Happy New Year! 明けましておめでとう!

Happy New Year!

I have been a fairly avid runner for almost 15 years. If possible, each year I like to literally run out of the old year and into the new. I do this by, what else, running. I left my place before midnight. There was almost NOBODY out on the streets as I ran. I wondered where everybody could have gone, until I neared the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine. Yes, indeed, thousands of people had filled the streets surrounding this historic shine (ca. 949) for their first visit of the year (hatsu môde). I regret not taking my camera with me on my run! Here is the picture I took at 12:41 a.m., after returning.

This was just the beginning of what would prove to be a very exciting New Year’s Day. Aisome and I arrived at Somemaru’s house a little early to make sure everything was ready for the New Year’s guests, who would be arriving at 10 a.m. Once the guests had arrived, Somemaru poured a ceremonial cup of sake (complete with fragments of gold leaf!) for all–his pupils, their wives, their children (who wanted to try a taste of sake–most did not), his own wife, and finally me. Since I was the last person to drink I received the honor of pouring Somemaru’s sake. All drank from the same saucer, and this was a wonderful bonding experience.

Following the sake ritual, the full-day banquet got underway. We put out three long tables so everybody could have a seat. There was more than enough food for everybody, and beer flowed like a river. As people ate and drank the room became more and more festive.

All of Somemaru’s pupils and their families were here for this special occasion. Since these men are all professional entertainers, it is extremely difficult to get them together in one place at the same time. Because of this, there was much to talk about, and much about which to reminisce. While most conversations stayed non-work-related, some people found time to sneak off with their day-planners to set up future shows with one another.

For the most, though, and especially as people drank, good fun was had. We were even a little goofy at times, as you can see in the picture that we (clockwise from top left: Someta, Someya, Takemaru, Somejaku) are holding up our “bunny ears” in honor of the Year of the Rabbit, and the Hayashiya artistiv family crest, the nu no ji usagi.

An interesting part of the day, and I had previously heard about but never experienced this custom, was the presentation ofotoshi-dama (New Year’s money gifts) to children. Somemaru began this in a semi-formal manner, and all deshi followed suit. With there being so many deshi, I think that the children must have made off pretty well today. Since we are in training, and not officially emancipated, Aisome and I also received otoshi-dama from a few of Somemaru’s older pupils.

There were fun and games for everybody at the party. The adults enjoyed drinking and conversing together, and checking about 300 New Years lottery tickets that many in the group had jointly purchased–each participant put in ¥3000 and got only ¥300 back. That toshikoshi soba must not be working yet (see yesterday’s blog). The children enjoyed playing new and traditional games, and getting attention from adoring adults. In the following picture you see two children performing a manzai(two-man stand-up comedy) act, which they learned from Somesuke (one of Somemaru’s pupils) just beforehand. They certainly stole the show!

Of course while Somemaru was enjoying such a festive time with his many guests, it was my, and Aisome’s–not to mention a couple other lower-ranking pupils no longer in training (shûgyô)–job to make sure that we kept up with washing dishes and waiting on people as they ate and drank. I’ve never worked in a busy restaurant kitchen washing dishes before, but today I got an idea what it must be like. We washed hundreds of dishes and did not break a single one! As a result of being so busy, some of our own food and drinks had to be enjoyed from the kitchen.

At the end of the day, after the last person had finally gone home–it was a nonstop 12-hour banquet–Somemaru came up to Aisome and I with two goshûgi envelopes, gave one to each of us saying it was our otoshi-dama. Since we are in our shûgyôperiod and therefore do not have time to take any outside work, we are, in a sense, Somemaru’s children. Everyday he looks after all of our needs, from commutation expenses to feeding us all meals. He pays our way to the theater if he goes, and the list goes on and on. This evening he also gave us a very generous otoshi-dama, which was held in the center envelope below. What a fabulous gift and New Year’s Day. Thank you Somemaru-shishô, I will never forget this!











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