Kamishibai Theatre

 Kamishibai, Surrey Museum, 2012Kamishibai (kah-mee-she-bye) originated in Japan but are part of a long, Asian picture storytelling tradition, beginning as early as the 9th century when priests used illustrated scrolls combined with narration to convey Buddhist doctrine to lay audiences.

Kamishibai story cards are made from stiff, oaktag (15” x 11”). Usually 12-16 cards are used per story.  One one side they are beautifully illustrated.  The stories range from traditional to modern.  Printed on the back of the cards are original Japanese text and its English translation.  The text is written in dialogue form.  The audience is pulled into the dramatic presentation quickly.

Kamishibai is truly the “poor man’s theatre” and was created for children.  It flourished during the 1930s when the depression sent many men to the street in search of a livelihood.  The storyteller rode a bicycle, equipped with a box of drawers filled with candy, and a small hand-made stage built right on top for showing his storycards.  He entereed neighbourhoods, announcing his presence by banging loudly on his wooden clappers, sold candy, and prepared his audience for a performance.  During World War II kamishibai became even more important as entertainment for adults as well as children.  There were many patriotic kamishibai performed during this time, some even in bomb shelters.

Shortly after the release of Rebecca’s bilingual (English/Japanese) children’s book, Fly Catcher Boy in late 2009, she and her husband, Takeshi, began to work on the idea of presenting the book kamishibai-style.

After constructing a theatre, the duo successfully launched kamishibai at the Vancouver Nikkei Place Winter Fair in November 2010.  Since then performances have taken place at the Powell Street Festival, Sakura Days—Japan Fair, and O-hanami Festival in Vancouver.  Upcoming 2012 performances will take kamishibai further into the Province, in addition to its first International visit to Japan October 2014..


If you would like to arrange a visit of the traveling Kamishibai storytelling theatre to your school or community event, please use the contact form to get in touch with Rebecca.