The Karakuri Ningyo are a form of Japanese automatons that were  used in the 17th and 18th centuries. In Japanese the word Karakuri means mechanism and the word Ningyo means doll. Legend has it that the first Karakuri Ningyo was invented by a Prince who’s fields where dying of drought. The first Karakuri Ningyo He made  was in the image of a four foot boy with a bucket lifted over his head, and when the bucket was filled with water the boy would dump the water over his face. When people heard about this they came from all over, bringing water, so they could see the Karakuri Ningyo in action. When the Prince moved the Karakuri Ningyo  to the fields, so many people came to see it that his fields were saved from the drought.

There were several types of Karakuri Ningyo, some were used as puppets to put on plays and some were used in religious ceremonies, but the most complex form of Karakuri Ningyo were called Zashiki Karakuri. The most common type Zashiki Karakuri was used for serving tea. When a host wanted to treat or amaze his guest, he would serve them tea with a Zashiki Karakuri, by placing it in the direction of the the guest and putting the tea cup in its hands, the Zashiki Karakuri would then walk in a straight line while moving its feet and bowing, and would either stop when it reached the guest or the tea cup was removed from its grasp. After the guest finished his tea he would then place the tea cup back in the hands of the Zashiki Karakuri, who would turn around and go to the place that he started from. Zashiki Karakuri were usually small and very intricate. There were several other varieties  of Zashiki Karakuri, including ones that played music and ones that shot arrows at a target, and were even designed to miss occasionally to create suspense.

 

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