In Buddhism, Joruri means shojo (purity) or transparent lapis lazuli. It also refers to the land where Yakushi-nyorai resides.
It is also the collective name for the traditional Japanese art of katarimono (narratives) (as described below). In some regions, this term specifically refers to Gidayu-bushi (musical narrative of the puppet theater), a representative school of Joruri.
As for the origin of Ningyo Joruri (traditional Japanese puppet theater), refer to the items 'Origin' and 'Completion of Gidayu-bushi' mentioned below, and for the details of its performance refer to the item Bunraku.
Joruri is one of the traditional Japanese musical forms.
In Joruri, the dayu (narrator) narrates a verse with the accompaniment of the shamisen, a banjo-like, three-string instrument. Because a verse isn't merely a song but also includes the words, gestures and actions of the characters in a play, the dayu's narration sounds strong, something like the objective description of events. Therefore, the term 'narration,' instead of 'singing,' is used for Joruri performance, and Joruri songs are commonly collectively called 'katarimono' (narratives). The well-known schools of Joruri are Gidayu-bushi, Tokiwazu-bushi and Kiyomoto-bushi (all of which are described below). The art that consists of Joruri and puppets is Ningyo Joruri (Bunraku puppets).
Although Joruri is often identified with Gidayu-bushi, such an interpretation is incorrect. Gidayu-bushi is just one Joruri school, but each school is unique.
Joruri's origin is generally believed to be an artist who preached the blessing of deities and Buddha by narrating "Joruri Junidan Soshi" ("Joruri Monogatari," which is the combination of a love story between Joruri-gozen and Ushiwakamaru and the tale of the miraculous efficacy of Amida-nyorai), a kind of Otogi Zoshi (a collection of fair tales) compiled at the end of the medieval age. The name 'Joruri' was derived from the above. It is believed that its content was completed during the Kyoroku era (1528 - 1532). It seems to have originally been performed to Ogi-byoshi (fan rhythm) accompaniment after the examples of Heikyoku (the music played on the Heike biwa as accompaniment to recitation of the Tale of Heike), Yokyoku (Noh song) and/or Sekkyo-bushi (sermon ballads). With the introduction of the sanshin (a traditional Okinawan three-string instrument) in the Eiroku era (1558 - 1570) and its ensuing development into shamisen, Joruri made rapid progress. Although the shamisen was initially used by the blind in the Kamigata region (Kyoto and Osaka), it became the accompaniment instrument of Kairaishi/Kugutsushi (entertainment groups of puppet players) in the Bunroku era (1593 - 1596). Joruri reached its current state of completion when the shamisen was combined with Joruri-bushi.
It was in the Edo period that Joruri became an art form of high artistic quality. Joruri, which was brought in from Kyoto to Edo by Sugiyama Tango no jo and Joun SATSUMA, split into many schools and became popular among the people. Given the successive appearance of Handayu EDO (Handayu-bushi) and Kato MASUMI (Kato-bushi), who were disciples of Tango SUGIYAMA, Satsuma Geki Dayu (Geki-bushi) and Shuzen Osatsuma Dayu (Osatsuma-bushi), who were in turn disciples of Joun SATSUMA, Miyakodayu Icchu (Icchu-bushi) and Takemoto Chikugo no jo (Gidayu-bushi), this era was epochal in the history of Joruri (Hadayu-bushi and Geki-bushi continued their existence after being integrated into Kato-bushi, and Osatsuma-bushi continued its existence after being integrated into Nagauta (long epic song with shamisen accompaniment). Except for Gidayu-bushi, the above are collectively called "old Joruri."
Because the verses/stories in this era were underdeveloped, one cannot give them high marks. However, works called 'Konpira Joruri,' which developed mainly in Edo, later had a significant influence on the aragoto (a style of play featuring exaggerated posture, makeup and costume) of Kabuki.
The completion of Gidayu-bushi
A new era emerged in the history of Joruri when Gidayu TAKEMOTO (Chikugo no jo), in 1684, established the Takemotoza theater at Dotonbori and founded Gidayu-bushi. Thanks to the cooperation of the distinguished writer Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU, the stories were upgraded from the literary standpoint and verses were refined. Consequently, Gidayu-bushi and Ningyo Joruri became worthy of admiration as art. This new pattern won the enthusiastic support of the people in the Kamigata region, and Gidayu-bushi overwhelmed the old Joruri. As is clear from the fact that they were referred to with the names of individuals attached to the days of old Joruri, various schools of Joruri were synonymous with the masterly performances of individuals instead of the ones to be inherited as patterns. However, Gidayu-bushi was so perfect that the school name 'Gidayu-bushi' has been used continuously, even after the death of Gidayu TAKEMOTO, as the name of the pattern. One might say this is a symbolic example of the people's support for Gidayu-bushi. The characteristics of Gidayu-bushi were that it dramatically limited the element of 'singing' and instead pursued the element of description and profundity in 'narration' to its utmost limit. Judging by any of the following factors, such as the strained intervals created by the dayu and shamisen, consciousness of words and sounds or the dramaturgy to depict music in three dimensions in the form of 'narration,' Gidayu is worthy of being called the culmination of Joruri.
