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A video of how Kamishibai works
What is Kamishibai?
Kamishibai is a traditional Japanese storytelling, street performance art which translates as paper theatre. This art form was developed in the late 1920’s.
Traditionally a Kamishibai Man would travel around the neighbourhood and from village to village on his bicycle with a theatre frame on the back. Children would know he had arrived at the sound of his wooden clappers (hyoshigi).
Hyoshigi are a Japanese instrument made from hard wood or bamboo and are attached by a piece of rope. They are played by banging them together or on the ground. The clappers are struck slowly at first, then faster and faster to indicate that the story is about to begin.
In order to earn a living the Kamishibai Man would sell sweets to the children who came to hear the stories. A good performance and variety of stories could help guarantee a good sized audience and therefore more sales of sweets.
The Kamishibai Man would narrate the story orally, using his skill as a performer and good use of his Kamishibai to captivate his audience. Kamishibai can be used to both reveal and hide the next picture in the sequence, helping to add to the drama and suspense.