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.




桂米紫クン (寄稿 忠兵衛、大正7年)



Embarking on a Shinsaku Journey 新作落語の旅へ

It’s been over 10 years now since I first encountered Kamigata rakugo. Thanks to rakugo, I’ve had a lot of good laughs, and a few good cries. I’ve even had the opportunity to perform the art. My relationship with rakugo has been a valuable experience, and I am grateful.

Personally, I like the the older stories that have been passed down for generations (denshô rakugo). This is not to say that there are not good stories among the “new rakugo” (shinsakusôsaku rakugo) composed since the end of World War II (1945-). Still, I have never felt the desire to take on shinsaku as a topic for serious study.

I’ve listened to a fair share of post-World War II rakugo and I’ve often thought, “Why do hanashika need to perform these stories (that feature ‘salarymen,’ etc.) in kimono? In fact, it’s strange.” Of course, people in the audience are free to say shinsaku is no good, or that they hate it. However, as a scholar and amateur performer of the art, I’ve recently come to think that I should study shinsaku more closely in order to reach a rational conclusion. It will be important for me to remain neutral and objective as I listen to and read “new rakugo.”

Katsura Sanshi "Bakusho rakugo daizenshu"Thus, today I purchased Katsura Sanshi’s (now Bunshi VI) “Great Anthology of Explosive Laughter Rakugo” (Bakushô rakugo daizenshû), my first reference as I set out on a journey to study shinsaku.



戦後の新作落語を聴きながら、「なんで噺家が着物を着て(サラリーマンなどが登場する)新作落語を演らないかんやろ。逆におかしい 」とよく思いました。「新作はダメ、嫌い」と言うのはもちろん聴く人次第です。ただ僕は学者、そして素人噺家として、ちゃんと現代の新作を勉強して判断するべきだと最近特に強く思うようになりました。中立的な立場で、客観的にそれぞれの新作を鑑賞しないといけません。

ということで、今日は桂三枝(現 六代文枝)の「爆笑落語大全集」を買いました。これを最初の参考として、新作落語の勉強の旅に行ってまいりまっさ。

Katsura Harukoma: RIP 春駒師匠、合掌

Katsura Harukoma, property of http://fumikyou.seesaa.net/archives/200902-1.htmlI was sad the other day when I read the news that Katsura Harukoma (62) died of liver failure. I have a number of memories of Harukoma, the most memorable being the first time I met him at the Rengatei chi’ki yose held at the Fûgetsudō Hall in Motomachi (Kobe).

I followed Somemaru into the dressing room and got a glare from Harukoma that seemed to say, “what the hell is this foreigner doing here.” Honestly, I was scared of him. I was even more scared when Somemaru went to the restroom and left me alone with Harukoma in the dressing room. I then realized that I hadn’t given him a proper greeting. “Pardon me,” I said sheepishly, “My name is Matt — I am an exchange student from America. I am studying rakugo under Somemaru.”

With this he said “good work” and gave me a little envelope with money in it (goshûgibukuro). He was scary at first, but I could see that he could also be kind.

Another memory I have of Harukoma is when I was at Somemaru’s one day and the phone rang. I was the only person in the room, so I grabbed Somemaru’s schedule book, a pencil, and some paper. This was my first time to answer Somemaru’s telephone.

Something, something something, can he make it on May 26th?” gurgled the voice on the other end of the line.

“Yes, that day looks like its open,” I replied, but before I could get the name of the man or venue, he hung up.

Just at that moment, Somemaru came into the room.

“Who called?”


“Huh? There was a call wasn’t there?”


“Who was it?”

“Well… I’m not quite sure.”

“What? You were just talking to them. Was it about a job?”

“Yes, maybe… They asked if you could make it on May 26th.”


“Um… yes, perhaps.”

I think this was the only time I got in trouble with Somemaru.

