Kamishibai, what it is, how to use it with children,

Kamishibai, what it is, how to use it with children, the advantages and how to build a Japanese theater.Kamishibai, a word that will sound new to most of you. It literally means “paper drama”, it is in fact a sort of small wooden theater typical of the Japanese tradition. The peculiarity is that puppets or puppets are not used but the stories are told through paper images.
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What is Kamishibai

The word Kamishibai indicates a particular type of narration of Japanese origin in which there is the presence of a voice that tells the story helped by some images that flow together as the story unfolds. There may also be background music or special special effects depending on what you are telling and the effect you want to have on the audience.This technique can be used to make animated readings thanks to which children and adults can listen to, and at the same time see, just as if they were reading a book, stories of all kinds even if they often prefer narratives that have a certain moral and therefore teach something to who listens to them.

The printed, painted, drawn or raised images always on paper or cardboard (originally they were made on wooden boards) help the people who listen to them to enter the story better.The name Kamishibai also commonly indicates the wooden structure with which the theater is made.

kamishibai drawing

Kamishibai, how it is born

This original and characteristic form of storytelling originated in Japan within Buddhist temples around the 12th century. At the time, most of the population was illiterate and this type of visual as well as auditory communication was used by monks to tell people the stories of the Buddha who taught the principles and morals to be followed.

For centuries this tradition has been tirelessly carried on by storytellers , storytellers who also traveled long distances by bicycle from one village to another in order to find public for their stories. At the time the theater was completely in wood, that is, besides the structure, all the stories in their different passages and most important points were painted on wooden tablets and with them even more episodes of the same adventure were made, a bit like today it happens for tv series.

Kamishibai as a game for children

With the advent of TV, the Kamishibai tradition has fallen into disuse but in reality this type of narration remains an excellent educational and stimulating tool for children, so much so that in Japanese primary schools and libraries its use has been recently relaunched.

In fact it is an alternative storytelling technique that should not be lost and that even in the West it can be used for children, always fascinated by stories, adventures and new experiences that see them as protagonists.

This theater will “catch” the little ones like or more than the classic games because in addition to listening to the stories they will also have the opportunity to invent them, make the drawings themselves that accompany the development of the events and even become narrators. Being active protagonists will make it even more fun.

To learn more about the importance of the game and to learn how to best stimulate the imagination of children even without the classic toys, read the following articles:

Kamishibai, how to use it

Using a Kamishibai is very easy. First, the theater should be opened and arranged in such a way that the public can see the illustrations. At this point you can insert the various images inside the appropiate slots found on the structure of the Kamishibai, these are put up and raised according to the key passages of the narration that need one figure rather than another.Usually while the audience sees the illustrations in the back the narrator has the opportunity to read the story.

Kamishibai, advantages

Kamishibai offers all the advantages of animated storytelling. Being a middle ground between theater and reading, children and the general public will find themselves more involved in history. The narration is in fact very rhythmic and this is due precisely to the presence of the illustrations that are put and removed several times during the story.

The images stimulate the imagination as well as the words of the narrator and the possible background music. It therefore creates a very special atmosphere that can also be helped by creating the narration in an environment with soft lighting.

An alternative tool that can be very useful at home but also in schools, playrooms and libraries to bring children closer to reading through a fun and captivating technique. The very simple use of this tool also makes it suitable for kindergarten children who, for example, will be able to make their own designs for their stories and invent real little shows.

It is therefore clear that this is an excellent activity to stimulate children’s imagination, their cognitive and expressive ability (if they identify themselves as narrators). The social aspect should not be underestimated as this tool can be used in groups of children who may have to collaborate with each other to invent a story, narrate it and then move to the spectators’ side when the shift changes.

An additional advantage is that the theater is small and portable , so you can choose to use it wherever you want.

In summary Kamishibai:

  • It is addicting
  • Stimulate creativity and imagination
  • Bring children closer to reading and theater
  • Helps expressive ability
  • Improve sociability
  • It is portable and can be used anywhere.

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