This morning I went Somemaru’s house at 10 a.m., as usual. When we were preparing breakfast I noticed some dishsoap near the kitchen sink with a label that read “Honda.” “What?!” I thought. I didn’t know that Honda manufactured liquid soap along with their worldclass cars… Somemaru proceeded to tell me that the Honda dealership (he bought two new cars in 2010) sent him a New Year’s care package, which held items one needs every day: soap, suran wrap, facial tissue, and toilet paper! And everything had a Honda label–the better to remember them by?
What interesting customer service and marketing strategy! I’ve never heard of anything like this happening in the United States. Then again, I’ve never purchaced a new Honda. Maybe you have to purchace two at the same time?
After our morning routine, three reprepresentatives from Yoshimoto Productions (kogyo), including Somemaru’s current manager, arrived for a meeting. They spent about an hour discsussing contractual and scheduling matters. I used this time to get some light ironing done.
Immediately following the Yoshimoto meeting Somemaru’s third pupil, Someya, arrived for his first lesson for the story Kowakare ([Parent-] Child Separation). This is a ninjôbanashi (tale of human emotions/sentiment). Some versions of this story tend to more tear-jerkers rather than the big comedy pieces generally expected of rakugo. One note on the ninjôbanashi genre, more of these stories are told in Tokyo than in Osaka. This has much to do with the traditional tastes of people in those cities–I’ve heard it said that people in Tokyo tend to want to be moved, or made to think, while their counterparts in Osaka simply want to be made to laugh.
I should write a bit here about rakugo lessons, too. Lessons are often conducted differently from master to master, so some of the things I put down here may only be true for the way Somemaru teaches.
Rakugo stories are typically learned during the course of three lessons. In Japanese this is called Sanben keiko (lit. three-time practice). In the first lesson, like today, the master performs the story for the pupil, who sits directly in front him, in seiza-style, observing quietly. Some masters like to do this first lesson “old-school” -style in that they allow neither notetaking nor electronic recording devices. Somemaru is merciful in that he allows his pupils to record sessions if they like. When the master finishes the story proper he continues with some comments about timing, performance techniques, and flexibility. From now until the second session, it will be the pupil’s job to commit the story to memory. In the second lesson he will recite his version of the story. The master will listen quietly, taking notes until the end, when he will offer his critique, then perhaps re-perform sections of the story. There is typically still much to be worked out after the second session, so the pupil takes what he’s learned from session two, and applies it in preparation for the third and final practice. The third lesson looks much like the second, but instead of it being a “practice run,” the story presented should come across as a final product, ready for the stage. Finally, in this last session, the pupil asks for the master’s permission to take the new story to the stage. Unless the pupil does terribly in the finally practice, permission is generally granted. The first public performance of a newly acquired story is called neta oroshi (lit. story unloading) in Japanese.
Immediately following Someya’s lesson, a representative arrived from the publishing house that will be putting out in spring Somemaru’s next book, Kamigata rakugo yose hayashi (Kamigata Rakugo Music for the Yose). The meeting was, for the most, about choosing photos to be used in the book. Just like in the United States, there are all kinds of hoops to jump through, and red tape to walk around, when using pictures for publications in Japan. The meeting lasted over one hour, but the rep. seemed to leave in a very good mood. Somemaru must have provided him with everything he wanted and more.
Shortly after the publication meeting, Somemaru and I prepared his kimono, etc., and we were off to the “Hyogo Citizen’s Yose” (Hyôgo kumin yose) in Shinkaichi (Kôbe), which has been held annually, several times a year, since 1978. Somemaru (then Someji) first performed in this citizen-run yose‘s fifth show. Tonight’s was show #176!
We finished up in Shinkaichi after 9 p.m. We stopped on our way for a late dinner and got back to Somemaru’s place just before 11:00. We had to begin right away packing for Somemaru’s two-day Tokyo trip, for which he will depart early tomorrow morning. I did all I could and headed home before the final train left and got home after midnight. What a day! Somemaru shishô, please get plenty of rest tonight!