Miyakodori nagare no shiranami (都鳥廓白浪)

"Miyakodori nagare no shiranami" is the title of a kabuki kyogen play which is commonly known as "Shinobu no Sota" (Sota who avoids being seen). It is a play in three acts, written by Mokuami KAWATAKE. The play was first staged at the Kawarazaki Kabuki Theater in March 1854.

Story line


The play is based on the historical event known in the Noh play "Sumida-gawa River," in which Umewaka YOSHIDA was kidnapped by a human trafficker called Shinobu no Sota and died on the bank of Sumida-gawa River.

Rokuro YAMADA, a vassal of the Yoshida family, who was expelled from his master's house for having had an immoral relationship with a chamber maid KAJIURA, is disguised himself as a seller of Sakuramochi (rice cake with bean jam wrapped in a preserved cherry leaf) in Mukojima of Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly Kanto region). He only lives with his wife Okaji and calling himself otokodate (one who seeks to right wrongs) 'Shinobu no Sota,' he has been fighting with Juemon KATSUSHIKA over keisei (courtesan with high dignity and literacy) Hanako.

Meanwhile, he is told that the treasure of the Yoshida family, 'Genealogical table of Miyakodori,' was stolen by someone and his lord Matsuwaka YOSHIDA has gone missing. Sota thinks it is a matter of grave concern to the family and busily engages in the search for the genealogical table, but he is short of funds for it, and what is worse, he is made night-blind by a gang of thieves.

Prologue: the scene of killing Umewaka in Mukojima

On the bank of Sumida-gawa River lined with cherry trees in full bloom, Sota takes care of a boy suffering from his illness. When night-blind Sota is groping around, he notices the boy carrying a large sum of money in his bosom, which makes him to decide to choke him to death. In fact the boy is Umewakamaru: Matsuwaka's younger brother, who has come all the way to Togoku with his mother counting on Sota for help but was separated from his mother and yakko (varlet) Gunsuke by pursuers. However, Sota has no way of knowing it.

The second act: Mukojima Sota nai no ba

Keisei Hanako is Kiritaro the Tengu kozo (which literally means long-nosed goblin boy) in disguise, who is the head of the gang of thieves, but in fact he is Matsuwaka YOSHIDA who became a robber to investigate the theft of the genealogical table. Sota notices it so that he redeems Hanako and takes her (him) home, but he has Hanako and the genealogical table taken away by the stratagem of Yoine no Ushiemon (Ushiemon the early bed) who is the real perpetrator of the robbery of the genealogical table. When Sota is in despair, yakko Gunsuke, Sota's father-in-law, comes to let him know that Umewaka was killed and he commits suicide suffering from a guilty conscience. Sota gets a shock realizing that the boy is the younger brother of his lord, but on the other hand, the self-sacrifice made by his wife Okaji cures his night blindness. Then Juemon rushes to his side and encourages him telling that Okaji was his true younger sister. Asking Juemon to take care of everything, Sota heads for Hanako's hideout.

Final scene: the scene of Haraniwa Massage Inn

Meanwhile, Hanako, or Matsuwaka, kills Ushiemon, who tried to rob him of the genealogical table, is getting ready to leave the place with it in his hand. Then Sota appears and two of them begins Tachimawari (a fight). Sota gets defeated by Matsuwaka on purpose and dies after his confession of killing Umewaka. Then torite (officials in charge of imprisoning offenders) rushes into the scene, however, Matsuwaka remains unruffled and deals with them eating rice at the same time.

