Bunraku is the traditional puppet theater of Japan, with a high-level stage art.  Originally, the term Bunraku referred only to the particular theater established in 1805 in Osaka, which was named the Bunrakuza after the puppeteering ensemble of Uemura Bunrakuken (1751-1810), an early 18th-century puppeteer on Awaji, whose efforts revived the flagging fortunes of the traditional puppet theater.  Bunraku’s world renown stems not only from its high-quality artistic technique, but also from the high level of its joruri music and the unique nature of manipulating the puppets―each puppet requires three puppeteers to bring it to life. Bunraku puppetry has been a documented traditional activity for Japanese people for hundreds of years.  Along with noh and kabuki, it is recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.


Originally, the art of joruri developed in western Japan, mainly in Kyoto, and soon after was taken to Edo (the old name of Tokyo), and by the mid-seventeenth century, dozens of schools of joruri had arisen. Among them, gidayu-bushi, the colorful expression of the style of Takemoto Gidayu, which had borrowed techniques from the various other schools, become extremely popular. In 1684, Takemoto Gidayu established the Takemoto-za theatre in the Dotonbori district of Osaka and teamed up with the famous playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724), whose works he mainly performed. From that time, all the other joruri schools that had flourished began to fade away, to the extent that gidayu-bushi itself came to be known simply as joruri.

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