enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館

Chapter 5: The Pulse of Shimpa after the Second World War(新派展)

Finding Avant-gardness in Shimpa Dramas

Chapter 5: The Pulse of Shimpa after the Second World War

In Showa 24 (1949), various organizations united to create a new theatre group called Gekidan Shimpa. Hanayagi Shotaro and Mizutani Yaeko I served as the two highlights, and Kitamura Rokuro I served as the leading figure of the group. Shimpa, which continued to be performed every month in theatres around the country, was one of the leading genres of the times.

About a decade after 1945, “shimpa kigeki” (新派喜劇; shimpa comedy), which broke away from the conventional image of shimpa higeki, was created through the combined efforts of Mizutani Yaeko I and Ishii Kan. The dramatisation of Hayashi Fusao’s Musuko no Seishun (「息子の青春」; Youth of the Son) in Showa 27 (1952) initiated a whole line of shimpa “home dramas” and was followed by a series of successful plays. The dramatisation of Sazae-san (『サザエさん』; 1955) by Hasegawa Machiko is part of this lineage and can be seen as anticipating the popularity of manga comic books. Years later, there was a shimpa performance of Haikara-san ga Toru (『はいからさんが通る』; Here Comes Miss Modern) by Yamato Waki in 1978, which was later adapted into an anime.

There were also many works vividly depicting the manners and social conditions of the times. Starting with Kawaguchi Matsutaro’s “Yoru no Cho” (「夜の蝶」; Night Butterflies) (1957) that depicted the tensions between bar proprietoresses in the Ginza entertainment district as the first of it, the Ginza Series (銀座シリーズ) can be regarded as a variation on the “karyukaimono” (stories about the world of geisha) that emerged during Japan’s economic boom.

Additionally, the works of Izumi Kyoka, which typify shimpa“karyukaimono” , were repeatedly performed after 1945 by Kitamura Rokuro I, who worked closely with Kyoka. The multifaceted nature of shimpa was also promoted by the fact that Hanayagi Shotaro and Mizutani Yaeko I first performed Tenshu Monogatari (「天守物語」; Tale of a Castle Keep) and Kaijin Besso (「海神別荘」; The Palace of the Sea God)⁠—representing the mysterious aesthetic world that comprises one wing of Kyoka’s work⁠—several decades after the release of the plays.
In Showa 40 (1965), Hanayagi Shotaro passed away, and Mizutani Yaeko I took centre stage. There was a transformation from “onnagata shimpa” to “actress shimpa”, and this has remained, thanks to performers such as Mizutani Yaeko II and Namino Kuriko.