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Karakuri ningyō
July 27, 2010 3:16 AM   Subscribe

Karakuri ningyō (からくり人形?) are mechanized puppets or automata from Japan from the 17th century to 19th century. There are many beautiful examples: Arrow shooting, serving tea, the geisha, acrobatics, making magic.

The idea for this post was completely stolen from this post, which has some other links.
posted by twoleftfeet (25 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Actually, a couple of those are more recent works by Pierre Mayer, but roughly in the same style.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:34 AM on July 27, 2010


Beautiful, thank you for this post.
posted by Catblack at 3:47 AM on July 27, 2010


This site has a kit for making a doll, but it's quite expensive. They also sell karakuri tansu, which are cabinets with hidden mechanisms.
posted by Charmian at 3:52 AM on July 27, 2010


This is so awesome. Thanks, twoleftfeet!
posted by Shebear at 4:11 AM on July 27, 2010


I'm so glad this post was resurrected. I found a book at the store labeled "karakuri" but it was about paper mechanisms, so I got the wrong idea about what that meant. I had no idea this was a historical thing. Japanese papercraft steampunk!
posted by DU at 4:26 AM on July 27, 2010


I was really excited about this, and then I read: "Their movements are caused by the power of springs, mercury and sand." Mercury?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:20 AM on July 27, 2010


And here's your throw-away dismissive comment:

Some late feudal Japanese had way too much time on their hands.

Thankyew. Thankyewverrymuch.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:32 AM on July 27, 2010


The link to World of Karakuri from the deleted post is really interesting. People still sell Karakuri dolls.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:49 AM on July 27, 2010


I have a plastic version of the tea serving one. His name is Mr. Click and he is the best guy ever.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:58 AM on July 27, 2010


Also vintage androids.

Enjoying your post, thank you.
posted by nickyskye at 6:05 AM on July 27, 2010


Mercury?

Ha! Did a little more reading. The acrobat doll in the FPP is apparently driven by the shifting weight of mercury. Which makes it a slightly alarming toy, but, on the other hand, mercury is cool stuff.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:15 AM on July 27, 2010


Also vintage androids.

Enjoying your post, thank you.
Yeah that (& this & this)was why I decided not to do this.
posted by ServSci at 7:37 AM on July 27, 2010


Thanks for making this post! I really enjoyed the other one and was baffled by its deletion.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:38 AM on July 27, 2010


Thanks for posting this. While it's in a very different style, have a look at the Silver Swan automaton, currently at the Bowes Museum in County Durham, England. It's difficult to make out in this video but as well as the neck moving, the surface of the water ripples and the swan catches and eats a fish. It's an amazing piece of work. It's run at 2:00pm every day that the useum is open, and is well worth visiting if you're ever in the area.
posted by metaBugs at 7:39 AM on July 27, 2010


My friend got married at the Karakuri Museum in Arashiyama, Kyoto. That was certainly memorable, for many reasons. Some lo-quality videos.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:03 AM on July 27, 2010


My favorite automaton is still this 18th century acrobat which was featured on a Ricky Jay TV special.
posted by luvcraft at 8:38 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow luvcraft, that one was particularly impressive. There must have been a puppeteer offstage controlling some of the basic movements through the swing rods. Bonus points for Ricky Jay; I don't think that man's ever done a thing I wouldn't find fascinating.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:49 AM on July 27, 2010


Ah, very glad the post was resurrected, thanks.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:30 AM on July 27, 2010


My friend got married at the Karakuri Museum in Arashiyama, Kyoto. That was certainly memorable, for many reasons.

Was the officiator an automaton?
posted by luvcraft at 9:34 AM on July 27, 2010


Yeah that (& this & this)was why I decided not to do this.

Ah, ServSci, that makes more sense now.

I've made some posts along these lines (1, 2, 3,...) but had never heard of Karakuri before. Thanks for the inspiration!
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:45 AM on July 27, 2010


I wonder how much of this was an inspiration for Emiko in The Wind Up Girl. If anything (and I'm only half way through the book), I now have a great visual of what her character might look like!
posted by kanewai at 12:50 PM on July 27, 2010


My favorite automaton is still this 18th century acrobat which was featured on a Ricky Jay TV special.

AAGH DEVIL DOLL
posted by Countess Elena at 6:53 PM on July 27, 2010


The arrow shooting one is brilliant.
posted by Not Supplied at 3:03 AM on July 28, 2010


So that's why the Japanese are ahead in robot design...good post.
posted by blue shadows at 1:15 AM on July 29, 2010


No, but the guy was dressed up as a 19th Century aristocrat an spoke in dramatic, exuberant phrases with big gestures, sort of like a carnival barker.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:24 AM on August 2, 2010


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