Bunraku is nearly 1000 years old, but its rapid development as a popular form of entertainment can be traced to the mid-17th century when several new developments took place. First, there was a change from puppets operated by a single, hidden puppeteer to a visible, three-puppeteer operation. Second, the musicians were moved into a visible location and became part of the spectacle. Finally, and probably most important, Chikamatsu, the "Shakespeare" of Japanese theater, began to write for bunraku. He had achieved fame with his kabuki plays, and when he became interested in bunraku it rapidly increased the popularity of this art form.

The puppets have developed into remarkably life-like figures, roughly a meter tall, with movable eyes, eye-brows, and jaws. The master puppeteer works the head and the right hand, the second the left hand, and the apprentice the legs. Together, they create an almost life-like effect. It's wonderful theater.

UNESCO's introductory site
about the world of bunraku.

The National Bunraku Theater's home page. A wonderful experience.