Encounter between Shinshichi (Mokuami) and Kodanji

The original script of the play was "Sakura Kiyomizu Seigen" (written by Hyozo KATSU the second), and "Miyakodori nagare no shiranami" is its revised edition which Shinshichi wrote for a popular actor from Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area), Kodanji ICHIKAWA (the fourth) when Shinshichi was in obscurity without hits. However, Kodanji was not satisfied with this adaptation and complained to Shinshichi as follows.
Write something better, because the audience are going to pay for it.'
This is just a story of Kodanji, who kills a child; it's not interesting enough.'
Shinshichi rewrote the script employing some unique techniques: the scene of Umewaka-killing was accompanied by gidayu (a style of reciting dramatic narratives; gidayu accompaniment is also called chobo) which goes well with Kamigata-born Kodanji's performing style, and lines of Umewaka and Sota became warizerifu (divided speech) in seven-and-five syllable meter for a good sound. These modification gained the favor of Kodanji and later they became a good combination to produce some other famous plays: "Tsutamomiji Utsunoya-toge" (also known as "Bunya goroshi" [Killing of Bunya]), "Sannin Kichisa kuruwa no hatsugai" (also known as "Sannin Kichisa" [Three Men Named Kichisa]), "Kanzen choaku nozoki karakuri" (also known as "Choan MURAI"), "{Nezumi komon haruno shingata}" (also known as "Nezumi kozo"), "Kosode soga azami no ironui" (also known as "Izayoi Seishin"), "Hachiman matsuri yomiya no nigiwai" (also known as "Chizimiya Shinsuke") and so on.

Yoshijiro SAWAMURA who acted Umewaka in the premiere was later to become Tanosuke SAWAMURA, a star actor for female roles. The reputation Tanosuke enjoyed as a distinguished child actor from this stage brought about his successful career and cooperative relationship between Shinshichi and Tanosuke.

Points of the play

Fully-matured beauty which is characteristic of Kabuki in the end of Edo Period and writer's wit satisfy the audience. The killing scene in the prologue with the night view of cherry blossoms in the background was produced by the technique called Honkatori (writing poems quoted parts of old poems), quoting parts from "Sumida no haru geisha katagi" (also known as "Yoshibe UMENO") written by Gohei NAMIKI. Sewa Danmari (a wordless pantomime) at the end of the scene, in which you can see the beautiful otokodate, plainly-dressed masseur and seductive movements of prostitute, has the appeal similar to Nishikie (colored woodblock print). The scene that Ushiemon and Hanako carried in palanquins exit through hanamichi (the passage through audience to stage) in the second act is based on "Osome Hisamatsu ukina no yomiuri" (also known as "Osome no Nanayaku" [seven roles of Osome]). In addition, the idea that Ushiemon appears as a masseur called Ushichi and opens his eyes to reveal his true character is based on Motoemon in "Katakiuchi Tengajayamura" (The Revenge at Tengajaya; also known as "Tengachaya"), and Tomoemon OTANI (the fourth) who gained a reputation for the role was casted as Ushiemon.

The familiar setting of the character as a beautiful young man in the disguise of a beautiful woman is later to be adopted in the several works of Mokuami, such as "Aotozoshi hanano nishikie" (also known as "Shiranami Gonin Otoko" [The Five Shiranami Men]), "Fujibitai tsukuba no shigeyama" (also known as "Onna Shosei" [female student]; in contrast, this is about a beautiful woman in male dress) in the Meiji period, and so on. Omanma no tachimawari (a fight while eating) in the final scene is a borrowing from "Umeyanagi wakabano kagazome" (also known as "Yanagisawa sodo") by Nanboku TSURUYA (the fourth). Although this is a slapstick, the audience can still enjoy an easy-going atmosphere. Mokuami's brilliant and unique techniques including the actor's quick change from Sota to dull-witted Minezo as a waiter turn the play of a serious story into a witty show leaving the audience with a pleasant aftertaste.

The role of Sota is specialized by Eno ICHIKAWA, the present Ennosuke ICHIKAWA (the third), and the present Nizaemon KATAOKA (the 15th). Although Sota has a visual disability of 'night blindness,' the actor is not supposed look so. It is the challenging part of this role.

The cast of the premiere

Kodanji ICHIKAWA IV as Shinobu no Sota who is in fact Rokuro YAMADA: vassal of the Yoshida family, and Konoha no Minezo. Mitsugoro BANDO V as Hanako who is in fact Kiritaro the Tengu kozo who is in fact Matsuwaka YOSHIDA. Tomoemon OTANI IV as robber Yoine no Ushiemon. Rikan ARASHI III as Juemon KATSUSHIKA. Danemon ICHIKAWA as Hanjo gozen and Sota's wife Okaji. Tanosuke SAWAMURA III as Umewaka YOSHIDA. Kanemon NAKAMURA as yakko Gunsuke.

[Original Japanese]