Katsura Beishi II and IV 二世と四世桂米紫

I have heard Katsura Beishi IV’s rakugo on numerous occasions. He is an energetic and precise performer. He specializes in koten rakugo, but apparently also performs shinsaku rakugo from time to time. He is going to turn 40 this week and strikes me as one of the young hanashika out there who will develop into one of the great masters in the coming years.

However, the road to mastery is not an easy one. In their younger years, hanashika have their fair share of hard times. Indeed, when they enter the professional world, their teachers often tell them things such as, “You’re not going to be able to eat for ten years.”

The other day, I was reading a Taishō-period magazine and came across a short article about Katsura Beishi II (1877-1943), who was also right around 40 when it was run. It became clear that Beishi II had it extremely hard.

Katsura Beishi-kun  (By Chûbê, 1918)

△ Although Katsura Beishi tells funny stories on stage every day and night, he gets nothing more than his set monthly wage. There are shipping millionaires and steel upstarts in the world, but the economy is horrible. We can’t put away a single mon and this is absolutely ridiculous. Beishi therefore took a chance as a performer and took his act to the provinces in hopes of one day being able to slap his friends on their cheeks with wads of cash. He zealously put together a show and headed to Hiroshima, where the the money is supposed to flow a little better. However, at every turn he suffered one misfortune after the next. After three months, his zeal was thoroughly stamped out. He faced the same hardships as a beggar. He had no money to board the locomotive and had no acquaintances to borrow money from. He had no means whatsoever, so he made poles of his legs and took to the road. When he at last made it back to Osaka, he asked for a meeting with the manager of the Kōbaitei (yose). Beishi’s clothes looked like the tattered kimono of a beggar, so the woman at reception gave him a suspicious look. In any case, she brought him to the attention of the manager, but, because he saw him without even getting a name let alone any particulars, he had no clue who he was. “I won’t have anything to do with beggars like you,” he said, “now quit dawdling and out you go!”  To this piercing greeting Beishi responded, “Sir, I’m no beggar. It”s me, Beishi!” The manager gave him a hard look and uttered, “Oh…” and nodded, “so, you’re still alive after all.” Beishi was a man of small stature to begin with, but this made him shrink a little more.

四代目桂米紫の高座を何回か聴いています。米紫さんの芸風はとても精力的で、精巧な芸に感じました。高座に掛ける演目は古典落語を中心にしていますが、新作落語も時々演っているそうです。ちなみに、今週は米紫さんの40歳の誕生日です(おめでとうございます)。現在、若い噺家が多いように思いますが、その中で誰が将来の真の名人になるかと聞かれたら、今後数年のうちに米紫さんがその一人になるに違いないと思います。

しかし、名人までの道は簡単ではないと思います。若いときは特に落語家は苦労が多いようです。プロの世界に入るときだって、師匠によく言われるのは「10年間食えないよ」だそうです。

先日、大正時代に出た雑誌を読んでいたら、二代目桂米紫についての短い記事が出ていました。先代米紫も当時ちょうど40歳ぐらいで、かなり苦労していたことが分かりました。

桂米紫クン (寄稿 忠兵衛、大正7年)

△桂米紫は毎日毎晩高座で面白い話を饒舌(しゃべ)つても毎月きまつた月給しか貰へず、世間は船成金だの鐵成金だのと凄(すざ)まじい景氣である我々は鐚一文の金も貯へられず甚だ莫迦らしいから一肌脱いで興行人となって地方を巡業して仲間連中に札束で頬をブン殴ってやらうと云ふ鼻息で一座を組織し、比較的金廻りのよい広島へ興行に出掛けた處が、至る處で御難続で三ヶ月目には出発の鼻息も真向から潰され乞食同様な憂目に逢ふて、汽車に乗るにも金がなく金を借りるに知己がないので、詮方がなく長途をテク々足を棒の様にして漸くのことで大阪へ戻り紅梅亭の主人に面會を求めた所が身に纏ふてゐる者が破れた乞食同様な着物だつたので取次の案内女は不審な目付をして取敢へずこの由を主人に告げた處が、主人は自分の名前を云うからは詳細があらうと逢ふて見た處で一向に知らぬ男であつたので「お前の様な乞食は知らないよ逡巡(ぐずぐず)せずに帰れ!」と剣モホロヽの挨拶に「旦那乞食ぢやありませんよ米紫です」と言つたので主人つくづく見て「オー」と首肯き「君はまだ生きてゐたのか」と云はれたのには流石の米紫も小さい身体が尚更小さくなつたとなり。

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