Karan Koron カランコロン

geta from HamamatsuyaI’ve been wanting to get a pair of geta (Japanese wooden glogs) and today was the day. I actually received them as an early birthday present!

I went to the same Yanaka Ginza shop–the Hamamatsuya–where I bought a pair of setta sandals last fall. I loved the setta so much, and the owner of the shop was so nice (I’ve stopped in to say hello to her numerous times since then) that this is the only place I will buy my Japanese footwear in Tokyo.

walking Hebi-dōri (Sendagi, Tokyo)The geta that I selected are made of a single piece of kiri (paulownia) wood, which is fairly light in weight, yet hard. It has a beautiful grain, too. I also selected fashionable byakuroku (whitish green) hanao (cloth thongs), which give the geta a fresh, cool look. Perfect for Japan’s hot summer.

I wore the geta around my neighborhood and then to dinner in Nezu. They are quite comfortable, and I love the karan koron karan koron sound that they make as I stroll along.

This makes one recall the Matsuo Bashô (1644-94) poem:

Summer evening / Dawn light comes in the echoes / The sound of geta

Natsu no yo ya kodama ni akuru geta no oto

Hamamatsuya okamisanしばらく前から下駄を買おうと思っていましたが、今日はやっと買いにいけました。というより、少し早めの誕生日のプレゼントに買っていただきました。







Freedom from Dissertating 論文からの解放

Since moving to Tokyo last September, I have spent most of my time in the Waseda University library, writing my dissertation. I finished last week and sent copies to my committee. I had a great time researching and writing about Kamigata rakugo, but am happy to be wrapping things up.

I still have some things to do to prepare for defense next month, but I took the last few days off to recharge. I’ve been meaning to go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum for some time, so yesterday, I decided to ride my bike over and spend the day there. 

Gojō Tenjin Shrine annual matsuri, UenoI live pretty close to Ueno Park. As I rode around Shinobazu Pond, I heard some Japanese drums, bells, and flutes playing in the distance–my kind of music! As I neared the south end of Ueno Park, I found the Gojō Tenjin Shrine matsuri (festival) in full swing. The timing could not have been better. 

After watching for a few minutes, I peddled west on Kasuga-dōri, crossed the Sumida River, then headed south to the museum. I parked my bike and walked past the Ryōgoku Kokugikan (also known as the Sumō Hall). I was just in time to see a procession of rikishi (sumō wrestlers) making their way into the Hall. I later learned that the yokozuna Hakuhō won his 29th title at the Emperor’s Cup that day. 

Edo-Tokyo MuseumThe Edo-Tokyo Museum complex is huge and the exhibits are fabulous. Two of the attractions are life-size replicas of the Nakamura-za, a kabuki theater, and a section of early modern Japan’s most famous bridge, Nihonbashi. My favorite part of the museum are the exhibits featuring early modern Edo chōnin (townsman, i.e., commoner) life. This is because they give me better ideas of the kinds of places where rakugo stories take place.

Hayashi Shōzō otoshibanashi-goyaSpeaking of rakugo, the art did not have this name prior to the Meiji period (1868-1912). Popular comic storytelling was referred to by a number of names over the past three hundred years or so. One of the more recent ones was otoshibanashi. In a wonderfully detailed model of the Ryōgoku area, one of Edo’s greatest entertainment districts, there is a otoshibanashi hall featuring the storyteller Hayashiya Shōzō I (1781-1842). Assuming that the model is accurate, yose in the past were much smaller than the yose we know today, which seat around 200 to 300 people. Hayashiya Shōzō’s yose looks like it could hold about fifty people, or one hundred at the very maximum. Of course there were many more yose in those days. In the immediate vicinity are a number of other theaters small and large, and a row of hairdressers. 

Katsura Utasuke, Edo-Tokyo MuseumThis was really my lucky day. As if the day was not good enough already, today turned out to be one of the few days each month when rakugo is presented at the museum! Today’s rakugoka was Katsura Utamaru’s second deshi, Katsura Utasuke. He performed a shinsaku piece called Ramen-ya (The Ramen Shop). Yanagi Nangyoku was also on hand to present kyokugoma (top spinning tricks). 

I had a great time at the museum, but hardly had enough time to look at all of the exhibits as long as I would have liked. I will just have to go back again. The Edo-Tokyo Museum is very reasonable at just ¥600 for general admission (¥480 for students).

Kaiten-zushiAll of that traditional Japanese culture made me want to have Japanese food for dinner. I rode my bike back to Ueno and enjoyed a few plates of sushi. The perfect way to wrap up a my “field trip.”

