Invitation To  BUNRAKU

Bunraku Dolls: How the Dolls Work

Assembling a doll

A puppeteer enters the mind of the character in the process of dressing the puppet

Puppets are repaired or stored by their heads (kashira), costumes, and other component parts. The process of dressing a puppet and getting it ready for the run is called “Ningyo koshirae.” It is the job of the main puppeteer (Omo-zukai), who is the most senior of the puppeteers and is in charge of moving the head and right hand, to prepare the puppet for each performance. Through putting a costume on a puppet that has a hollow body, the main puppeteer enters the mind of its character.

The steps of Ningyo koshirae

The costume artisan gets the costume ready for the character, and this costume is brought to the main puppeteer.

The body of the puppet held and used by the main puppeteer. The inside of the body is hollow.

1 First, the bo-eri (outer collar stuffed with cotton) and naka-eri (inner collar) are placed on top of each other. The thickness of the collar and its method of attachment determine the shape of the entire puppet, making this the most important part of dressing a puppet.

2 The costume is not simply placed on the puppet but is sewn tightly to the body with a string. The costume is put on and sewn in place while making adjustments to its shape.

3 It takes a lot of strength to sew the obi (sash tied around the waist) and its knots in place.

4 The hands are hung, and the head is inserted. After making the finishing touches to the costume, Ningyo koshirae is completed.

Thanks to: Kiritake Kanjuro III
Character: Tenmaya Ohatsu from “Sonezaki shinju” (The Love Suicides at Sonezaki)