Shiranami-mono (a Kabuki Play) (白浪物)

Shiranami-mono is the name of a kabuki play. Its protagonist is a thief.


Shiranami Actor and Playwright

In a turbulent social situation after the arrival of Commodore Perry, the shogunate lost its authority and caused social disorder and unrest.
Around that time a storyteller named Hakuen SHORIN became popular with his stories of thieves, which won him the nickname of 'Hakuen the Thief.'
Mokuami adapted his stories to a kabuki play for a distinguished actor, Kodanji ICHIKAWA (IV). This is how the Shiranami-mono plays came into being.
So people called Kodanji 'Shiranami Actor' or 'Kodanji the Thief' and Mokuami 'Shiranami Playwright.'

Major Shiranami Plays

Below are the Shiranami plays in which Kodanji played the leading role: 'Miyakodori nagareno shiranami' (commonly called 'Shinobuno Sota') (1854), 'Nezumikomon haruno shingata' (commonly called 'Nezumi kozo') (1857), 'Amimoyo torono kikukiri' (commonly called 'Kozaru Shichinosuke') (1857), 'Kosode soga azamino ironui' (commonly called 'Izayoi Seishin') (1859), 'Sannin Kichisa kuruwano hatsugai' (commonly called 'Sannin Kichisa) (1860), 'Fune e uchikomu hashimano shiranami' (commonly called 'Ikakematsu') (1866). Kikugoro ONOE (V) featured in 'Aotozoshi hanano nishikie' (commonly called 'Shiranami gonin otoko') (1862). Tanosuke SAWAMURA played the role of the protagonist in 'Musumegonomi ukinano yokogushi) (commonly called 'Kirare Otomi'). In the Meiji period onward, the following plays were composed and are today counted among major kabuki plays: 'Shimoyonokane jujino tsujiura' (1879), 'Kumoni magou uenono hatsuhana' (commonly called Kochiyama to Naozamurai) (1881), 'Shimachidori tsukino shiranami' (commonly called 'Shimachidori') (1881), 'Shisenryo kobanno umenoha' (1885), 'Mekuranagaya umegakagatobi' (1886).

Thieves in the Shiranami-mono Plays

The protagonists in 'Shiranami mono' are, unlike Goemon ISHIKAWA and Jiraiya who are famous bandits, ordinary men and women who have no choice but to become thieves. Having been the sport of love (ninjo) and duty (giri), they either ruin themselves or reform and surrender themselves to justice. Unlike the boldness seen in Nanboku's plays, the Shiranami-mono plays tend to lack in punch with the conventional plot of a good guy versus a bad guy. Yet making effective use of rhythmical dialogues in pseudo-seven-five syllable metre as well as off-stage music, Mokuami's lyrical dramaturgy strongly expresses the atmosphere of decadence at the end of the shogunate. As Kodanji sought to achieve realistic acting, the Shiranami-mono plays is an excellent historical material to know the social situation of the late 19th century.

[Original Japanese]