Sanshi’s Feelings of Guilt 三枝の罪悪感

Last night before going to bed I read the forward to Katsura Sanshi’s recent book, Shishô, godaime Bunshi e (To My Master, Bunshi V [Yoshimoto Bukkusu, 2012]).

In the course of eleven pages, Sanshi recalls his wildly successful career as a radio and TV “tarento” (personality/star), but asks why his master Bunshi V (1930-2005) ever allowed him to follow such a path. More specifically, he wonders why Bunshi told him to go (itte koi) to the broadcasting company in the first place.

It soon becomes clear Sanshi is filled with guilt since he got his big break so soon after entering the artistic school of Bunshi. Despite the fact he was associated with Bunshi longer than most of Bunshi’s other pupils, Sanshi knows Bunshi the least.

Sanshi is filled with guilt because he will soon take the name of a Kamigata rakugo giant– his master –but he hardly knows the man who preceded him. In an attempt to know Bunshi better, to give readers a sense that he has support from those who knew Bunshi best, and perhaps to relieve his guilt, Sanshi interviews those who learned from Bunshi. The interviews make up the bulk of the book.

Toward the end of the forward Sanshi writes, “Considering the fact that my classic-loving (koten-ha) master did an original story (sôsaku) at the end [of his career/life], could he have been showing his support for my [adherence to] original rakugo? Was he giving me his approval? By taking on such a new challenge could he have been saying, ‘You keep going, and don’t worry about a thing’?”

It is doubtful Sanshi has any concerns about ascending to an artistic name that goes back more than 150 years, but he clearly feels guilty about taking the name of his master. Whatever the case, Sanshi’s interpretation of Bunshi’s decision to compose the original story “Kumano môde” at Mie and Kumano prefectures’ joint request as a last-ditch attempt to convey to Sanshi his approval strikes me as self-serving, egotistical, and unfortunate. But perhaps this is what Sanshi needs to tell himself to relieve such guilt.

Indeed, Sanshi went to the broadcasting company as his master told him to shortly after beginning his apprenticeship, but Sanshi went off and over time failed to return, which was also implied when Bunshi said itte koi (go and come back). Sanshi made his priority making it in the world of mass media entertainment.

It is not impossible to make a good living on rakugo alone, but, perhaps one cannot blame Sanshi since there was so much more money to be had in radio and TV. Still, the fact remains, Sanshi did not return to complete a formal apprenticeship with Bunshi, and, consequently, Sanshi never became the hanashika his master expected. Perhaps this is where Sanshi’s guilt late in life derives from, particularly in the months and days before he takes his masters name.

Tonight it’s on to Chapter One.

Here is my review of the book.












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