Karakuriningyo plays were very popular in the reign of the Tokugawa Samurai government in Edo Era as a channel for the common people's scientific aspirations, as well as their curiosity. According to the records of Kiryu Tenmangu Shrine, Kiryu's Karakuriningyo play performance was first given in 1894 by a descendant of the Master Izumo TAKEDA. Performances were given up until 1961.
Karakuriningyo plays were also performed at festivals and celebrations at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Kiryu until early 20th century while the textile industry flourished in Kiryu. The city's wealthy textile entrepreneurs were the main sponsors for the creation of many Karakuriningyo as well as for staging these performances. Mechanical dolls are one of the greatest inventions in the history of Japanese technology. Many of these wealthy businessmen were competing for excellence in technical expertise or engineering sophistication as the textile industry was at the height of its prosperity. Half a century later, however, marking the end of the golden age of the Karakuriningyo play, the last performance was given in 1961.
In the spring of 2000, the Karakuriningyo play returned to the Art Hall Hokoza in Kiryu for the first time in 41 years. Kiryu Karakuriningyo Preservation Association has been working hard to have the Cultural Affairs Agency designate mechanical doll performances as an important cultural heritage.
You can enjoy the Karakuriningyo plays during the Kiryu Yagibushi Festival in August and at other events. On a regular basis, the plays are being performed on the first Saturday of the month at the Karakuriningyo Shibaikan, located on the premises of the Yurinkan Theater. Please visit and witness the elaborate craftsmanship of doll makers of old.