A traditional form of public entertainment that was selected as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Property
Bunraku sits alongside Noh, Kyogen and Kabuki as a representative traditional form of performing art. Boasting a history of over 300 years, it is a puppetry that has been registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Property. From the traditional Japanese narrative music of joruri which conveys the melodic tunes and musical plot, and the accompanying string instruments of shamisen, the story unfolds. With the joruri and shamisen, human emotions are expressed through the movements of the puppets which are truly exquisite. What distinguishes bunraku from the puppetry in other nations is that while a genuine drama is played out drawing on the subtleties and nature of the human heart, the puppet operators appear grandly in front of the audience. The three-person operation of each puppet, known as sannin-zukai, is unique in the world. The National Bunraku Theater is located close to the birthplace of bunraku, Osaka’s Dotombori district. Periodic performances occur 4 times a year. Ticket reservations begin one month before the opening day of a performance, and same-day seats are also available. The schedule can be seen on the homepage for the National Bunraku Theater. To watch the performance, please use the English earphone guide (payable). You can enjoy bunraku even without prior knowledge through the explanation in the pre-performance programme and the audio commentary during the performance in real time. Many of the performances are approximately 4 hours in length, so there is always a 30-minute intermission in the middle of a performance. Box lunches and tea are sold before the performance so it’s good to purchase them in advance. On the 1st floor, there is a restaurant, “Bunraku Charyo”, and along with meals, you can also enjoy matcha tea and Japanese confections. To use the restaurant, it’s suggested to make reservations before the performance.
If you want to know about bunraku
Would you like to experience bunraku although it’s not during the periodic performances? Then, come to the document exhibition room on the 1st floor. Books, almanacs, etc. on the history of bunraku are displayed so you can find out about what makes bunraku attractive. For souvenirs, try “Kasho Bunraku” on the 2nd floor where the famous bunraku sembei crackers, books, CDs and performance programmes are sold. This shop is recommended for people who are looking for unique souvenirs that cannot be found elsewhere.