The traditional Japanese theatre of Osaka. Led by the Uemura family, the Bunraku-za (Bunraku Theatre) played, using this or another name, a major role in the survival of ningyō jōruri in the 19th century (see Bunraku / Ningyō Jōruri).
From a puppetry family of Awaji Island (see Awaji Ningyō-Za) in the Inland Sea, a traditional puppet area, Uemura Bunrakuken I (1737 [1751?]-1810) founded the theatre in Osaka in the 1790s. He opened first a training centre for ningyō jōruri and then in 1805 he formed a small troupe that developed into the Bunraku-za.
After his death his nephew, Bunrakuken II (1783-1819), led the troupe, which from 1811 went under the name Inari no Shibai (Inari Theatre), performing on a stage erected in the grounds of a temple sanctuary in Osaka. The enterprise went through a series of vicissitudes, but after overcoming the especially difficult times during the Tempō Reforms of 1842, which particularly threatened theatrical activities, the troupe, then led by Bunrakuō (1813-1887), eventually succeeded. In 1872, it was installed in a new theatre called the Bunraku-za in honour of the lineage founder.
From 1880-1900, stimulated by the rival company of the Hikoroku-za, the troupe enjoyed a resurgence of popularity. But disastrous speculations of Uemura Daisuke, Bunrakuō’s successor, ruined the family troupe. The enterprise was sold to the Shōchiku Company who eventually fostered the non-profit and preservation model of the Bunraku Kyōkai (Bunraku Society) founded in 1963.
(See also Japan, Kokuritsu Bunraku Gekijō (National Theatre of Bunraku)).