Takemoto (竹本)

Takemoto is the surname of Gidayu TAKEMOTO (stage name), the founder of Gidayu-bushi (musical narrative of the puppet theatre). Later, it has become custom for Tayu (narrator) of Gidayu (a style of reciting dramatic narratives) to use TAKEMOTO or TOYOTAKE as their surname invariably when creating a stage name.

Also, Gidayu-bushi featured in Kabuki plays is called Takemoto. Takemoto is also referred to as Chobo or Kabuki Gidayu. Takemoto has been used as backstage accompaniment to Kabuki plays for a long time, but it now appears in external performance events, as well. Modern people tend to avoid the word Chobo because of its discriminatory connotation.

Takemoto refers to Gidayu-bushi featured in Maruhon Kabuki (kabuki plays of doll theatre origin), which, accompanied by shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese banjo), is narrated a story (Although it seems that tayu are singing, the expression 'to narrate' is used in Gidayu instead of 'to sing'), or Tayu who narrate a story and shamisen-kata (accompanying shamisen players), and narration itself. There is little difference between the practice of Takemoto and that of the Gidayu that accompanies Bunraku or Ningyo joruri (traditional Japanese puppet theatre).

In Bunraku, the whole story is narrated by Tayu whereas in Kabuki, Tayu narrate a story only when actors do not speak their lines.

In Kabuki, Tayu are required to use techniques that slightly differ from those adopted in Bunraku, such as the harmonization of musical narratives and actors' dialogues and the deployment of narratives well-coordinated with actors' gestures.

For those reasons, Takemoto is differentiated from ningyo-joruri's Gidayu.

Until a certain period after World War II, Bunraku practitioners had a strong tendency to look down upon Takemoto and inclined to consider that their appearance in Kabuki was a 'disgrace.'
This class-based prejudice explains why Bunraku practitioners have a deep-seated mind-set to clearly discriminate against Takemoto in favor of Bunraku, despite no major differences in their practices. Even today, special arrangements should be made when Tayu and Shamisen-kata belonging to the Bunraku-za Theatre appear in Kabuki performances (Kabuki actors do not speak the line, and the whole story is narrated by Gidayu), and under normal conditions, this type of interactive events are not practiced.

Recently, however, there is a growing trend toward the active revaluation of the originality and techniques of Takemoto as accompaniment to plays and a growing tendency to consider Takemoto and Bunraku Gidayu as separate music.

The reason why the name Takemoto was given to Kabuki Gidayu is because there is no Tayu specialized in Kabuki Takemoto who currently use the TOYOTAKE surname, and Takemoto Tayu are required to use only the TAKEMOTO surname in the future. The name also implies the assertion of the originality of Kabuki Gidayu, which is independent of Bunraku Gidayu.

There are many beliefs about the origin of the word Chobo, although all remains uncertain.

One belief is that this comes from the fact that traditional Kabuki scripts highlighted Gidayu's part with dots.

Another belief is that in the traditional yukahon (performance script for a puppet theatre performance) Chobo's part had been highlighted with red tags, but this was replaced by dots at certain times, and this is why.

These beliefs are majoirty ones, and both beliefs share a common foundation that Chobo comes from the slang chobo, which means a dot.

[Original Japanese]