Assembled stages similar to the Nishi-Shioko Revolving Stage were not unusual in this area. Including the two stages that have already disappeared, at Osada and Kobune, it has been confirmed that there were once seven such stages within present-day Hitachi Omiya City. There were also two ningyo joruri troupes, which owned their own curtains and fusuma.
The seven stages were located in all the former towns and villages that now make up Hitachi Omiya City: Osada (former Yamagata Town), Shimo-Hizawa (former Miwa Village), Shimo-Ose, Kuniosa and Kobune (former Ogawa Village), Kadoi (former Gozenyama Village) and Nishi-Shioko (former Omiya Town). Careful observation, however, has shown that there is some bias in that only the three stages in Nishi-Shioko and the two adjacent villages of Shimo-Ose and Kadoi have equipment confirmed to have been handed down from the Edo Period (pre-1868), while stages located on the periphery of this area appear to be of a later era. Although a mere inference, it would seem that the surrounding villages gradually began to build their own stages after they were influenced by the three adjacent villages, which built their stages first in competition with one another.
Kobune had two large main stage curtains that could be drawn across the stage, but these were lost after the Second World War, and it is reported that the village people felt that “you can’t have a play without a curtain” and decided to divide up the remaining stage equipment by giving parts of it to anyone who wanted it. It would seem that the main stage curtains were considered to be much more important items in the stage equipment than we imagine them to be today. In this sense, the existence of the dyer in Shimo-Ose, who is said to have learned his craft in Sendai, north eastern Japan, and who had the capability of dyeing a large stage curtain, can be considered to have had a close connection with the appearance of stages in the area.
Stage fusuma and paper backdrops of Kadoi. Many common motifs and patterns are seen, such as the phoenix, chrysanthemums, overlapping square and diamond shapes, thousand tatami mat rooms, castles, rubbings, and so on. Wing decorations and stage materials for a stage width of 7.5 ken (13.5 m) are also preserved.
Stage fusuma of Shimo-Hizawa. Six fusuma of 175 cm in height and 90 cm in width make up each set. The storehouse where the stage and the equipment were kept became damaged, possibly the thatched roof collapsed, and nearly all the stage materials and equipment were disposed of along with the storehouse.
The main stage curtain of the Shimo-Ose stage depicts a scene from Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s joruri play “Kokusenya Gassen”. The facial expressions of the characters and the dyeing techniques make this a masterpiece. It would seem that the dyer Nagayama Chojieimon really did his very best for the local people. In the tale, Watohnai, born of a Ming Chinese father and Japanese mother, travels to the mainland to play a part in the attempted revival of the Ming Empire. Here he is defeating the Tattan army while suppressing a tiger and holding a Koudaijingu (Ise Shrine) talisman to his head. At the bottom right we can see “Dyer: Chojieimon” and also on the right-hand side and centre “Shimo-Waka”, meaning the young people of Shimo-Ose. (Late Edo Period)
The main stage curtain of the Kadoi stage consisting of good omens in an auspicious New Year dream: Mt. Fuji, hawks and aubergines. An auspicious dream is billowing from the stuffed pillow on the lower right. The characters on the right say “jumu” (dream of longevity) and on the left “Kado waka ren” (the young people of Kadoi). (Probably late Edo Period)