Bunraku [boon-rah-koo] is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, founded in Osaka in 1684. Bunraku puppets range in size from two-and-a-half to four feet tall or more, depending on the age and gender of the character and the conventions of the specific puppet troupe. All but the most minor characters require three puppeteers, who perform in full view of the audience, generally wearing black robes.

Originally, the term Bunraku referred only to a particular theater established in in Osaka, which was named the Bunrakuza. Today the term refers generically to any traditional puppet theater in Japan. Until the late 1800s there were hundreds of professional, semi-professional, and amateur troupes across Japan that performed traditional puppet drama. Since the end of World War II, the number of troupes has dropped to fewer than 30, most of which perform only once or twice a year, often in conjunction with local festivals.


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