The GABA Rissei yose it is not a yose in the sense that Hanjôtei is a yose, but one of the chi’iki (regional) yose that I’ve written about before. This one is a fairly young yose. Today was the fifth show, and I, for the reasons I’ll share below, is one of my favorite places to go with Somemaru.
The name GABA comes from the sponsor of this program. Ezaki Glico is a confectionary company based in Osaka, and on of their products is GABA “mental balance chocolate,” which are purported to help relieve stress. Indeed, I believe chocolate has that ability.
Rissei is the name the place this show is held, a historic elementary school building dating to the Meiji period (1868-1912) that has fallen out of repair, and has not been used for classes for about 20 years. Nevertheless, the large building, which sits a short walk from Kawaramachi Station in Kyoto City, has yet to be condemned. What is so wonderful about this old building is that many things in the building seem to be exactly as they were in the early twentieth century. Though the paint and straw-mud walls are falling off the framework in numerous places, though the floorboards are so badly warped that every step causes the a creepy creak, there is seemingly endless wonderful woodwork and antique school furniture to be found in every nook and cranny. Most of the glass and tile work in the building seems to be original too. One particularly interesting find are the inter-phones hung around the school. Telling from their looks, they haven’t been used in decades, but they remain intact. Thereon, a very small steel plate it reads “Interphone. Made in the U.S.A. January 14, 1913.”
This building is also used by a few groups in the community for different purposes, such as art classes, etc. Seeing in a first-floor hallway posted pictures of each graduating classes from since, I assume, when the school first opened, one is led to believe that somebody realizes the importance of this building and its history.
It seems appropriate, too, that rakugo, which enjoyed its heyday in the Meiji period, is performed regularly at the Rissei Elementary School. Though their are constant groans from the floorboards as one walks through its halls, one can also hear the voices and laughter of the children who ran over them through the years. The same children whose parents most certainly loved rakugo; the same children who were sure to grow fond of Japan’s ground-level comic narrative art themselves.
One can only hope that this building will be restored to its original condition, and that it remains a fixture in the Kyoto community.