Filled with Gratitude 感謝の気持ちでいっぱい

It’s been one week since we had our show at Portland State University. I’m still on an incredible high, first because it was so much fun, and second because I was able to realize my dream of  putting on my own rakugo show in the United States.

I have many people to thank for supporting me in this endeavor, but I feel most indebted to Katsura Bunshi V and Hayashiya Somemaru IV, whose shows and styles were the inspiration for this show. Of course, I could never come close to their level of mastery and delivery, but I am tremendously grateful to them for all they taught and showed me.

I told my audience that it felt strange and daunting to go from being an observing apprentice with little of my own actual rakugo performance experience, right into the role of “master.” I was constantly humbled because there is still so much I don’t know. And I gained even more respect for all the professionals who make rakugo their lifelong career. I learned this time, more than ever, that it takes a LOT of work not only to train, but also to produce shows.

We had about 150 people in the audience last night. It was incredibly rewarding to teach people in the community about rakugo and yose. It also felt wonderful to be able to make people laugh. And when I didn’t get the laughs I was hoping for, I learned something from that, too. All this made much clearer to me what pro hanashika go through on a day-to-day basis.

My students made me very proud. They worked very hard to learn their rakugo or iromono (other variety acts), not to mention all the hayashi instruments in less than three weeks. One talented student even mastered two songs on shamisen so that I too could have live debayashi (entrance music).¹

It would seem that everybody involved in putting on the show, and those in attendance, had a great time. This makes me happier than I can say. And it looks like I will have another chance to produce a rakugo show at Portland State next spring, on May 24. I will continue studying and will work hard to make it an even better show.







¹During our music training we referred to Hayashiya Somemaru IV’s Kamigata rakugo yosebayashi no sekai, which comes complete with CDs and sheet music.  三味線と寄席囃子のお稽古ですが、染丸師匠の「上方落語寄席囃子の世界」を参考に使わせていただきました。


Katsura Bunshi V Page 五代目桂文枝のページ完成 (英語)

I have finally finished a page dedicated to my previous rakugo shishô, Katsura Bunshi V. Please be sure to take a look!  The link is on the sidebar.  →

前の師匠、五代目桂文枝のページをやっと完成しました。せひ、ご覧ください!リンクはサイドバーの方へ。 →

Shime-daiko 締太鼓

Today was lesson day at Somemaru’s. In addition to my shamisen lesson, I also learned how to tighten a shime-daiko, which has to be slackened after every use in order to preserve the taut animal skin. The reason I wanted to learn how to do this is because I will buy a shime-daiko of my own before returning to the United States. If I am going to teach college students how to play, organize amateur yose productions, and host professionals in the future, I will to need to know how to use and care for this instrument properly.

Tightening and securing a shime-daiko takes a lot of muscle. In the yose, you use your hands, legs and feet – and two bachi (drum sticks) – for the job, and it can be dangerous if your not careful…  I was taught a couple ways to do tighten a shime-daiko today, both of which I was advised not do in front of practitioners of noh theater, which also regularly uses this drum. Somemaru has a rare book about the proper way to care for and play shime-daiko, so I made a copy of this for future reference.

Somemaru was very kind to give me an introduction to a respected taiko maker, the Maruoka family, which has been in business since Meiji 3 (1870). Somemaru and other professionals in various arts (e.g., noh, kabuki, etc.) rely on Maruoka Taiko for quality instruments. This is the kind of store you would do well to have an introduction to, and call before going. As with any instrument, there is a very wide range of prices, but what I found most interesting is that you do not simply go in and buy a drum. You discuss your needs – and budget – then the drum maker recommends a selected combination of parts: animal skin (kawa) for drum head and base, wooden body (), and cords (shirabe). Of course one also needs things such as bachi, a stand (teren), and a case for transport.

