Bandō Hikosaburō V, Sawamura Tosshō II and Nakamura Kanjaku III in Miyakodori Nagare no Shiranami

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Bandō Hikosaburō V, Sawamura Tosshō II and Nakamura Kanjaku III in

Miyakodori Nagare no Shiranami

by Toyohara Kunichika, 1873

IHL Cat. #608

About This Print

Scene from the play Miyakodori Nagare no Shiranami (The Great Thief of the Miyakodori Brothel) performed at the Moritaza theater in Tokyo on February 3, 1873 and first performed in 1854. Shinobu no Sōta (the actor Bandō Hikosaburō V) and otokodate Jūemon (the actor Nakamura Kanjaku III) prepare to fight over Hanako wa Matsuwaka (the actor Sawamura Tosshō II.)  The Sumidagawa River is pictured in the background - the scene of the real-life crime this play is based on.

The Actors and Characters

from right to left:
Bandō Hikosaburō V 坂東彦三郎 as Shinobu no Sōta  忍ぶの惣太
Sawamura Tosshō II 沢村訥升 as Hanako wa Matsuwaka 花子実ハ松若
Nakamura Kanjaku III中村翫雀 as otokodate Jūemon 男達十右衛門

For background on the actors see their respective entries in the article The Kabuki Actor on this site.

The Play

This play, also known as Shinobu no Sōta, written by Kawatake Mokuami (1816–1893), is based on the real-life so-called Yoshidaya incident in which a boy named Umewaka Yoshida is kidnapped by a human trafficker called Shinobu no Sōta and later dies on the banks of the Sumidagawa River.  It is categorized as a shiranami mono, a subgroup of 19th-century kabuki kizewa mono whose heroes are romantic bandits.1  The criminals are decent men who are torn between giri (obligation) and ninjo (human emotion), and who are entwined in the workings of karma (inga).2

The Kabuki 21 website summarizes this play as follows:

"... a thief who pretends to be blind in the dark steals for the sake of his lord, but accidentally kills his lord’s son, a boy disguised as a beautiful courtesan. The play is full of the decadent, erotic atmosphere of the late Edo period."3

1 Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theatre, Samuel L. Leiter. The Scarecrow Press, 2006, p. 362-363.
2 Ibid.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #608
 Title (Description) 都鳥廓白浪 Miyakodori Kuruwa no Shiranami (みやこどりながれのしらなみ)
 Artist  Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900)
 Signature 豊原国周筆 Toyohara Kunichika hitsu
 Seal  年玉印 toshidama seal below signature
 Publication Date
1873 date seal
Yamamotoya Heikichi,  山本屋平吉 [Marks 04-007, publisher ref. 595]
Katada Hori Chō
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good- trimmed to image; remnants of previous backing
 Genre ukiyo-e; yakusha-e; 芝居絵 shibai-e (drama print)
 Miscellaneous The fan-shaped cartouche in the upper right reads 新嶋原新狂言 隅田川の場  Shinshimabara new kyōgen   Sumida River
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 13 7/8 x 9 1/8 in. (35.2 x 23.2 cm) each sheet
 Collections This Print
 The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 100-8263, 8264, 8265 and 007-2589, 2590, 2591