Invitation To  BUNRAKU


Finalization period

The art of Bunraku has been passed down across generations.

Performances put on by Uemura Bunrakuken

People enjoying joruri
"Shokunin Zukushi Ekotoba" vol.1
(National Diet Library collection)

By the late 18th century, the theatres gradually began to lose their audience, while there was an increasing population of amateurs enjoying joruri and puppeteering. Against this backdrop, Uemura Bunrakuken opened a joruri training school in Osaka. He began to put on performances of Ningyo joruri that drew popularity. This troupe came to be known as Bunrakuza in the Meiji period (1868–1912). From around this time Ningyo joruri also began to be called "Bunraku."

Shift in performances

Goryo Bunraku-za that opened in 1884
"Bunraku No Kenkyu" Shunyodo Publishing,1930
(National Theatre collection)

During the period of Bunrakuza, it began to pursue musical performance and acting techniques for existing plays rather than for new works, and Bunraku was further refined as a performing art. This period saw the opening of a new theatre and the emergence of many outstanding performers. With the modernization of the world of performances, however, the business operations of Bunrakuza were transferred to the present-day Shochiku Co., Ltd. in the early 20th century. Performances continued to be put on until 1945 when the theater was struck by an air raid.

Opening of National Theatre & National Bunraku Theatre

National Theatre

National Bunraku Theatre

Despite the ravages of war, Bunraku performances resumed immediately at a temporary theatre one year after the war ended. In 1955, Bunraku was designated an Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan, and later managed by the Bunraku Kyokai founded by the Japanese government and other parties. In 1966, the National Theatre equipped with stage equipment unique to Bunraku opened in Tokyo. In 1984, the National Bunraku Theatre opened in Osaka. In 2003, UNESCO proclaimed Bunraku "a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity." In 2008, Bunraku was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. And today, the tradition of Bunraku still lives on.