The National Bunraku Theatre

We’re Not Stringing You Along When We Say This Memorable Experience Is On Another Level

While Japan’s distinct noh and kabuki theatre styles are instantly recognisable, the country’s lesser-known bunraku puppet plays are an experience unlike any other. Each puppet is operated by a principal and two assistants, who manipulate the puppet’s limbs, facial features and bodies, to dazzling effect. Dressed in all-black, they fade into elaborate backgrounds, allowing the audience to lose themselves in the meticulously detailed puppets. Just off stage, a shamisen player provides a consistent soundtrack, while a narrator speaks, shouts and sings, voicing all the characters alone – be they men, women or children.

The plays are largely adaptations of classic stories and scripts, centred around tragedy and honour, such as The Fight Over The Carriage At The Yoshida Shrine. Though bunraku began as a commoner’s form of entertainment in Osaka during the Edo period, it has worked its way into the heart of the capital’s National Theatre. Non-Japanese speakers are in for a treat, with audio guides accompanying the stories so they can follow the narrative without issue.

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