The Five Men of Naniwa

In life, they were poor hooligans. In death, they became five of Japan’s greatest folk heroes. Join us for a journey into Japan’s 17th-century true crime puppet shows, time-traveling heroic tales, and kabuki romance.

Featured image: A portrait of an actor dressed as Karigane Bunshichi, wearing the wild goose pattern he’s often associated with. This seems to be from a mid-19th-century play that updates the story by transporting these characters to the present day. (Image source)

Another portrait of an actor dressed as Bunshichi. The outfits look similar enough that this might be another portrait of the same actor. (Image source)

Actors dressed as the Five Men of Naniwa from a late 18th-century play. (Image source)

Portraits of actors in a mid-1700s play about these characters. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on here but it sounds like a pretty wild plot, since the caption for this image is “Sanogawa Ichimatsu I as Soga no Gorō disguised as Karigane Bunshichi and Onoe Kikugorō I as An no Heiemon by Ishikawa Toyonobu.” (Image source)

A demonstration of bunraku puppetry. These incredibly detailed puppets have changeable facial expressions.