Sunday, November 17, 2013


After seeing a short snippet of bunraku at the Gion Corner mentioned in this post. I really wanted to see a whole performance. Bunraku is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater and the National Bunraku Theater is actually located in Osaka.

We watched Igagoe Dochu Sugoroku or The Vendetta at Iga which is based on a famous vendetta that occurred in 1634. The play was split into two parts and we watched the second one because the call time for the first half was at 10:30 am. The second half started at 4:30pm and it should have been a warning sign when people from the first act were leaving the theater as we got there! I didn't know what I was getting myself into and had naively thought that the play would last at most two hours. We didn't get out until 9pm or so!! The whole play by itself would have taken a day just to watch. That to me is kind of insane. Each half was split up into different acts and people would leave after each act. Since we had already sat through the first couple of acts and there were only two left we thought we would just stay. However what I didn't count on was that the last couple were the longest ones and I ended up falling asleep through most of it! Oops..

TayĆ«—the chanters (the voices and narrators) and shamisen players

The play was insane. It had samurais, baby killing, neglecting one's wife and infant and letting them almost freeze and starve to death in the snow, etc etc. Besides being violent the play was also kind of dirty which was amusing to watch.

The puppeteers could do such intricate stuff with the puppets like having them fight, pour tea, spin thread, or chop wood. We learned that it takes three puppeteers to move one puppet. One puppeteer controls the right leg, another the left arm and leg, and the master controls the right arm and head. The puppeteer will spend 10 years controlling the right leg before he can move up to the left arm and leg. After another 10 years the puppeteer can finally control the right arm and head and have his face be shown. Dang 30 years to master this craft!

Before the show, Sawin and I went to Sweets Paradise, a dessert buffet. I was excited to stuff my face with endless cakes and sweets!

I was expecting there to be much more I was disappointed with the selection of desserts. Besides desserts they also had pasta and rice. The whole place was filled with girls and women. Boys are a rare sight here. Haha.

The Details
National Bunraku Theater
Access: Subway & Kintetsu - Nipponbashi Station
Tickets (can be purchased online - English)
Admission: 2300 yen - 5000 yen (our tickets were the cheapest at 2300 yen and we were seated in the last row of seats) I would recommend just arriving at the theater and purchasing a one act ticket for a couple hundred yen. You'll get the experience of bunraku without having to sit through hours of it.

Earphone Guide: 650 yen and 1000 yen refundable deposit
Definitely grab the earphone guide or you will have no clue what is happening in the play (which is all in Japanese). It also provides some cool information about the history of bunraku.

Sweets Paradise
Price: 1480 yen - adults, 840 yen - children

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