Setsubun Rakugo 節分落語

January flew by in a blink, and here we are already at Setsubun. Setsubun literally means “seasonal division,” and falls on February 3 each year. This cultural and religious holiday can be thought of as New Year’s Eve on the lunar calendar, marking the beginning of spring in Japan. Most people in Japan think of the cleansing ceremony in which people throw beans (mamemaki) and shout “oni wa soto fuku wa uchi” (out with the [disease-carrying] goblins, in with good fortune). Also high on lists is eating the traditional food of Setsubun, Ehômaki. This is basically makizushi named after the direction (ehô) of the God of Fortune. The idea is to eat facing the proper direction, which changes every year. This year the direction of the God of Fortune is north-northwest, as was indicated on the label of the ehômaki I bought today.

A rakugo story perfect for Setsubun is Oni no men (The Goblin Mask).

A young girl, Osetsu, is serving as a dry nurse in the house of a mask maker. The Otafuku (a happy woman with a round, flat face) mask the master of the house gives her looks exactly like her mother, and Osetsu therefore speaks to it daily. One day the master of the house, being the joker that he is, switches her mask with that of a goblin. Seeing such a frightening mask, the girl rushes off for her home in Ikeda, fearing for her mother. This story has a long history in both kôshaku and rakugo traditions. In a slightly different version the live-in apprentice Sadakichi stares at masks of Ebisu and Otafuku, recalling his father and mother. Both versions are quite touching, and listeners cannot help being softened as they observe the disposition of children longing for the parents they have been separated from.

Happy Setsubun. Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi!



子守り奉公をする少女・おせつ。面屋の主人からもらった、母親そっくりのおたふくの面に語りかけるのが日課だ。それを知った当家の主人は、いたずら心で鬼の面にすりかえ、この怖い面を見たおせつは、母の身を案じ大急ぎで池田の実家へ向かう… 。講釈ダネで、落語としても昔からあったが、丁稚の定吉がえべっさんとお多福の面を父母と思って眺めるという設定。いずれにしろ、離れた親を慕う子の心根がいじらしく、聞き手の気持ちまで優しくなるようないい噺だ。(あらすじと手引きはやまだりよこの「上方落語家名鑑 第二版」より)



2 thoughts on “Setsubun Rakugo 節分落語

    • Thank you, Steffen,
      I just visited your blog NARUHODO (I’ve actually visited before, too), which is extremely informative. I especially appreciate your Edo period- and premodern travel-related posts. I will be happy to add NARUHODO to my Japan-related blogroll and encourage my readers to check it out.

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