Jusaburo Puppet Museum — Tokyo

*media, originally uploaded by Coilhouse.

By far the most charming place I visited during my recent Japan-o-dventure was the Jusaburo puppet museum.

Nestled between bigger buildings in Ningyocho [literally translated to City of Dolls], a less busy district in Tokyo, this place is something of a landmark – signs and maps point to its location starting at the train station. Jusaburo Tsujimura’s early life story reads like a novel – he was born to a geisha mother from an unknown father and spent his childhood in a geisha house surrounded by the colorful rustling silk which inspires him to this day. Today, after a lifetime of achievement he is one of many puppeteers living in Ningyocho, his atelier-museum and impressive gamut of work attracting recognition since its opening in 1996.

Entering the place I was instantly entranced. We seemed to be the only visitors at first. A helpful employee led us past cabinets filled with tiny figurines, past a small work area with dolls and puppets in varying levels of completion to the back room where an assortment of cabaret music played and an elaborate set took up the entirety of the back wall. An homage to Moulin Rouge, a miniature multi-tiered stage illuminated by a twinkling color light show and adorned by several rows of chorus girls, with their gorgeous blue-feathered Prima Donna at the forefront. By the time i took it all in my jaw had begun its decent.

The rest of the collection upstairs is as impressive. Warriors, feline princes, vamps, valkyries. Inch tall rabbit-samurai dolls and opulent 4 foot tall starlet marionettes bedecked in vintage jewels and textiles. Incredible level of detail, masterfully painted facial expressions and carefully draped fabrics. The creations’ skin is crafted from the type of silk used for traditional Kimono, adding realistic texture. I was hypnotized trying to take it all in. Displayed here was a life of complete love of and devotion to art and creation.

I’d heard that the master himself makes occasional appearances downstairs, but I was in no way prepared for a meeting, especially after being blown away by the glory of it all. We reluctantly made our way down to leave and there he was, a charming man of an uncertain age, wearing a kimono embellished with a large brooch, arm-warmers and traditional Geta shoes. I sensed a kindred spirit. Jusaburo gave us a small tour himself, crowning the visit and moving me nearly to tears when he suddenly grabbed the aforementioned blue Prima Donna from the cabaret display and began to dance, animating her into an eerily lifelike state. I was somewhere between dropping to the floor to declare devotion, and catching the first flight home so i could ferociously paint, weak-kneed and happy.

4 Responses to “Jusaburo Puppet Museum — Tokyo”

  1. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Aren’t you guys supposed to be faltering after such a pronounced entrance? Another great article!

  2. zoetica Says:

    Thank you, Jerem – this museum was easily my favorite place in Tokyo.

    We certainly have no such intentions!

  3. Gretta Says:


  4. DJ Velveteen Says:

    Oh god, they’re perfect. An enviable trip!