Japanese troupe founded in Osaka in 1963 to take over the heritage of the Bunraku-za and insure the survival of Bunraku (ningyō jōruri). Founded as a non-profit organization – the Bunraku Kyōkai – it included members of the only professional troupe active at the time, the Bunraku-za; representatives of the city and the Prefecture of Osaka; the Agency for Cultural Affairs under the Ministry of Education; and NHK, the public radio and television channel. Managed by this semi-governmental association, the troupe was able to continue operating without threat of closure.
In 1984, the organization opened a new theatre, Kokuritsu Bunraku Gekijō (National Bunraku Theatre), located a few steps from Dōtonbori, the traditional theatre quarter in Osaka. The five-storey building includes a large theatre conceived specifically for the puppet theatre, house and stalls, lobby, cloakroom, restaurants, a small museum, offices, rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, and backstage areas.
The troupe presents five productions a year in Osaka and four in the small theatre at the National Theatre of Tokyo. The troupe tours all the islands from Okinawa to Hokkaido, spending about two months a year on the road. It also tours internationally, often giving shortened versions of works often performed by smaller ensembles. The troupe is made up of ninety artists and highly specialized technicians for costumes, wigs, puppets (especially heads), sets, props and accessories.
The National Bunraku Theatre also has a training centre which mounts a two-year programme for young people who wish to become apprentices of the troupe. But the rigour is such that there are only two or three students who graduate from each class and enter the company.