Hayashiya Family Showcase 林家一門顔見世興行

Tonight I went to the Hanjôtei for the Hayashiya Ichimon-kai (showcase of those in the same artistic family). This is one of the biggest annual events for the Hayashiya family, and what a show it was!

It was a special show featuring seven hanashika and eight rakugo stories. The highlight of the evening was Somemaru’s performance of Funa Benkei (Benkei on the Boat), which I had never seen performed before. It is a fabulous story. It is lightly based on the the Heikei monogatari tale of the same name, though the rakugo version is all about the comedy of a henpecked husband sneaking out to have with his best friends a midsummer night of boating, music, and geisha, only to be discovered by his wife, who is the Benkei (legendary monk-warrior possessing supernatural strengh) of this story. Somemaru did an incredible Benkei impression, which looked as if it was pulled straight from ukiyo-e illustrations of celebrated early modern kabuki actors in the role of Benkei.

Property of Honolulu Academy of Arts

It was wonderful to see performances from so many of Somemaru’s pupils. While they each have their own unique styles, bits of Somemaru — his facial expressions, his voice, his stylistic gesticulations, and great female impersonations — can at times be found in his pupils’ rakugo.

This was a wonderful night of rakugo, indeed. In addition to Somemaru’s masterpiece, Funa Benkei, I also especially enjoyed the stories by (in order of performance) Usaburô (Enyôhaku), Somejaku (Unagiya), Someza (Sarayashiki), and Hanamaru (Naimongai).

Tonight Hanamaru was given the headliner (tori) spot, and he did not disappoint. He began by talking about his infatuation with the Takarazuka Music Revue, singing bits of the recently staged “Romeo and Juliet,” and a rewritten Kamigata Rakugo version, in which it is not the Montagues and Capulets in conflict, but certain members of the Katsura and Shôfukutei rakugo families.

The story he performed was the “classic” Naimongai (Trying to Buy What Shops Don’t Have), but with an amusing twist. The two protagonists are Hiroshi and Billy–a Japanese and non-Japanese (presumably an American, who has an irritatingly in-depth knowledge about Japan, and a amusingly thick accent)–and they make their way through the famous (Japan’s longest) Tenjinbashi shopping arcade, even making a stop at the Hantôtei, only to be turned away by the current manager. Billy can not help pilfering things at each stop; at the Hanjôtei he swipes the red rickshaw, and Katsura Harudanji III in it!  The audience loved Hanamaru’s performance, and I could see just why he was recently awarded the “Gut-buster Prize” (Bakushô shô).

On the way out tonight I was asked if the character Billy had been based on me… Hmm… good question, but I doubt it. I am not as clever as Billy, and my accent it worse.

I had a great time at the yose tonight, and am looking forward to listening to Somemaru and his talented artistic family perform in the near future.










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