Shokyô’s Inspiring Battle Against Cancer 松喬師匠の感激闘病

Turning even life fighting cancer into laughs, Shôfukutei Shokyô. On this day he narrated a new story, Oza maeri (Pilgrimage to Hear a Sermon) which he learned while in the hospital. (Performance at Tenman Tenjin Hanjôtei, photo by Nishida Hirosato).
闘病生活も笑いに変える笑福亭松喬さん。この日は入院中に覚えた新ネタ「お座参り」を披露した(8月31日、大阪市北区の天満天神繁昌亭で)=西田大智撮影

On the Kôza with determination to live, no matter what… Shokyô’s battle against cancer

This October Shôfukutei Shokyô (61), who is fighting late-stage liver cancer, will begin the first of sixteen solo shows (dokuenkai), which will span over a four-year period. It has been nine months since this prominent performer of orthodox Kamigata rakugo received his cancer diagnosis. He said it is his fans who have inspired him to get out of bed. He wants to make them laugh, and is therefore determined to take on such a challenge. “I can’t let my fans down. I have to fulfill my duty to them no matter what,” he swears (to reach his goal).

“My blood tests were showing bad numbers, and the doctors told me, ‘You can check out of the hospital when they go down.’ After that it was sheer will power. I knew I had to make it to my show, and then they dropped significantly in just two days. They said, in spite of themselves, ‘Do we have the right person’s blood?”

Late last month, the audience was in tears with laughter at a show at the Osaka Tenman Tenjin Hanjôtei. Although close to half of Shokyô’s 45-minute set was about his experiences battling cancer, it was a performance laced with jokes throughout. There was nothing to indicate an ounce of tragedy.

Born in the city of Ono, in Hyôgo Prefecture, Shokyô entered the artistic school of Shôfukutei Shokaku VI when he was 17. Not able to correct his Banshû accent, this “awkward kid” was regularly slapped around by Shokaku VI as he underwent rigorous training. In time, Shokyô distinguished himself as a master of traditional Kamigata rakugo. In 2007, his telling of Hyaku-nenme [The Hundredth Year] won him the Grand Prize [daishô] at the Agency for Cultural Affairs Arts Festival Awards, and he was even called “the hanashika who carries on the quintessence of the Shôfukutei school.”

But last December Shokyô received the unexpected diagnosis. Constantly feeling tired, he had some tests run and learned that he had liver cancer. “If there’s anybody you want to see, or anything left you would like to do, now is the time.” Told this by the doctor in the examination room, “Everything just went black. Thinking this was how I was going to die, I was too scared to sleep.”

It was already too late to operate on the cancer. The doctor said, “No treatment whatsoever is one possible option.” He felt as though he would suffocate from the despair, but his wife Keiko’s (58) words, “Everybody’s waiting to hear your rakugo, Dad,” roused him into taking the medicine and radiation treatment necessary to fight the cancer. He has used his time in the hospital to learn new stories, and has had no shortage of vocal exercise.

In April he made the comeback to the kôza that he had hoped. And next month, he will set out to achieve his next goal. Over a four-year period, once a season, four times a year, Shokyô will put on a series of shows, which he has titled “Sixteen Nights of Shokyô” (Shokyô jûrokuya).

“There are all kinds of people suffering with cancer, so I would like to do a little something to encourage them. I’m not going to go out that easily. I’m going to make cancer my friend, and keep on living. I want everybody to see that.”

Shokyô says that doctors recently confided in him, saying, “We thought you had no more than six months to live. We can’t call it anything but a miracle.” Shokyô has an explanation. “Making people laugh allows me to laugh more. I heard laughing helps strengthen your immune system. But I’m also making money, and it all helps.” Believing in the power of rakugo, Shokyô has his eyes set on completing “Sixteen Nights of Shokyô” in the summer of 2016.

The first show, “Night One,” will be held on October 19 at 6:30pm at the Osaka-Abeno Kumin Center. He has chosen to tell the stories Tsubozan (Calculating Pots) and Sumiyoshi kago (The Sumiyoshi Palenquin), both of which are “Shokyô-style stories, filled with plenty of laughs.”

(September 8,  2012, Yomiuri shinbun [Translated by Matthew W. Shores])

Shôfukutei Shokyô, R.I.P. 松喬師匠、おつかれさまでございました。(合掌)

必ず生きる決意の高座…がん闘病中の松喬さん

末期の肝臓がんと闘う落語家の笑福亭松喬しょきょうさん(61)が10月から、4年間、計16回の連続独演会に取り組む。上方落語屈指の本格派が、がん告知を受けてから9か月。なえかけた気持ちを鼓舞してくれる客の笑いに応えたいと、挑戦を決意した。「お客さんを裏切るわけにはいかへん。必ず全うします」と〈完走〉を誓う。

「血液検査でまだ悪い数値があって、『下がったら退院ですよ』って。そしたら、気力ですわ。落語会に間に合わせなと、2日間で大きく下がった。思わず『だれかの血と間違ってませんか』って聞き直した」

客席がどっとわく。先月末、大阪・天満天神繁昌亭での落語会。45分の高座のうち半分ほどが闘病体験だが、笑いを随所にちりばめ、悲壮感はみじんもない。

兵庫県小野市出身。17歳で六代目笑福亭松鶴に入門した。播州なまりが抜けず、松鶴から「この、どぶっきょ(不器用)」とどなられながらも地道に稽古を重ね、古典落語の名手として頭角を現した。2007年度には「百年目」で文化庁芸術祭賞大賞を受賞、「笑福亭の神髄を引き継ぐ噺家はなしか」と評されるまでになった。

だが昨年12月、思わぬ宣告を受ける。倦怠けんたい感が続くために受けた検査で、肝臓がんが見つかった。「会いたい人、やり残したことがあればできるだけ早く」。診察室で医師から告げられ、「目の前が真っ暗になった。このまま死ぬのか、怖くて眠れなかった」。

がんはもはや、手術はできない状態だった。医師からは「治療しないのも選択肢の一つ」と提示され、絶望感に押しつぶされそうになったが、妻の敬子さん(58)の「お父さんの落語をみんなが待っている」という言葉に奮い立ち、抗がん剤と放射線治療を開始。病室で新しいネタを覚え、発声練習も欠かさなかった。

4月、念願の高座復帰を果たした。来月からの連続独演会は、さらにその次の目標。4年間にわたって、季節に1度、年4回の公演を続けることを掲げ、「松喬十六夜」と銘打った。

「がんで悩む人はいっぱいいるから、少しでも励みになりたい。自分は、これっぽっちも死ぬなんておもてへん。がんと一緒に仲良く、いつまでも生きるつもり。その姿を見てほしい」

今になって医師から「余命6か月ぐらいだと考えていた。奇跡としか言いようがない」と打ち明けられたという。「笑わせることで、こっちはもっと笑わせてもらっている。笑いで免疫力が高まると聞きますが、お金をもらって、助けられているようなもん」。落語の力を信じて、2016年夏の「第十六夜」を目指す。

初回「第一夜」は10月19日午後6時半から、大阪・阿倍野区民センターで。「松喬らしく、笑いの多い噺を」と選んだ演目、「壺算」「住吉駕籠かご」の2席を披露する。

(2012年9月8日  読売新聞 リンクはこちらへ

松喬師匠の一日も早いご回復と「松喬十六夜」無事完走をお祈り申し上げます。

Shôfukutei Shokyô, R.I.P. 松喬師匠、おつかれさまでございました。(合掌)

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