Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo
One of the traditional cultures of Hachioji is the ancient puppet theater art known as "Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo" (Kuruma means carts, and ningyo means puppets).
The Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo company traces its long history to its establishment at the end of the Edo period by Yamagishi Ryukichi (born 1825).
The puppets are so named because the puppeteer has to manipulate one doll by himself, while simultaneously perched on top of a cart with wheels.
It is a unique form of puppet play that can't be seen anywhere else.
The cart has two wheels in front and one at the back for a total of three, allowing not just free back-and-forth movement but rotation as well.
The puppet's feet are connected to the puppeteer's toe tips by a pole. The puppeteer moves his own feet to control the puppet's feet.
The puppet's feet can make direct contact with the stage, which allows powerful performances and rhythmic, fast-paced programming.
The Kuruma Ningyo was once the most popular attraction in all of Tokyo. With the advent of movies. It, however, declined and has been quietly passed down from one generation of puppeteers to another as a local traditional art.
Nishikawa Koryu Troup has enhanced its performance quality with the introduction of innovative new techniques such as the addition of ball bearings to the puppet carts, attempting new approaches such as overseas performances, and collaborative performances with Rakugo and ballet artists.
Walk down the "Nishi Hoshasen You Road" that stretches from the North Exit of JR Hachioji Station towards northwest for around 5 minutes, enter the alleyway around the Nakamachi Park and you will find the elegant Kurobei Street.
Hachioji was known as the thriving textile town and merchants from all over Japan gathered there to buy textile goods. Restaurants were built in the town as places for social gatherings and geishas flocked there in numbers to provide entertainment to guests at a banquet by singing and dancing.
Even in the present time, Hachioji's Hanamachi and Kurobei Street still have geisha houses to preserve the traditional culture of the town.
Geishas, along with textile makers, have begun to gradually decline in numbers. In order to keep the tradition alive, geishas are encouraged to take everyday practice and actively participate in regional events or gatherings such as "Hachioji Matsuri" where they show their abilities they polished day by day.
The geishas of Hachioji became known around the country when a drama that tells the story of Hachioji Karyu-kai and geishas titled "Tokyo West Side Monogatari" was aired on NHK in 2015.
You cannot ask for geisha performance by visiting a geisha houses without an appointment, but you can enjoy looking at the beautiful row stores and houses of Kurobei Street where you can feel the history of Hachioji.