Tanabe Yose 田辺寄席

Today I went to listen to rakugo at the Tanabe Yose. Though it was my first time, this chiiki yose was holding its 595th and 596th shows this afternoon and evening. The Tanabe Yose, which puts on monthly shows and has changed venues a couple of times, has been making audiences laugh for  some 38 years. This is the “home ground” of Katsura Bunta, and it would seem that many people in the audience are also longtime regulars. Indeed it was a very friendly, family-like atmosphere, and tea and snacks were even served in the garden during intermission.

I am glad that I arrived early, because people soon filled seats in anticipation for Bunta’s pre-show talk. Ten minutes before each show, Bunta comes out for a short set called Kaikô zeroban, a play on the rakugo story Kaikô ichiban. Today, perhaps because he heard a non-Japanese was in the audience, he began by sharing jokes from around the world, including countries such as America, England, India, China, and even Iran. He performed jokes in rakugo style, showing how humor in the world is often universal (if not similar to rakugo).

Bunta performed the story Hyôgo bune, which was fabulous. Today’s special guest was Shôfukutei Kakushi, who was also great in the two stories he performed, Hettsui nusutto and Hana ikada.

The first Tanabe Yose show was held in September 1974 on the third floor of Akatsuki Pan, a bakery not far from Minami Tanabe Station. This remained the venue for but a year since there wasn’t enough space for all the people who wanted in, and the stairs, too steep for elderly yose-goers, also presented a problem. From there the Tanabe Yose was moved to the Abeno Youth Center, where it remained for many years.

The Tanabe Yose was founded by a large group of local citizens who loved rakugo and wanted to listen to rakugo regularly in their own community. The yose was formed at a time when hanashika were at pains to find venues they could regularly perform at. From the beginning there were around eighty people at every show, and high attendance continued at the Tanabe Yose even after the 1970s rakugo boom ended. It is safe to say that most Kamigata hanashika have performed at this venue at least once.

With each show, organizers also distribute a free newspaper titled Yoriai zake (named after a rakugo story). In addition to Tanabe Yose-related news, Yoriai zake also has regular articles on Osaka history, interesting culture, and even the air raids during World War II.

Today attendance remains high, with close to 200 people attending each show. Attendance numbers suddenly rose following the Hanshin Awaji Megaquake of 1995, and this is no doubt thanks to the Tanabe Yose’s volunteer efforts, which included putting together and donating backpacks with relief supplies and putting on charity outreach rakugo shows at ground zero. Apparently, a number of quake victims continue to this day as regulars in the audience.

Today the Tanabe Yose is at home in the Momogaike Citizen’s Activity Center (shimin katsudô sentâ, JR Minami Tanabe Station, or Tanabe Station on the subway). If you would like to enjoy a wonderful community yose experience, please do visit the Tanabe Yose. Be sure to make reservations and plan to arrive a little arrive early.

Finally, I would like to mention a unique exhibit of yose models by Medaru Kôbô on display in the lobby. This is quite interesting, so be sure to take a look!












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