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National Bunraku Theater
Ranked #46 of 887 things to do in Osaka
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: One of the few places where bunraku, traditional Japanese pupper theater, can be enjoyed, this theater combines the latest in theater technology with architectural elements from the Edo period in Japan.
Plymouth, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed April 16, 2013

I have an interest in drama and loved the theatre!!!!! I did not have enough money on me to hire the english headset (to translate) so i shared with my husband. the first half i saw it in japanese and still it was easy to follow if you just look at the narator and get a feel for his emotions. The puppet are so realistic you forget at times they are puppets and some puppetiers were great. Overall it was my favourite thing in Osaka .

Visited April 2013
3 Thank ladynijo13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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111 reviews from our community

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Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
27 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“traditional arts persist for a reason”
Reviewed April 13, 2013

Traditional arts, like Shakespeare or classical music in the west, persist for a reason. And that is, they draw you in with qualities that, when experienced, are not passed over lightly.

We went in with only one English language headset, which was a mistake in following the intricacies of the narrative, though it focused concentration on the narrator and the shamisen (three-silk-stringed instrument) which are themselves, a large part of this artform. In fact, the narrator and the shamisen player make a duet for life (at least traditionally), and continue to perform under gruelling physical conditions that would not be obvious to the audience (contorted body positions, breathing regimens involving constrictions and weights, muscle strains etc).

The performance we enjoyed was surprisingly long (to my modern western expectations, I guess ) .. at 3.5 hours. In that time there were four changes of narrator/shamisen, breaking by scene, with all five conjoining in the final scene. The narrators project their voice across the entire auditorium without microphones, and the timbres of the voice and shamisen together transport you into the tale. Meanwhile, three puppeteers work each of the puppets, and while clearly visible, it is easy to forget they are there, and occasionally wonder at the giants who accompany the 'actors' on the stage.

If you can, make the time, and I'll bet you enjoy the experience ... even if it takes a little while to grow on you.

Visited April 2013
Thank ianisalifestyle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
54 reviews
42 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 40 helpful votes
“Thoroughly enjoyable even knowing no Japanese!”
Reviewed January 16, 2013

This was a beautiful, fascinaing show, and i thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting Japan. I booked a ticket for the 11am-3pm showing, and am surprised some people managed to see just segments of the shows, as most were nearly booked up when I got my ticket a week ahead! But I think the single-segment option would be a good one for someone who just dropped by this place. I really enjoyed the whole experience, though - including the lunch break and sitting around the theatre eating and people-watching. It was fun!

The idea that the puppets are 'as expressive' as humans is really only tenable if you're talking about very facially unexpressive humans, to my mind! But that is not to detract from the ways in which the puppeteers skilfully manipulate the arms and legs of the puppets to express movement and emotion: that aspect of the performance is very impressive. It also works well - it must do, as I had a cleat notion of what was happening on stage all the time, despite relying entirely on the short English outline of each of the three stories, and otherwise only on what I could see and hear. The music was lovely - and it was a real treat to see the musicians and story-tellers up on stage alongside the puppets and sets.

A great experience - well worth the pricey ticket (equaivalent to going to the theatre in the UK), and easily accessible from the nearby subway. A wonderful way to experience something of Japanese culture.

Visited January 2013
4 Thank TankGrrrl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
95 reviews
60 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 215 helpful votes
“Bunraku is great!”
Reviewed January 14, 2013

I was curious to see this unique japanese cultural experience, and was half expecting to be a bit bored, but the Bunraku was quite entertaining. Obviously the style of music is completely foreign to our usual fare, as is basically everything else about the experience, but when the story is good, it's easy to get involved. The operation of large, gorgeous puppets by 3 people, two of whom have black bags over their heads, is a skill that takes many years to learn. The guy who operates the feet has to learn for 10 years, the guy operating the left hand, another 10 years, and the main puppeteer, operating the head and right hand, more than 10 years beyond those first 20. And they have to be perfectly in-sync with one another!
There is an option to see one act (about 1500 yen) or the whole show (5800 yen for a good seat). If you have the time, see the whole show, because you will be exposed to the different forms of music and narration (some shows have one narrator and one shamisen, others have several narrators and musicians). There are 2 intervals if you see the whole show, and you can buy food and drinks at the theatre. Souvenirs and other merchandise are for sale, and there is a small exhibition about the different elements of the Bunraku (how the puppets are made and operated, the costumes, the shamisen, and so on). There is an English commentary available through a small receiver (1000 yen deposit, 650 yen hire), and there is a brochure , in English, introducing the Bunraku. You will also receive a printed sheet with details of the stories in the day's show, all in English.
I really recommend the Bunraku - it's totally Japanese, totally unique and, apparently, a dying art form. Don't miss it!

Visited January 2013
9 Thank Fascinatingrhythm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Saint John, Canada
Level Contributor
12 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Must see at least once when in Japan.”
Reviewed December 28, 2012

It's everything. It's the act, it's awesome stage set, the music (old Japanese music), it's the shamisen, it's the choir, it's the narrator (the narrator is really such an artist!). All these, coordinated in one performance. It's when the puppeteers move the puppets to act as the narrator says the dialogue, in a very well done stage that was painted just in the right dimension to replicate the setting of the story, painted very beautifully (words will never describe good enough because you can't take photos inside the hall). Stories are delivered in old Japanese (yes old, some words and some kanji are not commonly used these days), displayed on a digital screen, but there is an English audio that you can rent for just 600 yen, and bilingual story lines on paper. No worries at all for tourists or foreigners with no knowledge of Japanese. It's a work of art, folk art that is preserved and delivered in a modern, sophisticated hall.
The theatre is conveniently located just 30 seconds walking distance from Nipponbashi station, you can even the direction for it once you get out of the train and see a big poster of it near the exit. One period contains two stories with a 30 minute break in between. It's a work of art. While you're in Japan, take a chance to see this performance, you will never regret it. I saw it twice.

2 Thank Squidsushi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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