After this incident I met Harukoma a number of times in places like dressing rooms, so I confirmed the voice on the phone that I couldn’t comprehend was indeed Harukoma’s. Although I made myself a nuisance to him, he was always nice to me. For this I am grateful. It is truly sad that we can no longer listen to his rakugo live.

Rest in peace.

Katsura Harukoma, property of Katsura Harukoma, http://www.oct.zaq.ne.jp/katsuraharukoma/先日、桂春駒師匠が肝不全でお亡くなりになったというニュースを読んだとき、悲しかったです。春駒師匠との想い出はいくつかありますが、最も印象的なのは神戸元町の「神戸凬月堂ホール」で行われた恋雅亭という寄席で初めてお会いしたときのことです。



Motomachi Yose Rengatei, property of Katsura Harukoma, http://www.oct.zaq.ne.jp/katsuraharukoma/もう一つの想い出は、染丸師匠のお宅で受けた電話でした。僕しかいなかったので、電話がなったとき師匠の手帳、鉛筆、そして紙を取って、初めて師匠の電話に出てみました。

















Not Going to Buy “Beichô Rakugo Anthology – Updated” 僕は「米朝落語全集 増補改訂版」を買いません

Flyer for "Beichô Rakugo Anthology - Updated"  SôgenshaI’m not going to buy it, but I would happily accept it as a gift.

In October I posted an article titled Katsura Beichô and the Kamigata Rakugo Miracle, in which I shared news about the sudden cancellation of  Horî Ken’ichirô’s book (Kôdansha) with the same title. The sudden cancellation seemed suspicious at the time, but even more so when I learned that the publisher Sôgensha was planning to release in November an updated version of Beichô’s multi-volume rakugo anthology, Beichô rakugo zenshû (1980, 2013). Each volume will cost ¥4,500, or ¥36,000 (plus tax) for all eight volumes.

When I was in Osaka in November, I stopped by the bookstore Junkudô to take a look. Sôgensha has improved the design of the anthology greatly, and having stories in alphabetical order will make looking up stories easier, but it is not clear how many new stories are to be included in the new version of the anthology. Based on the first two volumes that have been released, there will not be many. In the short 11-line preface to the updated version, Beichô points out that the main addition to the anthology is a “collection of rare stories” (chinpinshû) that he did not have in time for the original publication, and some original rakugo he wrote with he was a young man. Since 8 volumes are planned instead of the original seven, it is safe to say there will be about a volume of new material. Telling by the flyer for the anthology, most of the new content will  appear in volume eight.

contents of updated Beichô rakugo zenshû

I recently did some work on the story “The Sneezy Teller of War Tales” (Kusshami kôshaku). The transcriptions published in the 1980 and 2013 versions are exactly the same, and nothing new is added to the 33-year-old commentary (kaisetsu). Illustrations in the book are also the same.

In my opinion, since most material in the first two volumes is simply reproduced, the updated version feels anything but new. One can still find a complete set of the original anthology in used bookstores for less than ¥10,000.

While it is not clear if the release of the updated version of Beichô’s most substantial work had anything to do with the cancellation of Horî Ken’ichirô’s Katsura Beichô and the Kamigata Rakugo Miracle, the nearly simultaneous timing of the cancellation and release of the new Beichô rakugo zenshû causes one to wonder about the politics and economics in the rakugo and publishing worlds.

Beichô rakugo zenshû for sale at Junkudô (Osaka Nanba)僕は買いませんが、プレゼントでしたら喜んでいただきます。

10月に「桂米朝と上方落語の奇蹟」という記事で、堀井憲一郎さんの同題名の著書(講談社)の突然の中止というニュースについて書きました。突然の中止だったので、少々疑わしかったのですが、創元社が11月に「米朝落語全集  増補改訂版  全八巻」(各巻4,500円・全巻36,000円+税)を刊行すると分かったとき、より不思議に思いました。

