Stuck at home for weeks while the nation was under a state of emergency due to the coronavirus, renowned bunraku master Kanjuro Kiritake, all his performances canceled for months, was stricken with deep anxiety.

His art, a traditional, male-only puppet theater, was born in Osaka in the late 1600s, but in 2020 felt existentially threatened, he said.

"Many things crossed my mind: When would the pandemic end, when would performances resume, if my 87-year-old master could ever perform again," Kanjuro, 67, said in his home, which has a room dedicated to puppetry.