A small Japanese town, between Nagano and Nagoya, on the island of Honshu, Iida was the “city of traditional theatre”. Two temples have long held puppet performances with traditional stories, one in April for the Spring Festival (the Kuroda puppets), the other in October (the Imada puppets). The Kuroda Puppet Theatre, built in 1840 on the grounds of the Suwa Shrine, has been declared an intangible cultural property. Since 1999, the Kuroda Puppet Troupe has performed in a newly built house dedicated to promoting the traditional art.
However, increased attention has also been given to modern puppetry over the years. Since the 1980s, Iida has hosted major events celebrating puppetry.
The annual Iida puppet festival – IIDA Ningyōgeki Kanibaru (IIDA Puppetry Carnival) – the largest event of its kind in Japan attracts international as well as national troupes. The modern Iida Puppetry Carnival was created in l979 to celebrate the “Year of the Child”. It soon became an international event called IIDA Ningyōgeki Fesuta (Iida Puppet Festa). It takes place each August for four days with performances throughout the whole town. The 1,200-seat house was supplemented by a 200-seat puppet theatre in 1987.
A puppet museum founded by Takeda Sennosuke – Takeda Sennosuke Kinen-Kokusai-Itoayatsuri-Ningyokan (Iida-City Kawamoto Kihachiro Puppet Museum) – includes a small puppet theatre where the master performs for child audiences.
In 1986, Iida held the UNIMA Festival (Asia) and, in 1988, was one of the three Japanese sites of the 15th UNIMA World Puppetry Festival. The city thereafter concluded an agreement to partner with the city of Charleville-Mézières in France.