Kamikiri (Paper Cutting Craft) (紙切り)

"Kamikiri" is one of the traditional Japanese performing arts, which shows the performance of cutting a piece of paper in some shape with a pair of scissors.

At a vaudeville theater, the performance of kamikiri is shown as one of "iromono" (various entertainments other than storytelling), and sometimes it is shown in response to the requests of the audience. Kamikiri covers various subjects from classical ones, such as a good luck charms or scenes of a play, to animals or cartoon characters. Kamikiri is a performing art more than just a paper cutting craft, because a performer gives shape to the subject - no matter how difficult it is - with his (or her) wit on the spot, and because he (or she) contiues talking while cutting the paper so the audience won't be bored with the performance. Most of the finished works are given to the audience.


Kamikiri is said to have begun during the Edo period as a form of entertainment for a party, in which a performer cut a piece of paper in various shapes according to utai (the chanting of a Noh text) or with songs accompanied by shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese banjo). In 1873, Omocha KIRAKUTEI, a buffoon, showed his performance of kamikiri on koza (the stage on which a comic storyteller sits) in a vaudeville theater. Even after that, however, kamikiri was such an inconspicuous performance of all iromono that few performed kamikiri at a vaudeville theater, and today there remain only a few works of kamikiri made in those days.

When TV broadcast began after World War Ⅱ, Shoraku HAYASHIYA became famous, with those who appeared on a TV kamikiri quiz show. At first, the TV station asked Itcho YANAGIYA, a kamikiri performer, to appear on TV, but he refused, saying they should ask Shoraku to do it about a nonsense kamikiri performance in a quiz show, so they followed his advice, and the first Shoraku got to perform kamikiri on TV.

Itcho YANAGIYA, who changed his name to Itcho HANABUSA, and then into Itcho OGURA, had pupils, such as Choji HANABUSA, who became popular for 'modern kamikiri,' and Shotaro YANAGIYA, who performs not only as a comic storyteller, but also as a kamikiri performer. And the first Shoraku had a pupil Imamaru HAYASHIYA (the second Shoraku). At first, the second Shoraku became a pupil of Hikoroku HAYASHIYA to become a comic storyteller, but had to give up this path because of his accent, so instead, he became a pupil of the first Shoraku to be a kamikiri performer. The second Shoraku has two pupils, the third Shoraku and Niraku HAYASHIYA (his second son); his first son is the comic storyteller Konanji KATSURA.

Perfomances Abroad

In foreign countries, kamikiri is regarded as an unique performance, so it is also called "paper cutting craft." Therefore, kamikiri performers are often invited to give performances in events related to Japan that are held in those countries.

Major Active Performers of Kamikiri


The third Shoraku HAYASHIYA



In 1946, a boy who later became Shotaro YANAGIYA was born in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. In 1961, he became a pupil of Itcho YANAGIYA, and began to be guided by a senior pupil Choji HANABUSA. In 1969, he made his debut by the name of Kochoji HANABUSA. In 1980, he succeeded to the name of "Shotaro YANAGIYA. From 1990, he has often put his kamikiri works on display at art exhibitions. In 1998, he held an one-person exhibition for the first time. In 2002, he became a member of Kansai Vaudeville Association. Now he lives in Shizuoka Prefecture, makes activities as a kamikiri performer and serves as a kamikiri class lecturer. He is a member of Japanese Paper Cutting Craft Association.


In 1932, Chu MOMOKAWA was born in Kita Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. He became interested in kamikiri during his childhood, and thereafter he polished up his skills of kamikiri by himself. He did it as one of his hobbies, but in 1981, encouraged by other people, he made his debut as a professional kamikiri performer. He has often given his performance abroad, like in the Universal Exposition of Seville, Spain in 1992. Having an unique skill, he calls his performance 'Edo kamikiri' to distinguish it from other kamikiri. Joen MOMOKAWA, a professional storyteller, wass his maternal relative.

Takeshi IZUMI

In 1968, Takeshi IZUMI made his debut in vaudeville, and in 1975, he appeared as a kamikiri performer on stage of, for example, the National Vaudeville Hall and Japan Broadcasting Corporation's 'The best comedians' show.'
From 1992, he has appeared in many events abroad related to Japan. In 2005, he appeared in the Exposition of Global Harmony 2005 Aichi, Japan. His kamikiri performance repertoire covers sexual humor for adults only. His teacher was Ryo DAITO, actively performed kamikiri at the Osu Vaudeville Theater in Nagoya City died in 2006.

Miki ITO

Miki ITO comes from Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture. After graduating from an art college, she was fascinated with a kamikiri performance, so she became a pupil of Chu MOMOKAWA. She has appeared in events many times, and she calls her performance 'Edo kamikiri,' following her teacher.

Elizabeta SUZUKI

Elizabeta SUZUKI, Swiss, became a pupil of Imamaru HAYASHIYA in 1980, and was given the name of Imaju HAYASHIYA in 1987. She appeared in events not only in Japan, but also in foreign countries, such as Switzerland and Canada.


On October 4, 1976, a girl who later became Chiaki KIRIGAMIST was born in Tokoro-cho, Kitami City, Hokkaido Prefecture, and she was raised in nearby Abashiri City. She was fascinated by the kamikiri performance of the second Shoraku HAYASHIYA in her childhood, and after that, kamikiri became one of her favorite amusements. In 1997, she made her debut as a street performer in the street performance event in Sapporo City.
In 2002, she became a pupil of Shiko KATSURA (a Sapporo resident and a comic storyteller of "Kamigata," or Kyoto and Osaka area), and she belonged to Yoshimoto Creative Agency Sapporo Office with the stage name of 'Karin.'
But later, she was excommunicated by the members of the school of Shiko KATSURA, and she changed her stage name to Chiaki (in Chinese characters, written as "千陽"). At present, she performs kamikiri under the stage name of Chiaki KIRIGAMIST mainly in Hokkaido Prefecture. In August 2007, she held a one-person kamikiri exhibition titled 'Toga' (Cutting Works' Elegance) under the name of Chiaki (in Chinese characters, written as "千亜紀"). This exhibition proved she has an outstanding talent for kamikiri art besides storytelling.


Hana HAYASHIYA comes from the Tokyo Metropolis. In 1995, she became a pupil of Imamaru HAYASHIYA. She belongs to the Comic Storytelling Art Association. After being trained as an opening act, she made her debut as a kamikiri performer in a vaudeville theater iduring September 2008.


Emimaru HAYASHIYA is a comic storyteller of Kamigata, and he is good at performing kamikiri with his hands behind his back.

Western Art

Some artists, including Henri MATISSE, left some works of "kirigamie" (or "kirie") - the art in which an artist cuts a piece of paper in some shape, pastes it onto a different-colored mount, thereby setting off the color.

[Original Japanese]