Kamishibai: The magical art of Japanese “paper play”

Niko's Floating World ニコの浮世

Kamishibai: how the magical art of Japanese storytelling is being revived and promoting bilingualism

Kamishibai Performer In Japan.

Géraldine D Enjelvin, University of York

In a world where technological advancement seems to be at the forefront of almost everything, it can sometimes feel like if it doesn’t have a screen or a keyboard, it isn’t worth engaging with.

Yet despite this backdrop of ongoing high tech developments, a centuries-old Japanese storytelling tradition is being revived for modern audiences. Meet kamishibai – from kami, meaning paper and shibai, meaning play or theatre – the ancient Japanese storytelling tool that many librarians, nursing-homes and schools use in several countries around the world.

Pronounced ka-mee-shee-bye, kamishibai is such a powerful medium that Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) adopted it in 2011 as part of its AIDS campaign: “Befriend Malik”.

And more recently a French organisation promoting multilingualism, DULALA…

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