People who at first said that they were “not interested in kabuki,” later formed the village folk theatre group, the Nishiwaka-za, because they wanted to stand on the stage that they themselves had built. “Nishiwaka” means the “wakashu” (young people) of “Nishi-Shioko” and is taken from the Chinese characters written on the sail of the boat depicted on the main stage curtain of 1820. The group first took to the stage in 1998 with “Shiranami Gonin Otoko” (The Five Thieves) and became hooked on acting. In later performances, they very daringly took on the final act, increasing their repertoire to include “Kichirei Soga Taimen,” “Scene Ten from Ehon Taikouki” and “The Temple School Scene from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami.”
At the same time, it is the children’s kabuki that is so popular that it causes a literal shower of ohineri (small donations of coins wrapped in paper twisted at the top to keep the coins inside) to be thrown onto the stage. Beginning with efforts made in the local Shiota Primary School second year comprehensive studies classes in 2001, the acquisition of the Tokiwazu genre plays “Kotakara Sanbaso” and “Shiranami Gonin Otoko” has been passed down through generations of pupils. Since 2002, workshops for samisen, Tokiwazu-style singing and dance, as transmission activities for the Tokiwazu genre, have recruited children from the whole town (from the whole city beginning in 2005) and the children have been enthusiastically engaged in these efforts.
Since there are no instructors in Ibaraki Prefecture, at first instruction for the plays was received from Magi Kabuki of Sano City, Tochigi Prefecture, and later from the Kabuki Showakai from Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture, and for the Tokiwazu, instruction was given by people from Nasu Karasuyama City in Tochigi Prefecture.
Naturally, with little historical background, our artistic ability was poor. Despite this, there were calls to appear onstage at important occasions and the children performed kabuki in the Furusato (Hometown) Kabuki Festival held in the NHK Hall in Tokyo. The Nishiwaka-za also enthusiastically performed “Scene Ten from Ehon Taikouki” for two days on the specially erected stage in the Marunouchi-kita entrance dome of Tokyo Station.
Nevertheless, our home ground is the Nishi-Shioko Revolving Stage. It is this stage that defines who we are and we hope that you will continue to support us and not let your memories of us fade.