On Osaka, puppet shows are much more than entertainment for children. Puppetry, or bunraku, is a traditional Japanese art form that audiences have enjoyed for centuries. Osaka is the capital of Bunraku. The art form became extremely popular during the Edo Period in the early 1800s; it represented a form of entertainment that the every-day citizen could enjoy, not just nobles. Seeing a puppet show in Osaka is a memorable cultural and historic experience.
The most well-known puppet shows in Osaka take place at the National Bunraku Theater. Even today, dressing up and going to the theater for a puppet show is a very popular activity. The venue itself is a notable location that attracts locals and tourists. The Theater opened in April of 1984. While the structure itself is not ancient, it was built to celebrate and preserve Bunraku tradition. It is the most advanced and modern puppet theater in the world.
The Theater consists of much more than a performance stage. Inside there is a training center for puppetry, and archives for materials related to Bunraku. Less than a handful of plays are staged each year at the Theater, and each production runs for two-to-three weeks. With such a limited show time, tickets sell out quickly. Performances are typically held in January, April, June, July/August, and November. The Theater provides English programs and headphones for foreign visitors.
Bunraku has two notable characteristics that separate it from other forms of puppetry. Three puppeteers work each puppet, and the puppeteers are visible to the audience. The performances are accentuated by a high-level of artistry in maneuvering the puppets.
The National Bunraku Theater is a very short walk from Nippombashi Station on the Sennichimae Line.