Bunraku is traditional Japanese puppet theater, with puppets ranging from 2.5′ to 4′ tall, depending on the age and gender of the puppet. The puppets seen in the Ryutopia 2007 production of Hamlet, especially in the Duel scene with puppets are essentially life-sized. Almost all of the puppets require 3 puppeteers, one for the right hand, one for the left hand, and one for the legs and feet. Bunraku and kabuki share similar themes, and often plays are adapted for performance by both puppet troupes and human troupes, although Bunraku is famous for its lovers’ suicide plays.
There are three different roles in Bunraku:
- The Ningyōtsukai, or Ningyōzukai, are the puppeteers.
- The Tayu are the chanters – usually one chanter recites the parts for all of the puppets, changing intonation for different puppets.
- The Shamisen are the instrumentalists.