If you’re interested in seeing a bunraku puppet show while in Japan, Osaka’s National Bunraku Theater is arguably the best place to do so. The art of bunraku puppetry dates back more than 300 years, and it reached its peak in Osaka in the 1740s.
A typical performance at this theater features a series of puppets, each requiring three handlers working in tandem to operate it. Unlike in other forms of puppetry, the bunraku puppeteers appear openly on stage. Performances typically last the better part of a day, with each of two halves lasting three to four hours, but it is possible to buy a ticket for only one part or even for just a single act. With these tickets, visitors can get a sense of the art form without spending a whole day watching it.
While the plays (typically traditional samurai dramas) are in Japanese, English language headphone guides that explain what’s happening onstage can be purchased.
The National Bunraku Theater typically hosts performances during January, April, June, August and November. Tickets often sell out quickly.