According to the elders, there had once been a ningyo joruri troupe in Nishi-Shioko. To back this up, the “Nakama Stage Equipment Notebook” (1823) mentions puppet artefacts such as a “head”.
In the town around Mito Castle, there was a ningyo joruri troupe called the Ohsatsuma-za, which Tokugawa Ieyasu is said to have presented to his youngest child, the yet juvenile first head of the clan, Yorifusa. This troupe frequently travelled around the Mito clan territory giving performances in the rural villages, and also had a small permanent theatre in Izumi Cho, Mito. Ningyo joruri is said to have been very popular in the Mito territory due to the activities of the Ohsatsuma-za, and in present-day Hitachi Omiya City there were ningyo joruri groups in Funyu and Nishino-Uchi. Three of the villages that had assembled stages are reported to have performed ningyo joruri, and even today the heads, feet and hands of puppets can be found among the stage equipment. The origin of the famous Hitachi City puppet cam and rod mechanism on mobile floats, the Hitachi Furyumono, is said to have been influenced by the popularity of ningyo joruri in the Mito territory.
As the Nishi-Shioko revolving stage has some parts that have come down from the late Edo Period, the Bunsei years, 1818 to 1830, it is thought that the stage was already being put up around that time. From the fact that the village had puppet equipment at the time and that the size and design of the stage backdrops, known as fusuma, wooden frames with paper pasted over them, have common features with the ningyo joruri stage backgrounds in far-off Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku Island, it would appear that the Nishi-Shioko revolving stage was originally a ningyo joruri stage. However, the width of the main stage curtain made in 1820 measures just over six ken, about 11 meters, which is too large for a ningyo joruri stage. Although uncertain, it is possible that the stage was designed with performances of both kabuki and ningyo joruri in mind.
Looking at remaining records, it is clear that the ningyo joruri equipment was sold off in 1901. It seems that as performances of ningyo joruri faded out at the beginning of the Meiji Era (from 1868), from that time onwards it was mainly kabuki plays staged by professional actors that were held on the Nishi-Shioko revolving stage, and these continued to be performed until 1945.
Nishino-Uchi puppet heads and a notice board. It is reported that in the Kaei years (1848 to 1854), the people in Nishino-Uchi Village received puppets from the Ohsatsuma-za and began to perform ningyo joruri. The second head from the left is from Funyu. The notice board, which would have been placed at locations where a play was being performed, is from 1891, and announces the fact that the puppets were donated by the Ohsatsuma-za. The puppet heads and notice board are now displayed in the Yamagata Branch of the Hitachi Omiya City History and Folk Custom Resource Center