Kamishibai Discussion Group

Kamishibai Man

We would like to welcome NSN and non-NSN members to join the World Kamishibai Forum, where we host kamishibai events and a monthly discussion group called the “Kamishibai Dojo.” Registration for the World Kamishibai Forum is free. Just scroll down to the bottom of the Forum’s page to register. Once you have registered, you will receive updates and information about how to sign up for our events and discussion group meetings.

Kamishibai (literally, “paper theater”) is a form of visual storytelling invented in Japan. Today, kamishibai is spreading around the world. The Kamishibai Dojo is a place where we practice  making and presenting kamishibai stories and give each other constructive feedback. In our monthly Kamishibai Dojo meetings, we share kamishibai storytelling techniques and resources for all who are interested in learning more about this dynamic storytelling format and incorporating it into their own storytelling practice. To sign up to present at a future dojo session, or if you have any questions, please contact Donna Tamaki at .

What is Kamishibai?

Kamishibai Man

Kamishibai (紙芝居), literally “paper theater,” is a form of street-performance art inspired by film and invented in Japan in the late 1920s. When silent film first entered Japan, it was never really silent because movie narrators, known as benshi 弁士,  were almost always standing alongside, explaining the (often foreign) films to avid fans. In some cases, the movie narrators became more popular than the movie stars!  

Street-performance kamishibai cards were inspired by these early films, and like films in miniature, the images were designed to be animated through dramatic transitions from one card to the next. The performer pulls the cards out of the stage while narrating the soundtrack alongside, much like the early film narrators. When talkies came to Japan in the 1920s, it is said that many of these film narrators took to performing kamishibai in the streets to make a living. By the 1950s, when television entered Japan, kamishibai had become so popular that the first televisions were referred to as denki(electric) kamishibai!

Now hailed as a precursor of animé and manga, kamishibai has been gaining attention worldwide, as artists, educators, and performers of all kinds, inspired by the candy peddlers of the 1930s, strap stages to bicycles or otherwise transport them to schools, streets, museums and parks to entertain audiences of all ages. Award-winning author/illustrator Allen Say published the story Kamishibai Man (2005) about his recollections of the storytellers from his youth, growing up in Japan, and it has now become a selection in textbooks in the US. There are now international kamishibai festivals in Mexico, Slovenia, Australia, France, and, through the World Kamishibai Forum, we hope to cultivate a vibrant culture of kamishibai in the US.

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