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Japanese Paper Theater (Kamishibai)

Kamishibai on Bicycle

Kamishibai on Bicycle. Illustrated by Stephanie Kao.

Kamishibai (closed)

Kamishibai (closed). Illustrated by Stephanie Kao.

Kamishibai (open)

Kamishibai (open). Illustrated by Stephanie Kao.

 

 

Kamishibai on Bicycle
Kamishibai (closed)
Kamishibai (open)

Japanese Paper Theater (Kamishibai)

In Japan, the tradition of storytelling with art dates back as early as the 9th century when Japanese Buddhist monks would use storytelling scrolls to teach religious stories and lessons to an illiterate public. During the Edo period of peace, and onto the Meiji period, picture storytelling shifted from religious to secular stories as a means of entertainment.

During the early 20th century, picture storytelling, then known as kamishibai became a way to escape from the hardships of war and economic depression. A kamishibai storyteller would typically ride on a bicycle from town to town and tell stories using picture cards in a small theater on his bicycle. It became especially popular during the 1920s because of the growth of the silent film industry, which was actually narrated in Japan, and took on the characteristics of silent film dialogue and stage set aesthetics.

Kamishibai became so popular that television was first called “electric kamishibai.” As kamishibai became less popular, these artist adapted their skills to the popular manga and anime to tell stories.

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