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About Kamishibai

Kamishibai (紙芝居), literally “paper drama”, is a form of storytelling that originated in Japanese Buddhist temples in the 12th century, where monks used emakimono (picture scrolls) to convey stories with moral lessons to a mostly illiterate audience.

Kamishibai endured as a storytelling method for centuries, but is perhaps best known for its revival in the 1920s through the 1950s.

The gaito kamishibaiya, or kamishibai storyteller, rode from village to village on a bicycle equipped with a small stage. On arrival, the storyteller used two wooden clappers, called hyoshigi, to announce his arrival. Children who bought candy from the storyteller got the best seats in front of the stage.

Once an audience assembled, the storyteller told several stories using a set of illustrated boards, inserted into the stage and withdrawn one by one as the story was told. The stories were often serials and new episodes were told on each visit to the village.

The revival of kamishibai can be tied to the global depression of the late 1920s when it offered a means by which an unemployed man could earn a small income. The tradition was largely supplanted by the advent of television in the late 1950s but has recently enjoyed a revival in Japanese libraries and elementary schools.

Some Americans have translated traditional kamishibai into English and offer them as part of a “Balanced Literacy” teaching philosophy.  –from wikipedia

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