It is fair to say that Japan’s love affair with robots, technology and engineering started with Karakuri dolls, which were first made between the 17th and 19th centuries. The word Karakuri means “mechanisms” or “tricks.” Different to robots made today, these automata run on a number of purely analog mechanisms such as springs, tiny gears, sand and mercury. Karakuri dolls were a source of entertainment and traditionally performed reenactments of myths and legends at religious festivals.
There are three main types of Karakuri dolls, and all employ subtle gestures and motions to stir feeling and emotion. Butai Karakuri (stage Karakuri dolls) are used in theaters, Zashiki Karakuri (tatami room Karakuri dolls) are small, luxury toys designed to be played with in the home, and Dashi Karakuri (festival float Karakuri dolls) are used for performance on wooden floats at religious festivals. Beyond greatly influencing various types of traditional Japanese theater such as noh and kabuki, Karakuri dolls also contributed significantly to the development of modern mechanical engineering principles. For these reasons and more, Karakuri dolls are treasures that deserve to be cherished by all.
By public transportation
Get off at JR Takayama Station on the JR Takayama Main Line and walk for 20 minutes to reach the Karakuri Museum.
Address: 53-1 Sakuramachi, Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture
Airport: Matsumoto Airport