B&WConceptFeaturedOshichi by Michiko Chiyoda

‘Oshichi’ is a name of the doll and ‘she’ played as a 16-year-old girl who was put to death by burning at the stake for committing arson.
889215 min



One day, Japanese photographer Michio Chiyoda came across a doll that had been used in ‘Ningyo JORURI’ Puppet Theater. The doll was so captivating that Chiyoda’s eyes were glued on ‘it’.

‘Oshichi’ is a name of the doll and ‘she’ played as a 16-year-old girl who was put to death by burning at the stake for committing arson. Oshichi did arson because she was dying to see her lover.

The play is a Japanese traditional puppet drama, based on the historical fact from the Edo period. Oshichi met him at a temple where she and her family took shelter as they lost their house in the fire one day. The young couple fell in love with each other soon. But Oshichi and her family had to leave the temple when their house was rebuilt. Oshichi missed him so much and started to think that she could see him again if another fire occurred. So Oshichi torched her house, hopefully to see him but she was caught by a police after all. After Oshichi was executed, her lover made a pilgrimage throughout the rest of his life.


While gazing at this doll, Chiyoda became to feel deeply Oshichi’s grief of taking care of his later life. With thinking of Oshichi’s love for him, Chiyoda started to think that she should follow his footprints. During the trip, Chiyoda gave a prayer to him at shrines, temples and enshrined natural objects as he might have done so to Oshichi. Chiyoda also felt Oshichi’s sorrow that rippled through herself.

Chiyoda thinks that, people often lose their precious things in every aspect of their lives. And they sometimes see someone who grieves for losing their precious things. No matter how they do so on what they lost, they can’t get their time back. Even if they hope to live forever, the last day of their lives will come one day for all of them. There is no exception, and that fact never changes. They have to keep it in their mind and carry on living with the sorrow for death on their shoulders.

The sorrow, on the other hand, is inseparably related to love for others. It has a certain power to empathize with people and they achieve a committed relationship with them. By sharing it with others, Chiyoda think they can move out of our past and step forward to the future. Experiencing sadness makes them grow, and gives them great power to live.

According to Chiyoda, While she was traveling, she felt everything was pure. They were all impressive and every moment she was deeply moved by the scenery. Chiyoda felt the great nature surrounding us. Through her trip, Chiyoda has realized we are all alive on the earth with the same fate. Like Oshichi, the last day will come one day but Chiyoda feel the strong connection with this world. Chiyoda wants to value this bond and will keep on going day by day. [Official Website] [Samurai Foto]



Ningyo Joruri

Bunraku (=Ningyo Joruri) is one of Japan’s representative traditional performing arts, designated a World Intangible Heritage by UNESCO in 2003. It is a closely collaborative form which synchronizes narrative recitation, shamisen music and puppetry in performance. The origins of present-day Bunraku date back to the seventeenth century, when older puppet shows (ayatsuri ningyo) were integrated with the medieval narratives (Joruri) and called Ningyo Joruri, “puppet narrative.” One “Joruri” puppet is manipulated by three experts, which is unprecedented in the world, and audience could be led to empathize what it expresses through rich and sensitive expressions on its face and body. Its performance is sometimes admired more than actors’.

Greengrocer Oshichi

Yaoya Oshichi (1667 – 1683), literally “greengrocer Oshichi”, was a daughter of the greengrocer Tarobei who lived in the Edo (old Tokyo) at the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1867). She was burned at the stake for attempting to commit arson for trying to meet the guy whom she fell in love with. The story became the subject of Joruri plays in which the doll is being used as Oshichi.

Place of his pilgrimage

They say that he headed for the western countries from Edo which is Tokyo now. His grave is still existing in the “Izumo” region that is roughly about 800km west from Tokyo, and people have been carrying on the tradition of holly, mysterious places where various gods gather since ancient times.


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