Friday, December 28, 2012

Was Toru Hashimoto the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to Bunraku?

Do you remember how Toru Hashimoto, as Osaka mayor, threatened to cut off the municipal government’s subsidy to the traditional puppet theater unless the non-profit Bunraku association engaged him in a public debate? Do you remember how the association kept stalling and asking to meet the major in private—inexplicable, since they had literally nothing to lose, and tell me how Hashimoto could “win” the debate—but ultimately came around and the mayor duly restored the subsidy after confirming measures that essentially amounted to more accountability? On December 26, the municipal and prefectural governments, both firmly in the Hashimoto camp, have jointly bestowed the fourth annual Osaka Cultural Award on: Kanjuro Kiritake, a top-flight Bunraku puppetmaster for his contributions in taking the art to children and overseas.

So our plucky little hero quakes in fear at first, but finally musters the courage to face the evil overlords and not only prevails, but manages to melt the hearts of his tormentors and secures their blessing and public acclaim? Does that sound like the beginnings of a plot for a Bunraku script or what? (RPG, perhaps?) I’m not saying the two sides had this all planned out—for one, the decision on the Osaka Cultural Award is made by a panel of prominent local figures, not by the mayor and governor—but the media attention garnered along the way through all the theatrics certainly must have been drawing more eyeballs to the puppets, which was Hashimoto’s point, in the first place, wasn’t it?

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