An introduction to BUNRAKU

Bunraku Dolls

The visually stunning Bunraku dolls shine on the stage all the more when they are in motion. The dolls have an elaborate composition, designed for optimal functionality and lightness. Let's find out more.

Bunraku Dolls

Head (kashira) and body

The dolls are generally 130 cm to 150 cm long and weigh anywhere from several kilograms to over 10 kg. The dolls are comprised of the head and body, and are principally made of wood. While dolls for male roles have feet, dolls for female roles typically do not have feet. Puppeteers make it appear as though a female is walking by the way in which they move the hem of the kimono.

Differentiation of heads by role

While new heads are sometimes made for new works, there are approximately 40 types of heads which are frequently utilized for performances of classical works, customized to an individual role by creatively changing the makeup and hairstyle. Because all heads are handmade, subtle differences can be found even between the heads having the same name. Some heads have moving eyes and eyebrows and can create a facial expression. Some have special mechanisms to turn a beautiful princess into a demon.

Heads called tsume are used for "Ozei" roles, meaning a large group of people, such as warriors of low standing, or merchants, farmers, ladies in waiting, and maids. Such heads are made a size smaller so that the leading characters stand out, and are manipulated by a single puppeteer. Each of the heads have unique characteristics.