The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

The incredible mechanical puppets of the Karakuri Museum in Takayama, Japan

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 12•13

KarakuriPuppet1cPuppet- making has been a tradition in Japan for centuries, but we here at WoWasis admit that we were unprepared for the technical wizardry inherent in Karakuri puppets, the centerpieces of Takayam’s Karakuri Museum. Their history begins in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1617, where a watch repairman conceptualized that cogs and wheels found in timepieces could be utilized to make automated puppets.

At the museum, the puppeteer is unveiled

At the museum, the puppeteer is unveiled

The first maker of Karakuri Dolls was called Shobei Tamaya (automated doll maker), and the dolls in today’s Karakuri Museum were made by the 7th and 8th Shobei Tamaya. Every 20 minutes or so, a puppet show is begun at the museum. Several puppets perform, as an aerialist, a walker on piers, and as a tea server, just to name three. The tea server’s mechanism involves an on-off switch that is activated when a tea cup is placed on a saucer in the puppet’s hands. The puppet moves forward on its own until the cup is lifted off, at which point it stops. When the cup is replaced, the puppet turns in a circle, returning immediately back to where it started.

There’s a Karakuri video of the tea server on YouTube that is amazing, but it obviously can’t replace seeing these puppets live. When you’re in Takayama, Japan, this museum is a “can’t miss.”

Karakuri Museum
Shishi-Kaikan 53-1
Sakura-Mach,  Takayama, Japan
Tel: (0577) 32-0881
Open daily April 1-October 31: 8:30 am – 6:30 pm
November 1 – March 31: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
GPS: N36°08’51’’  E137°15’37’’

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One Comment

  1. We visited this museum and were amazed by the intricate actions performed by the puppets. Very well done presentation. I highly recommend to my friends.

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