Shirai Gonpachi (白井権八) (role )



Osaka Prints wrote: "The best known plays about Gonpachi are grouped together as Gonpachi Komurasaki mono (works about Gonpachi and Komurasaki: 権八小紫物). Their genesis lies in actual events involving unrelated historical figures. The samurai Shirai Gonpachi (白井権八) from Tottori province, guilty of murder and robbery, was executed in 1679."

Later they added: "One theatrical adaptation featuring Gonpachi bestows notoriety upon him at age 16 when he was already famous for his good looks, bravery, and swordsmanship. He kills a fellow samurai and flees to Edo, where at an inn he is warned by a 15-year-old beauty named Komurasaki (小紫) that the owner is a gang leader plotting to murder him for his sword. Gonpachi swiftly kills all ten of the gang. Afterwards he visits the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter and finds Komurasaki at the Miuraya brothel, now a prostitute selling herself to earn money for her destitute parents. Without the funds to ransom her, Gonpachi turns to a life of debauchery, supporting himself by robbery and murder. When he is finally captured and executed, the devoted Komurasaki takes her life at his grave. To honor their memory, sympathetic citizens build a tumulus called hiyokuzuka (lovers' tomb) and temple priests carve a picture of the Hiyoku no tori (比翼鳥), a mythical love-bird — both male and female, each with one eye and one wing — that when flying join as one sex, symbolizing connubial love and fidelity."

"There is a different ending in the play depicted here, Ume tabiji gojusan eki (Fifty-three stages of the plum tree journey: 梅旅路五十三驛), wherein Gonapchi takes his own life rather than face capture and a public execution."