National Bunraku Theater
The art of bunraku puppetry dates back more than 300 years, and it reached its peak in Osaka in the 1740s. 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. These playful performances often bring to life stories from traditional samurai dramas.
A typical performance at this theater features a series of puppets, each requiring three handlers working in tandem to operate it. Unlike 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’s 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.
Things to know before you go
- While the plays are in Japanese, English language audio guides that explain what’s happening onstage can be purchased.
- Performance brochures are available in English, Chinese, Korean, and French.
- Theater amenities include a small Japanese restaurant and an exhibition hall with displays of puppets and costumes.
- The theater is barrier-free and wheelchair-accessible.
How to get there
The National Bunraku Theater is in Osaka’s Nippombashi district. To get there by public transportation, take the Sennichimae and Sakaisuji metro line to Nippombashi Station; from there it’s a short walk.
When to get there
The National Bunraku Theater typically hosts performances for three-week-long runs in January, April, June, August, and November. Tickets often sell out quickly. Keep an eye on the calendar for special “Bunraku for Beginners” performances.
Performing Arts in Osaka
Osaka’s performing arts scene is among the most diverse in Japan, with a show for just about everyone. ROR Comedy Club hosts English-language stand-up performances, perfect for couples or groups of friends, while the more traditional Noh Theater showcases one of Japan’s oldest theater traditions, dating back to the 14th century. The Symphony Hall hosts classical music concerts, and when the weather is nice, the outdoor Osaka Castle Music hall puts on orchestral performances, as well as lectures, twilight concerts, and other cultural performances.
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