日本語/English


Dissecting Hayashiya Niraku’s Kamikiri Profession

Kazumi Hatasa, Purdue University
khatasa@purdue.edu

(Translation: Megumi Inoue)

 

   

 

This website was created to introduce the depth of Kamikiri with the help from Master Hayashiya Niraku, who is a current performer in Japan. The goal is to present and analyze this profession.

 

The difference between “Kamikiri” and “Kiri-e”

Kamikiri is a variety act (Iromono) in between Rakugo stories at the Yose theaters. The performance involves cutting silhouettes out of a plain piece of paper based on requests from the audience on site. Kiri-e is an art form that takes time and cuts out very intricate pieces. The art is well-known throughout Europe and Asian countries but Kamikiri performance is only seen in Japan. The closest thing I’ve seen is at Disneyland when they would cut people’s profiles on site. If anyone has seen any other types of paper cutting performances or acts similar to Kamikiri, please feel free to let me know.  

Kiri-e mainly uses knives but Kamikiri only uses scissors. The start of the performance was in the Meiji era, when western scissors were introduced to Japan. Initially, the scissors were used to demonstrate how well they cut but later developed into a full performance.
Master Hayashiya Shouraku (1896-1966) was the first to introduce this performance to an audience. His disciple Master Hayashiya Shouraku 2nd (1935-1998) continued during the Showa era. Master Hayashiya Niraku is Shouraku 2nd’s 2nd son.

There are 2 main skills needed to be a Kamikiri performer. The first is scissor skills. In a speedy manner, the performer is required to cut the silhouette, utilizing a whole blank sheet with no drawings, in one stroke. Niraku is able to create a piece in a short time due to his extensive years of training.  The second skill is knowledge and creativity. When the audience shouts out a request during the performance, the performer does not know those requests ahead of time. They need to be able to recognize the order and build an image in their head. Niraku says that since he doesn’t know what to expect, he pays close attention to what is on the newspapers, TVs, magazines and the internet on a daily basis.

He feels the capability of taking in a request and constructing it into a vision, plus making the audience happy, entails creativity. When Niraku was asked for advice in the past he replied “Even thought you have great scissor skills, if you lack in creativity I can’t advise you to become a Kamikiri perfomer.”

Here are some things to think about, and please ask Master Niraku if you have a chance.

What decides the piece you are about to cut?

What are steps to cut a piece without drawing? What techniques do you use?

How long do you practice for?

Have you made mistakes during a performance?

What are popular requests?

How do you prepare for a wide range of requests?

 

LAST ARTISANS - Kamikiri (NHK BS) April, 2011

This program is a nice introduction to Kamikiri in English.

hayashiya-niraku-kamikiri.m4v

 

Dissecting the skills (Part 1)

After receiving a request, performers start cutting right away which makes it very hard for the audience to see how they are cutting. They also sway their bodies and rotate the paper during their performance. These are all techniques to not let the audience suspect what the end piece is.

In order to see how the performers cut, I asked Niraku to draw Benkei, which is a piece he has been cutting for many years. I asked him to draw it in 1 stroke as if he was cutting. I assumed that he would start from the top but then was surprised. I noticed that he started to draw from the lower right corner of the paper, where the foot would be. He continues to turn the paper around and kept the pen stable. Through this experiment I realized how he perceives images are different from us.

  

 

Dissecting the skills (Part 2)

As a continuation from the last experiment, I asked Niraku to draw Benkei once again in 1 stroke. But this time I asked him to stop drawing halfway and covered the half (from the back foot, up the back and to the top of the head) that he just drew with another sheet of paper. I then asked him to continue drawing as if he was cutting the 2nd half of Benkei. When he was done, I lifted the covered paper and noticed that the 2 halves completed to a perfect whole piece. Even the stick Benkei is holding is a perfect match.

 

Dissecting the skills (Part 3)

In this experiment, I asked him to draw Momotaro, which is another piece he has been cutting for years in 1 stroke. It’s a scene where Momotaro is facing a dog and handing him a kibi-dango. Niraku, just like drawing Benkei, starts from the lower right corner where Momotaro’s heel is, and continues up the back. After he’s done drawing Momotaro, and works his way to the dog he says, “I can’t continue to draw like this” and stops. I tell him to continue as he normally would and Niraku flips the paper over and drew the dog on the other side. I was very surprised with this. This appears to be the case because in the way that his teacher/master taught, people/animals are always cut from their backs. So, he can’t cut from the character’s front side. Thus, when Niraku gets requests with 2 silhouettes facing each other he always has to flip the paper over. Be aware of this the next time you watch a Kamikiri performance.

When Niraku is performing on stage, he uses Momotaro as his (Hasami-dameshi) 1st practice piece. I asked him how many of these he has cut in the past. He answers “I cut Momotaro at least once a day, so maybe in a year around 400. But then I’ve been doing this for 30 years!”

 

 

Kyoku-neta  (Kamikiri with music)

Kyoku-neta is considered Niraku’s original creation. I don’t think there are any other Kamikiri performers that offer this entertainment. Like a shadow slide show, he has multiple pieces that has been cut prior to and projects those images using an “ancient” overhead projector to a song. This represents Niraku’s “skills” and his interpretation of song lyrics expressed through his “knowledge” and “creativity”.

Below are some of his YouTube videos.

     

 

 

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