Silent Film Narrators
in Japan

Benshi: Silent Film Narrators in Japan is an expanding digital archive delving into the Benshi tradition, a unique cultural phenomenon popular in early 20th-century Japan. Benshi were performers who used their voices to bring silent films to life by providing live narration of the story, embodying characters' voices, and interpreting and commenting on the plot for the audience. Our archive encompasses a curated collection of historical and contemporary materials related to benshi performance and its relation to the developing technology of each era, from the early twentieth century to the present day. It offers digital artifacts such as audio and video clips of benshi performances, virtual reality movie theaters of historical locations, and digitized collections of benshi scripts.

Benshi: Who are they?

The term “benshi” derives from the longer designation, katsudo shashin benshi, which parses literally in Japanese as “motion picture speaker.”

What is the Benshi Archive?

The benshi archive is growing corpus of digitized historical materials relating to benshi performance and fan culture.”

The Missions of the Benshi Archive

The benshi archive has five interrelated missions, each with its own distinctive technical challenges, requirements, and solutions.