Sanshi Book Review 三枝師匠の本 書評

"Shishô, Godaime Bunshi e" (Katsura Sanshi)Last year I wrote a post about the publication of Katsura Sanshi’s (now Bunshi VI) book titled Shishô, godaime Bunshi e (To My Master, Bunshi V [Yoshimoto Bukkusu, 2012]). Since I’ve read it, perhaps it is time I share my thoughts on the book. Please note, these are my own views.

What I got from the book was probably what Sanshi wanted to get from writing it — to know Bunshi V better. Sanshi didn’t know Bunshi V well because he ended his formal training for show business even before a year had passed.

Sanshi obviously felt guilty about taking his master’s name. Before doing so, he wanted to get a concrete idea about who Bunshi V was, and make it clear to readers that he would not be able to become the same person. He also wanted to create an image that he had received unanimous approval from the entire Bunshi V school (19 other members) for his name change.

The bulk of the book consists of interviews with all of Bunshi V’s pupils, in chronological order, with the exception of his interview (dialogue rather) with Katsura Bunchin, the other Bunshi V pupil who has become rich and famous through broadcast media. I found it somewhat suspect that Bunchin was saved until last.

Sanshi’s interview questions frequently seem loaded, geared toward alleviating his own doubts about taking such an illustrious name. His comments, too, seem motivated by a desire to show that he was indeed Bunshi V’s #1 pupil (in every sense of the word), one his master could be proud of.

There is constant focus on the fact that Bunshi V let pupils be “free” (jiyû ni saseru) and do just what they wanted, and that he himself focused energy on non-rakugo and rakugo-fusion projects. However, Sanshi hardly mentions the fact that Bunshi V, down to his core, was all about rakugo and passing on a tradition.

Bunshi V allowing pupils to be “free” was not a result of him being a kind, giving man, as Sanshi leads readers to believe. In my opinion, this was Bunshi V’s way of saying nicely, you don’t have what it takes to do rakugo as it should be done, so, feel free to find your own way. Essentially, Bunshi V was “raising” them by tossing them out (sute-sodachi). In doing this, it was always Bunshi V’s hope that they would one day return to rakugo proper.

I was disappointed that Sanshi did not research/write the closing section on Bunshi V’s art and life (Godaime Katsura Bunshi: Sono gei to hito). He hired a scholar to do this. The fact that Sanshi didn’t take this task on himself told me that he still hadn’t learned who Bunshi V was, or wasn’t interested. Nevertheless, it was not Sanshi’s goal to learn Bunshi V’s art, or become him.

Godaime Katsura Bunshi: Sono gei to hito is quite scholarly. This,  along with the painstakingly detailed timeline and performance history, are very informative. The interviews, however, are the most valuable part of the book. Though Sanshi’s questions often seem loaded, there is much said that transcends them. I especially enjoyed the interviews with Bunta and Bunza. All interviews serve — more or less — as dialogues (geidan) on Bunshi V’s art.

I conducted a formal geidan interview with Bunshi V on his art for my master’s thesis in Japan. As far as I know, nobody else has done one, or at least published it. From the geidan I conducted, and from my personal conversations with Bunshi V, I know well that he was an extremely giving man. He hated to tell people no. His acceptance of me as a minarai is perfect example of this. After all, Bunshi V had better things to than teach an American kid about rakugo.

I also know that Bunshi V was concerned about the future of Kamigata rakugo, that fewer hanashika were doing stories with hamemono, that there was no formal yose in Osaka. If Bunshi V could see it, he would be relieved that the Hanjôtei is now in operation. He would be pleased that Somemaru IV has more than doubled the number of  professional shamisen players. He would be proud that there are some hanashika are carrying on the tradition of rakugo that he loved most.

Sanshi has taken his master’s name, but he will not carry on the Bunshi V tradition. It is clear in his closing statements, though, that he is okay with this. Why? Because considers himself the “New Story” (shinsaku) Bunshi — Sanshi’s repertoire consists almost entirely of stories he wrote — and wants posterity to remember him as the man who made the classics of tomorrow. Whether this will happen, only time can tell.

Did Sanshi get to know Bunshi V better by writing Shishô, godaime Bunshi e? Perhaps. More than this, Sanshi learned about Bunshi V’s other pupils, and that they shared a number of experiences with each other. He also found that he didn’t have many of the experiences others did. Still, by meeting each individual and asking the questions he wanted, Sanshi found a way to feel better about moving ahead with the ascension to Bunshi VI.

Bunshi VI at press conf. May 23, 2013 (property of Daily News)According to Daily Sports Online, Bunshi VI held a press conference on May 23, in Osaka. He eagerly told reporters that he will be hosting the “Namba Grand Kagetsu Bunshi Festival” on July 17, to celebrate his seventieth birthday and commemorate a full year with his new name. He also announced that he would be featuring “The Man Who Summons Storms: The Ishihara Yûjirô Story” and a new rakugo piece “Dear Friend” (Tomo yo).

At the very end his 2012 book, Sanshi writes, “I will do my best not to soil the name Bunshi, and bring even more honor to it.” In order to accomplish this, I think he will need work hard to study Bunshi V’s rakugo, and transmit Bunshi’s most popular stories and artistic style to the next generation. If there is no transmission, the tradition will die out. Of course, it is an entertainer’s job to sell oneself, and promote their own style. However, more important than this is preserving the Kamigata tradition. Especially if your name is Bunshi, indeed, one would like to see you bringing rakugo classics to the stage.

去年このブログで、桂三枝師匠の本「師匠、五代目文枝へ」(ヨシモトブックス 2012)についての記事を書きました。今日は読み終えた感想をアップしたいと思います。あくまでも、これは個人的な見解です。












ところで、デイリースポーツによると5月23日に六代目文枝師匠が大阪で会見し、70歳を祝う古希と襲名一周年記念を迎える7月16日に「三枝改メ六代 桂文枝襲名1周年記念『文枝フェスティバルinなんばグランド花月』」を行い、そこで「嵐を呼ぶ男 石原裕次郎物語」と新作のネタ「友よ」をやると意欲的に発表した。



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