I think I am now fully recharged, ready to set my mind on defending my dissertation in Hawaii next month. It is hard to believe that my life as a graduate student will soon come to an end. I am not yet sure where I will work yet, but I do know that Japanese culture and food will continue being important parts of my life.  



Ryōgoku Kokugikan僕は上野公園の近くに住んでいます。不忍池を回っているところで、大好きな和太鼓、鉦、笛の音が耳に入り、上野公園の南側に着くと、なんと、五條天神社例大祭の最中ではないですか!なんといういいタイミングでしょう。



Otoshibanashi-goya落語ということばですが、明治時代以前は「落語」と呼ばれていませんでした。300年ぐらい前から大衆滑稽話芸・舌耕芸はそれぞれの名前がありまして、わりと最近のは「オトシバナシ」でした。博物館には、江戸の盛り場であった両国辺りの詳細な模型に、落しばなしの小屋があります。のぼりに林家正蔵(初代、1781-1842)の名前が見えます。模型が正しければ、昔の寄席は今の寄席より小さかったです。現在の寄席は200人~300人も入れますが、模型の中の林家正蔵の小屋は50人(無理して100人?)ぐらいしか入らなさそうです。まあ、確かにその当時の寄席は今より多かったですが… 落しばなしの小屋の周辺には他の劇場、大きいのも小さいのも、色々あります。髪結いさんもたくさん並んでいます。

Rakugo from old Nihonbashi今日はいいことがたくさんありましたが、これで終わらなかったです。博物館では、中村座の前でイベントをやるんですが、今日は偶然落語が一席ありました。今日の落語家は桂歌丸師匠の2番弟子である桂歌助さんで、「ラーメン屋」という新作落語をしました。これにやなぎ南玉さんの曲駒までもあって、本当にラッキーでした。




Spring in Ueno 上野の春

Ueno Park April 2014Today I took a walk through Ueno Park, very close to where I live. Since last week there have been all kinds of people, Japanese and non-Japanese, flocking to the park for cherry blossom viewing.

It seems like there are more birds out too. The common gulls (Larus canus) are now out in addition to the slightly smaller black-headed gulls (Larus ridibundus) that can usually be seen at Shinobazu Pond. They’re all getting along quite nicely. Pretty soon the insects will be back too. Spring is here!

Parties on Blue Tarps, Ueno ParkDrinking sake and nibbling on food under the blossoms sure is nice. Today too, parties were sitting on their blue tarps, cheerfully carrying on. I noticed that everybody takes their shoes off before sitting on the tarps. I suppose it’s best to keep the area clean and cozy since some people end up drinking too much and falling asleep.

Common and Black-headed Gulls, Shinobazu PondJapan sure is nice in spring.


Ueno Park, 2014人間だけじゃなく、鳥も増えている気がします。ちなみに、不忍池にいつも見かけるユリカモメだけじゃなく、もうちょっと大きいカモメも来ています。皆仲良くやっているみたいです。もう少ししたら虫も出てくるでしょう。(おけら、毛虫、ゲジ〜 ♪)春ですね。

Ueno Park, April 2014花の下でお酒を飲んだり、つまみ食いをしたりするというのはいいですね。今日も、ブルーシートの上に座る皆さんがとても陽気でいい感じでした。一つ気づいたことがあって、皆ブルーシートに座る前に靴をちゃんと脱ぐんですね。まあ、飲み過ぎて寝てしまう方もいるので、きれいに気持ちよくやった方がいいですね。


For Early Birds, Variety 早起きには演芸

San'yûtei Koenka no Engei zukan, property of NHKThis morning I woke up at 3:41 a.m. I guess my body is still on U.S. time.

There used to be much more traditional variety entertainment on Japanese TV, but these days rakugo is generally aired in the early morning hours, if at all.

This morning I watched “Variety Picture Book” (Engei zukan, NHK, Sundays 5:15-5:45 a.m.), hosted by Tokyo-native shamisen mandan (comic chat with shamisen) artist San’yûtei Koenka (1960-).

Sakai Kunio-Tôru on San'yûtei Koenka no Engei zukan, property of NHKToday’s featured performers were the Kansai-based manzai duo Saikai Kunio-Tôru, brothers originally from Iwate prefecture who began performing in 1972, and Tokyo rakugo master San’yûtei Kinba IV, who boasts the longest running professional career in all of rakugo at 72 years–he began his apprenticeship under Kinba III in 1941 at age 12.

