Rural Village Stages
Number of Nationwide Theatres
In 1971 according to the results of a national survey it was confirmed that throughout the country there were 1338 village theatres, and 209 of these were in Tokushima Prefecture. The number of outdoor puppet theatres nationwide was 216. It was reported that 208 (96%) of these were in Tokushima. It was then understood just how popular Ningyo Joruri was in Tokushima.
Another distinctive characteristic of Tokushima's village theatre is the mechanized backdrop (fusuma karakuri). Originally, it was used as the background scenery in the puppet show, but ingenious ways of changing the scene, by flipping, dropping, or separating the panels, made it into an attraction of its own. Tokushima City's Inugai village theatre is especially famous as its fusuma karakuri has around 130 background sheets that can depict 42 different backgrounds.
The abandonment and neglect of many village theatres goes hand in hand with the growth of industrialization and de-population as well as the change in people's tastes in entertainment due to the spread of television, radio and movies. Now more than half of the theatres where plays were once held are abandoned, left to decay or used as storage buildings. Despite all this there are many people in recent times who view these places as valuable local cultural resources. After an interval of several decades Ningyo Joruri plays are now being performed again.