will to maintain Kamishibai of his style to the next generation is handed to his son Dammaru who is now the leader of Kamishibai troup in Kyoto Manga Museum, Ryakkyomu and Chakamaru.
Kamishibai performance and workshops are available for festival, event and school/community workshop in UK.
Derek Carpenter, the only english Kamishibai storyteller in old Kamishibai style will come to your town upon request.