The traditional Japanese puppet theater, Bunraku, is an entertainment originated from Osaka, popular among the commoners during the Edo period. Bunraku Theater (文楽劇場) later grew and embodies the sense artistic and aesthetic in the performances and also in dramatic contents. The classical feel of the story narrative and music, along with real-like movements and expression of the puppet, it rally appeals to the modern audience.
Bunraku is one of the 3 performances that is recognized as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, alongside with Noh and Kabuki. Bunraku, founded in Osaka in the early 17th century, is a sophisticate traditional puppet theater. It is usually written and performed in way that is targeting adult audience, usually about tragic love story, legendary tales, or historical events.
The ticket price for the bunraku performance may varies between 1000 yen to 6000 yen (around RM38 to RM228) according to the shows and the seating selection. The ticket can be purchased or reserved online or via telephone. The tickets can also be bought on the spot at their Box Office.
For the other facilities, such as the exhibition room, no admission fee is required. But for the Audio-visual room, reservation and usage fee is required.
Bunraku Puppet Theater
The puppet used in Bunraku performance is sized about half to full size of normal adult. There are 3 components that works together to run the Bunraku performance: the chanter (太夫/ tayu) who voiced all of the puppets in the play; the shamisen (三味線) player who provides music; and lastly the groups of puppeteers to put the puppet to live. The art of Bunraku does not lies solely by the animating the puppet alone, but the achieving perfect resonance between the 3 elements makes the art.
Unlike the other puppet theater that uses strings, Bunraku puppets is operated direction by the puppeteers themselves – not alone, but in a group of 3 per puppet. One of them will control the legs, the other one will control the left arm, and the main puppeteer will manipulate the head and the whole facial expression which includes the eyelids, eyeballs, eyebrows, mouth, and also the right arm. This makes the puppet behaves and have life-like expression.
The National Bunraku Theatre (731 seats) with stage equipment specially for Bunraku is located in its birthplace of Osaka. Major productions generally run in January, April, July–August, and November. In June, performances for beginners are held with explanations provided. At the theatre, you will find materials that explain the history of Bunraku as well as exhibition space for puppets and instruments.
Osaka’s National Bunraku Theater Schedule
The major performance is usually runs in January, April, June, July/August, and November for around 2 to 3 week each month. The may be divided into 2 or 3 parts in a day, where each part may spans around 2 and a half hours to 4 and a half hours. This performance will be held at the main hall. They also have English audio headset with full commentary for the Bunraku shows to be rent out for around 700 yen (around RM27)
Other than that, they occasionally hold a Bunraku performance for beginner, where they introduce the art of Bunraku, and also do a play but in a beginner-friendly manner. So if you came not in the season for the major performance, fret not and check for these Bunraku performance for beginner.
- Spot name: National Bunraku Theater, Osaka
- Street address: 1-12-10 Nipponbashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0073, Japan
- Business Hour: 10 AM to 6 PM
- Access: 1 minute walk from OsakaMetro-Nipponbashi Station or Kintetsu-Nipponbashi Station