Country: Japan Category: Culture By: Kiki
Bunraku, formly known as ningyo joruri, is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, founded in Osaka in 1684.

Three kinds of performers take part in a bunraku performance:

* Ningyotsukai or Ningyozukai - Puppeteers

* Tayu - Chanters

* Shamisen - Players

Occasionally other instruments such as taiko drums are used.

The most accurate term for the traditional puppet theater in Japan is ningyo joruri. The combination of chanting and shamisen playing is called joruri and the Japanese word for puppet is ningyo.

Originally, the term "Bunraku" referred only to the particular theater established in 1872 in Osaka, which was named the Bunraku-za after its founder, a puppeteer named Uemura Bunrakken (or Bunrakuken), whose efforts revived the flagging fortunes of the traditional puppet theater in the mid-19th century. The later prominence of the National Bunraku Theater of Japan, which is a descendant of the theater founded by Bunrakken, has popularized the name "Bunraku" in the twentieth century to the point that many Japanese use the term to refer generically to any traditional puppet theater in Japan.

However, almost all of the traditional puppet troupes currently in existence outside Osaka were founded and named long before the appearance of Uemura Bunrakukken and his theater, so they generally do not use the word to describe themselves. The exception is the few troupes that were organized by puppeteers from the Bunraku-za or its successors who left Osaka to found theaters in the provinces.

In Europe and the Americas, the term "Bunraku" is often used among puppeteers to describe puppets that are manipulated in a way similar to those in traditional Japanese Bunraku theater, in contrast to hand puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppets, or marionettes. The characteristics of Western "bunraku" usually include multiple, visible puppeteers who manipulate the puppet directly. Other elements emulating traditional Bunraku theater may be present. The use of the term concerns some purists, but Western puppeteers have found the word useful to describe a style of puppetry that was inspired by the Japanese tradition for which no succinct English term exist.

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