SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.19 (2023)

Consideration of Shiba Zenkō’s “Tsu no Hitokoe Onna no Shibaraku” with a Focus on Yoshiwara’s Niwaka


Department of Japanese Literature,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

Shiba Zenkō, kusazōshi, kibyōshi, Niwaka, Yoshiwara

Shiba Zenkō was a kibyōshi author active from 1780 to 1793. In 1781, the second year of the active period, he produced eight kibyōshi for Tsuruya, which indicates Shiba’s willingness to work as a kibyōshi writer and the expectations of Tsuruya for Zenkō. The year 1781 is a most suitable year to study Zenkō’s activities.

One of the kibyōshi produced by Tsuruya in 1781 was “Tsū no Hitokoe Onna no Shibaraku”. In an earlier study, Tanahashi Masahiro mentions in his Dictionary of Japanese Classical Literature, Vol. 4 (1984) that “despite the pageantry of the Yukaku setting, there are some rough edges and leaps in the plot”. There is, however, no mention of Niwaka, as he sees the theatrical scene as a farce or amateur kyogen. In contrast, this paper reevaluates this work by focusing on the way Niwaka is depicted in the work and comparing and contrasting it with the way Niwaka is depicted in kibyōshi by other authors.

Niwaka here refers to one of the three major customs practiced in Yoshiwara at that time. It was a well-planned and spectacular event, unlike the original Niwaka, which is impromptu and comical in nature. All of the kibyōshi discussed in this paper were issued after 1772 to 1781, when Niwaka became established in Yoshiwara.

First, “Tsū no Hitokoe Onna no Shibaraku” was created using the Niwaka form through the kibyōshi as a medium. This allows readers to perceive the various theatrical scenes as a single act performed in various parts of Yoshiwara. It has a meta-structure with a dimension different from the development of the story. Therefore, this work should be viewed with an emphasis on visual enjoyment, rather than focusing solely on the development of the story.

In general, kibyōshi authors use Niwaka in part only as a specific example that represents Yoshiwara. While no direct influence on the subsequent kibyōshi works is recognized, Zenkō’s early recognition of Niwaka as a fad and his original expression in the form of kibyōshi, should be appreciated.

Six of Zenkō’s kibyōshi works published in 1781 were created using various writing techniques other than Yume Ochi, a technique often used by other kibyōshi authors to develop preposterous stories. Zenkō’s use of techniques other than Yume Ochi indicates his effort to change easy taglines as well as to express the contemporary nature required of kibyōshi. The ingenuity seen in the works created in 1781 may have triggered creation of “Daihi no Senroppon” (1785), which is considered Zenkō’s most famous work.