|Kiryu is striving to preserve its cultural heritage by resurrecting old
traditions that once served to create Kiryu's unique local color. One of
these traditions is "Karakuri Ningyo" or mechanical dolls which
were an integral part of Kiryu's festivals in days gone by.
At present Kiryu is the only city in the whole country which has revived
this great tradition, making mechanical doll performances a valuable contribution
to cultural preservation.
During the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, wealthy textile manufacturers
commissioned the creation of various mechanical dolls and the stages needed
for their performances which were part of the lively entertainment during
festivals and shrine events.
The first Karakuri Ningyo performance took place in Kiryu in the year 1762. The Karakuri Dolls were some of the most sophisticated technological inventions of the Edo Period. Not only did the hands, feet and heads of the dolls move, but elaborate gears and pulleys were engineered to actually guide the dolls on and off the stages as a tale was told in the background.
Different textile companies competed with each other for elaborate performances
and gorgeous displays. This was during the heyday of silk production in
Kiryu. This tradition was carried on without interruption in Kiryu until
1961, which sadly was the last performance. Thereafter, these mechanical
dolls were stored away with their stages and equipment to become a part
of the forgotten past in Kiryu.
In the spring of the year 2000, however, the Kiryu Karakuri Ningyo Preservation
Society took up the challenge and after a 41 year hiatus, gave a Karakuri
Doll Performance at the "Art Hall Hoko-Za" on Honcho Street in
The Kiryu Karakuri Ningyo Preservation Society is now working hard to have these remarkable dolls recorded by the National Culture Agency as important cultural assets.
Karakuri dolls can now be seen again during the Kiryu Yagibushi Festival in August and during other city events.