I was happy to see Sakai Kunio-Tôru on TV because I have met Kunio, the “strait man” (tsukkomi) in the duo (right side of photo). Thanks to Somemaru, I have been out to dinner and karaoke with him. Kunio was a fabulous singer and, in fact, his crooning was a big part of the act aired this morning. Very funny indeed.

San'yûtei Kinba IV on San'yûtei Koenka no Engei zukan, property of NHKKinba told the story “Long and Short [Tempered]” (Chôtan), which features two friends–an extremely patient man from Kamigata and a short-fused man from Edo/Tokyo. The latter repeatedly gets angry at the former because he talks and smokes way too slowly. At the end of the story, the Kamigata man has something to say, but fears that his Edokko friend will get angry if he tells tells him. No, the Edokko says, urging him to speak up. When the Kamigata man slowly informs his friend that his sleeve in on fire, the Edokko becomes furious. The former then delivers the ochi: I guess I shouldn’t have told you after all. Rakugo by such a seasoned master is truly a luxury to listen to. San'yûtei Kinba IV on San'yûtei Koenka no Engei zukan, property of NHKInterestingly, Kinba used a kendai and hizakakushi–generally only used in the Kamigata tradition–for this story. This was not simply for decoration, though. He used it to conceal the lower half of his body as he sat cross-legged. It must have become too painful for Kinba to sit in the traditional manner, seiza.

I woke up too early this morning, but was rewarded with variety on TV. I think I should continue getting up early enough to watch programs like these, but not before 5:00 a.m. if I can help it.



今朝、三味線漫談家の三遊亭小円歌が司会を勤める「三遊亭小円歌の演芸図鑑」という番組(NHK, 毎週日曜 午前5:15~5:45)を見ました。

Sakai Kunio-Tôru on San'yûtei Koenka no Engei zukan, property of NHK今日の出演者は昭和47年結成で岩手県出身の兄弟漫才のコンビ、関西を中心に活動されている酒井くにお・とおる師匠、そして昭和16年、12歳で三代目三遊亭金馬に入門なさった東京落語の大師匠の四代 三遊亭金馬でした。 金馬師匠は2014年現在、東西併せて落語界最古参の落語家でいらっしゃいます。


San'yûtei Kinba IV on San'yûtei Koenka no Engei zukan, property of NHK金馬師匠のお噺は気の長い上方ものと超短気の江戸っ子が登場する「長短」をお演りになりました。上方出身の男は喋るにも煙草を吸うにもあまりにも時間がかかるので、江戸っ子が何度も怒ります。噺の最後に上方ものは言いたい事がありますが、怒られると思って遠慮します。怒らないと江戸っ子が約束しますが、着物の袖が燃えているよとゆっくりと知らされろと、やはり、江戸っ子が怒り出します。オチで上方ものが言います、「やっぱり、おせえねえ (教えない) ほうがよかった」。大名人の落語を聴けて、まことに贅沢でした。おもしろいことに、金馬師匠が普段上方でしか使わない見台と膝隠しを置いていました。これはただの置き道具・飾りではなく、下半身を隠すためでした。お足が痛んでいらっしゃるためか、正座ではなく胡座をかいてお演りになりした。


Symposium at University of Oregon! オレゴン大学でシンポジウムが行なわれます!


I am now in Oregon visiting family and taking care of a little business.

This Saturday, I will participate in a symposium titled “The Art of Traditional Japanese Theater,” being held at the University of Oregon.

The symposium will also feature Laurence Kominz of Portland State University, Alan Pate of Alan Scott Pate Antique Japanese Dolls, and Glynne Walley of University of Oregon.

This will be an afternoon of lectures exploring the nô, kyôgen, bunraku, and kabuki traditions behind the art on display in the exhibit of the same name in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

This lecture series is presented by the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at UO.  It is cosponsored by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA) and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture.

Time: Saturday, February 22 at 1:00pm to 4:oopm

Place: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Ford Lecture Hall 1430 Johnson Lane, Eugene, OR, 97403 

Price: FREE!

Open to students and the general public.

For more information, please call 541-346-1521.


今週の土曜日は、オレゴン大学で行われる「日本伝統演劇の芸術」(The Art of Traditional Japanese Theater) というシンポジウムに参加させていただきます。




日時 2月22日(土)13時〜16時

会場 ジョーダンシュニッツァー美術館のフォードレクチャーホール  1430 Johnson Lane, Eugene, OR, 97403

入場料 無料