Leisurely Walk in “Puppet Town”
Nov 18 2015
Ningyo joruri (Bunraku) is the traditional puppet theatre that combines chanting, shamisen music, and puppets.
Alongside kabuki, it was a part of the vibrant merchant culture of the Edo period.
Today we are visiting Ningyo-cho town located in Nihonbashi district, the centre of Edo's booming economy.
The old downtown got its name, Puppet Town (ningyo means puppet/ doll; cho means town), because doll makers and puppeteers: people involved with ningyo joruri lived here about 400 years ago, back in the Edo period.
In Japan, dolls have been treated differently from regular toys: as something that have souls (Ningyo written in kanji characters means "human form").
At Oogannon-ji temple near Ningyo-cho station (Tokyo Metro Hibiya line and Toei Asakusa line), you can ask for "ningyo kuyo" - a rite like "a funeral for dolls" for owners to bid farewell to beloved dolls.
A 400-meter long alley that stretches from Ningyocho-dori main street toward Meiji-za, the oldest theatre in Tokyo, is Amazake-yokocho alley.
In the old days - at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912), there was a store called Owari-ya around the entrance of the alley. It was bustling with customers enjoying their specialty: amazake (sweet fermented rice drink), and the alley was named Amazake-yokocho.
Stores selling fans, kimono, shamisen (three string Japanese guitars), and tsuzura (lacquered bamboo basket-boxes)... Escaped damage during the war, Ningyo-cho retains long-established stores of old Tokyo.
Ningyo-yaki, sweet handmade cakes in the shapes of seven deities of good fortune, is said to be born in Ningyo-cho, and they have been a popular souvenir for theater-goers going home.
"Nihonbashi Shichifukujin Meguri (visiting deities in seven shrines in Nihonbashi area)" in January, "Hana Matsuri (Buddha’s Birthday Flower Festival)" in April, "Setomono Ichi (Chinaware Market) in August, and "Ningyocho Doll Fair" in October... the town remains an active entertainment centre in downtown Tokyo!
Why not make a little trip to Ningyocho and feel the spirit of Edo?
Share if you are attracted to the atmosphere of the old downtown!