The appearance of Bungo-bushi
Around that time, Miyakodayu Icchu, who was a fellow disciple of Gidayu TAKEMOTO, founded Icchu-bushi in Kyoto. His disciple Miyakoji Bungo no jo, who had renamed it as Bungo-bushi, introduced it into Edo in 1734. The characteristic of Bungo-bushi was its erotic manner of recitation based on the elegant nature of Icchu-bushi, which contrasted with the dynamic nature of Gidayu-bushi. Because it was used in Edo as the accompanying music of Kabuki, it soon became very popular. Moreover, since it was so popular and was often used for the plays depicting lovers' suicides, such incidents of lovers' suicides occurred frequently in Edo. Given the circumstances, Bungo-bushi was banned on the grounds that it might cause the corruption of public morals and Bungo no jo was forced to leave Edo (however, some people assert that this ban of Bungo-bushi was a form of harassment by the Edo Joruri society, including Kato-bushi).
A few years later, however, Mojitayu TOKIWAZU and Fujimatsu Satsuma no jo, who were disciples of Miyakoji Bungo no jo, founded Tokiwazu-bushi and Fujimatsu-bushi, respectively. As a result, the tradition of Bungo-bushi took root in Edo and deprived the old Joruri of its popularity. Tokiwazu-bushi was often used as the accompaniment Joruri for Kabuki. It has a unique flavor because it combines the softness of Bungo-bushi and the dynamism of Edo old Joruri, and from it one can sense an Edo-like generousness. However, masters such as Tsuruga Wakasa no jo and Shinnai TSURUGA successively appeared in the Fujimatsu-bushi school. Particularly, Shinnai TSURUGA founded Shinai-bushi and brought forth a new phase of Bungo-bushi-origin Joruri. Although it was used for Kabuki for a period, Shinai-bushi was performed mainly as kadotsuke (performance in front of houses) starting in the late Edo period. While it inherited the erotic nature of Bungo-bushi, it also created a world filled with an elegant sensibility.
Despite the difference in the way of performance, namely as the accompaniment of Kabuki or kadotsuke, Bungo-bushi and Bungo-bushi-origin Joruri have common characteristics as described below.
First, they abandoned the use of puppets and became independent as music; and secondly, they developed, more or less, into forms that are softer and more erotic, as the nature of 'narration' was weakened by the element of 'song.'
Other than the above, Miyazono-bushi (founded by Sonohachi MIYAKOJI, a disciple of Bungo no jo) was also derived from Miyakoji Bungo no jo.
The development of Kiyomoto-bushi
The development of Bungo-bushi-origin Joruri entered a new phase in the mid-Edo period. After Tomimoto Buzen no jo, a disciple of Mojitayu TOKIWAZU, founded 'Tomimoto-bushi,' Kiyomoto Enju Dayu, a disciple of the second Tomimoto Buzen no jo, created Kiyomoto-bushi (1814). These were the ones that further enhanced the erotic nature of Tokiwazu-bushi. These were used, needless to say, as the musical accompaniment of Kabuki, but they also became the subjects of amateur learning or as music played at Japanese-style restaurants. Although Tokiwazu, Tomimoto and Kiyomoto, which were the first, second and third generations of Bungo-bushi, respectively, are collectively called "Bungo three schools," there are subtle differences among them. Tokiwazu, despite its erotic nature, also has the aspect of dynamism and crispness derived from the traditional Edo Joruri. Contrastingly, Kiyomoto, being a mixture of Tomimoto and Nagauta, has no dynamism at all but is a delicate and emotional Joruri in which high tones are frequently used.
The element of 'song' is much bigger than that of 'narration.'
While Tokiwazu has the aspect of simplicity and dynamism, Kiyomoto has the aspect of beauty and fragility because it has overly refined such aspects of Tokiwazu. Tomimoto used to be quite popular as the intermediate between them, but today it's on the verge of a downfall. Although its elegant simplicity, arising from the combination of eroticism and antique flavor, has a charm all its own, it has failed to show its uniqueness against Tokiwazu and Kiyomoto and therefore cannot resist the tide of history.
The current status
Eight kinds of Joruri music are existent today, namely Gidayu-bushi (Gidayu specializing in Marumoto Kabuki is sometimes called 'Takemoto (Chobo)'), Tokiwazu-bushi, Kiyomoto-bushi, Kato-bushi, Icchu-bushi, Miyazono-bushi (Kato-bushi, Icchu-bushi, Miyazono-bushi and Hagie-bushi, which derived from Kamigata jiuta (a genre of traditional songs with shamisen accompaniment), are collectively called 'Kokyoku'), Shinnai-bushi and Tomimoto-bushi. Other than the above, Handayu-bushi and Geki-bushi were both integrated into Kato-bushi; and Osatsuma-bushi, which was integrated into Nagauta and Shigetayu-bushi, which split from Bungo-bushi and was integrated into jiuta, exist under different names.