Bunraku Shamisen Master Tsuruzawa Kanji, National Treasure, Dies at 89

Society Culture

Osaka, Sept. 5 (Jiji Press)--Japanese human national treasure Tsuruzawa Kanji VII, a noted "shamisen" player for traditional bunraku puppet plays, died at a hospital in Ikoma, Nara Prefecture, on Wednesday. He was 89.

The three-string Japanese banjo player, whose real name was Yasuo Shirai, made his stage debut in 1943 as Tsuruzawa Kanko while sitting at the feet of his father, then Tsuruzawa Kanjiro, who later became Tsuruzawa Kanji VI.

After performing as Kanko, he assumed the name Takezawa Danroku VIII in 1956 and reached the highest rank for bunraku shamisen players in 1994. He was designated a living national treasure in 1997 and took the name Tsuruzawa Kanji VII in 2001.

The native of Kyoto was known for enchanting and expressive performances that reflected the emotions of characters and the scenes of stories, as well as for playing for a wide variety of plays, from period pieces to those portraying people's everyday lives.

In later years, he was highly acclaimed for performances with Takemoto Sumitayu, a narrator of bunraku plays who died in April this year at the age of 93. Sumitayu was awarded the Order of Culture in 2014.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press