Finally, all Maruoka drums are handmade, and orders can take up to one or two months. This is perfect for me since I need at least that much time to save the money it will cost. I am excited to get my own shime-daiko and begin practicing. I should probably apologize to my neighbors ahead of time…

今日、師匠のお宅でお稽古日でした。三味線のお稽古と共に締太鼓の締め方を習わせていただきました。皮を守るため、締太鼓を使った後毎回毎々緩めないといけないことまでも… なぜ締め方を習いたかったというと、アメリカに帰国する前に締太鼓を買い求めようと思っているからです。将来に大学生に鳴り物を教えたり、素人落語会を行ったり、プロ噺家をアメリカに招待したりするのであれば、やはり自分で叩くようにならないといけないし、ちゃんと楽器のケアもしないといけません。


とてもありがたいことに、この間、師匠が評判の高い太鼓のお店に紹介してくださいました。丸岡太鼓店 (創業明治3年) と言いますが、染丸師匠のみならず、他の演劇(能楽、歌舞伎など)のプロにも信用されているお店だそうです。このようなお店では、ご紹介があった方がいいでしょうし、本社に訪ねる際、先にお電話していった方もいいかもしれません。どんな楽器にしても同じですが、締太鼓は幅広い価格帯で販売されています。僕にとって最も興味深かったのは、締太鼓一丁をそのまま買うんではなく、太鼓を何に使うや、予算などの相談の上、適当な部品 (皮、胴、しらべ) を進んでくださいます。もちろんですが、バチもテレンもケースも必要です。


Hanjôtei’s 5th Anniversary 繁昌亭5周年

Today marks five years since the Hanjôtei opened to the public on September 15, 2006. The day began with a formal ceremony, followed by a press release. There was plenty of rakugo on the bill as usual, but the day’s main attraction was “Bakushô (lit. explosive laughter) Kabuki,” a hanashika rendition of the famous play Kanjinchô (The Subscription List). The three stars of the show were Tsukitei Happô (Togachi Saemon), Hayashiya Somemaru (Minamoto no Yoshitsune), and Katsura Sanshi (Musashibô Benkei).

I attended the day’s opening show. The costumes and makeup were outstanding, all applied by theatre professionals. The actors were even better, getting laugh after continuous laugh from the audience. Throughout the show kakegoe (emotional cheers of support, often heard in kabuki theaters), came from all directions.

Bakushô Kabuki” was staged just prior to intermission, so I imagine Somemaru had no break as he rushed to get out of costume, remove his thick makeup (quite difficult, messy, and time-consuming), get into his own kimono, and get ready to go on as the morning show’s headliner.

Bakushô Kabuki was staged three times today, so all people involved, especially the stars, must have been quite exhausted come the end of the day. They did this for an important cause though; to celebrate the Hanjôtei’s fifth anniversary, which wouldn’t have been possible without a supportive and enthusiastic public.

Congratulations on five years Hanjôtei! Thank you for a wonderful show everybody. Otsukaresama de gozaimashita.

I couldn’t take pictures during the show, but I should be able to get some taken by public media in the coming days. In the meantime, here are some shots from the pre-morning show festivities (left, and below).











Somemaru’s International Spirit 師匠の国際スピリッツ

Today I spent the day at Somemaru’s. He has recently agreed to give an Australian Ph.D. student shamisen lessons while she is here on research, which has to do with music in rakugo (i.e., yosebayashi). Today was her first day. Of course she will be expected to speak Japanese and be able to follow and make progress in lessons, just as his other Japanese students. I believe she is up for the challenge.

With an American and now an Australian under his tutelage, Somemaru is becoming quite “international.” Well, I guess he was so long before we came along. He has traveled to more than 20 countries for rakugo-related business!

Somemaru’s current live-in pupil, Aisome, jokingly asked us not to speak English around Shishô, because it tends to “infect” his speech for the next week or so.

I’m not sure about that, but one thing I do know is that Somemaru is generous to take on informal pupils from other countries. Thanks to him we are having unforgettable research experiences.