The Japanese interest in karakuri ningyo - mechanical puppets - which probably led to today’s passion for robots, appeared several hundred years ago. The most spectacular karakuri are the zashiki karakuri, which where used as a form of entertainment for the Edo period lords. And among them, the most popular was the type from this photo, the tea-serving doll, cha-hakobi ningyo.
To serve the tea, the doll is placed facing the guest and when the tea cup is put on the tray, it automatically starts walking towards the guest. When the tea cup is picked up, it stops and waits. And when the emptied tea cup is returned on the tray, the karakuri turns back and walks to the initial position. And it knows a few more tricks, like bowing its head, plus that the distance to the guest can be preset.
Travel tip: Obviously, the tradition of making karakuri dolls was kept until today and if you wish, after visiting the Inuyama Castle, you can see the master Tamaya Shobei IX at work, at the Karakuri Exhibition Room. He is present in his workshop every Friday and Saturday, between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Karakuri doll, Karakuri Museum, Inuyama
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: Kyoto Arashiyama bamboo groves