11月に大阪にいたとき、ジュンク堂に寄って「増補改訂版」を見てみました。重厚なデザインとともに、中身も噺を50音順に配列し、調べやすくなっています。ですが、新しく収録された噺が、何席あるのかはまだ明らかではありません。第一、二巻を見てみると、追加された噺はそんなになさそうです。「増補改訂版」の短い11行の前書きには、米朝師匠 (88) が「初版時には間に合わなかった珍品集や、… 若い時に書いた新作落語の原稿も」含めているとお書きになりました。初版が全七巻、今回の「増補改訂版」が全八巻の予定で、内容的には一巻分が増えると言っていいでしょう。説明書きを読む限り、新しい内容は第八巻に多くありそうです。


個人的な意見ですが、「増補改訂版」一巻、二巻は初版の内容の繰り返しが多いため、内容に新鮮さを全く感じません。ちなみに、あちらこちらの古本屋で「米朝落語全集」の初版 (揃) は1万円も払わずに手に入ります。

上方の根多数が最も多い「米朝落語全集  増補改訂版  全八巻」の刊行が、堀井憲一郎さんの著書「桂米朝と上方落語の奇蹟」の出版中止と関係あるかどうかは何とも言えませんが、「増補改訂版」の刊行のタイミングが出版中止とほぼ同じだったので、落語界と出版界の関係やその中の政治的な動きについて疑問に思われても仕方がないかもしれません。

To Master’s House 師匠のお宅へ

Front door at Somemaru'sThe most important part of this short trip to Osaka is to pay a visit to master Somemaru.

He had time yesterday, so I went to see him at his house. It was wonderful to see him in person, to see him smile and laugh. We talked about many things rakugo-related and not, and he gave me advice on a lot of matters.

Around 5pm he asked me to pull his car around, then we drove to the supermarket. We selected ingredients for nabe (hotpot), then headed home. Just like old times, we prepared dinner together.

Someya arrived just in time for dinner. The three of us talked about a lot and enjoyed many laughs while eating. Somemaru and Someya shared some of their views on performing rakugo, in fact said some things that made me change the way I look at the art, reconsider the way I will approach it as an amateur performer in the future.

Toward the end of dinner, the conversation moved to the topic of Someya’s momentous name change (shûmei) to Hayashiya Kikumaru III next September. He asked Somemaru for advice on a number of matters, and I was able to see that shûmei are not simply ceremonies that people attend.

There is so much to think about and prepare, the simplest of matters perhaps being selecting a design for one’s new tenugui (hand towel), of which hundreds are made and given as formal gifts to other professionals and fans.

Somemaru and Someya looking at tenuguiLast night we spent a good deal of time looking through traditional tenugui pattern books and at actual tenugui, of which Somemaru has an impressive collection. Someya did not make a final decision, but said he would like to keep his new design simple and perhaps include a traditional tenugui chrysanthemum design if he can find one–this would represent the Kiku part of his new name. Nice!

Speaking of tenugui, Someya was very kind to present me with one of his own Hayashiya Someya tenugui, which are quickly becoming a rare item. He also gave me a nice brochure about his shûmei, which Yoshimoto prepared for distribution at a recent press conference.

We topped off the evening with tea and ice cream. Someya and I bowed to Somemaru and thanked him for dinner and everything else, then we were on our way. We took the same train toward Umeda then later said our goodbyes.

Shortly thereafter, I reached into my coat pocket to get some eye drops, and what did I find? Somemaru’s CAR KEY! WHAT!! I forgot to return it after driving to the supermarket. I gasped and looked at my watch, but it was too late in the evening to return to Somemaru’s.

So, this morning I made another trip to Somemaru’s house to return his car key and sheepishly apologize. When Somemaru saw me he smiled and said, “Okay, no worries.” I guess my thick-headed mistake gave me another opportunity to thank him for such nice day yesterday.





食事も終わりに近づいた頃、来年9月の「染弥改メ 三代目林家菊丸」の襲名についてのお話になりました。襲名は、お客さまに披露するためであるのはもちろん、そのためにさまざまな準備があるということがわかりました。