Controlling the doll's movements...this was the beginning of karakuri.
In the Muromachi period, their ceremony took root as Dashi karakuri (see the page of Mysterious Karakuri)
The karakuri technique started showing progress in the next era, the Edo
Dashi karakuri developed into the dolls of Hida and Owari (Aichi prefecture) which captivated
people by a gorgeous performance they could do on their own.
There was an ingenious clockmaker, Konoe Takeda, who contributed to this
achievement. His works were greatly appreciated in the Imperial Court.
He developed new karakuri dolls inspired by ordinary experiences, such
as watching children playing with sand, and brought them to the court.
Beginning with a play using karakuri dolls in Dohtonbori, Osaka , he also
influenced the Japanese puppet drama ningyo-johruri. This form of puppet drama is still loved by many people in Japan. In this way, karakuri became familiar not only to the nobility, but also to the common people.
The technology of "Edo-karakuri dolls" began to flourish during this period. Putting together the mechanical clock technology brought from the West during the Muromachi period with the techinique of dashi karakuri, the "Cha-hakobi doll" (Tea serving doll in English) was born.
This doll was the first to use an automated system, and it gave a gorgeous
performance using clockwork.
This system is still amazing to us even in the modern times, so people
in those days must have been impressed with the tricks. Karakuri dolls
stole people's hearts, and gained the reputation of living dolls.
The technology to animate dolls was one of the major accomplishment of
the Edo period, and it was a great step forward in our technological development.
Hisashige Tanaka (also known as "Karakuri Giemon"), who was the original
founder of Toshiba Corporation, also contributed to karakuri development.
He was known as a genius of mechanical wonders. Some of his famous inventions
are a doll that shoots an arrow, the "10,000 Year Clock", a pocket candle
stand, and "The Inexhaustible Lamp". He even worked on the development
of a steam boat.
Thanks to those passionate craftsmen, karakuri has been gradually transformed into modern technology. Just like dolls,
which were thought to be controlled by the gods, were manipulated by humans
and then started moving on their own power, robots today are becoming more
and more capable of automatic movement.
The need for energy conservation has become acute in the 21st century.
The application of karakuri technology just might play an important role
in our lives. It is worthwhile for us to take the opportunity to listen
to what karakuri is trying to tell us.