僕 Me

Hi, thank you for visiting.

I was extremely fortunate to have first-hand exposure to the world of Kamigata Rakugo. From 2002 to 2005 I was an observing (minarai) pupil of Katsura Bunshi V (1930-2005), and from 2010 to 2012 I was a temporary (rinji) pupil of Hayashiya Somemaru IV, who taught me how to perform the art as I researched its history, current state, and connections to Japanese literature.

with Somemaru at Shôchiku-za (Osaka)For the record, while I’ve entertained the idea of becoming a professional rakugo storyteller, this is not the path I am on. I was neither a formal pupil of Bunshi V’s, nor was I a formal pupil of Somemaru IV’s. Still, these respected masters allowed me into their professional and private worlds, and even gave me informal stage names (geimei). From Bunshi V, I received the name Katsura Katorisenkô Matto (桂 加登利千光満津都, mosquito-repelling incense “mat”), and Somemaru IV gave me the name Hayashiya Genkan Matto (林家 玄関真人, front door “mat”). Apparently, if I work hard, Somemaru may one day promote me to Hayashiya Toire Matto (bathroom “mat”).

Dôzo yoroshiku onegai môshiagemasu.

はじめまして。

大変幸福なことに、上方落語界での直接の経験が色々ありました。平成14年から17年まで五代目桂文枝師匠(昭和5年 – 平成17年)の元で見習いをさせていただき、平成22年から24年まで四代目林家染丸師匠の臨時弟子になりました。上方落語の歴史、現代事情、文学とのつながりなどの研究と共に、染丸師匠のおかげで、お噺の実技経験もさせていただきました。

プロ噺家になった自分を想像して楽しんだことはありますが、今の道は芸人としての道ではないんです。文枝師匠の一門に正式に弟子入りまでせず、染丸師匠の一門にも正式に弟子入りしていません。しかし、大師匠二人の公私両面によく参加させていただき、非公式の芸名までいただきました。文枝師匠からは、桂 加登利千光満津都(蚊取り線香マット)で、染丸師匠から、林家 玄関真人(玄関マット)をいただきました。これから頑張れば、「林家 トイレ真人」に襲名する可能性があるみたい …

どうぞ宜しくお願い申し上げます。

8 thoughts on “僕 Me

  1. Hi Matt, Are you in Tokyo now? If you come to Waseda let me know. Why don’t you give your own yose at Waseda? How long will you stay? Have a great time in Tokyo!

    • Thanks for your comment, Emi-san.
      Yes, I am in Tokyo.
      I think Waseda has it’s own well-established rakugo club (ochiken). They probably don’t want to hear an American carrying on in broken Osaka-ben, or English for that. ^-^ In any case, I have to stay on task.
      I will be around for a year or so.
      Thanks, I already am having a great time!
      See you on campus.
      Matt

  2. Hi!

    Thanks so much for your blog! It’s a pleasure to read about your research. I’m an American living in the Osaka area (with poor Japanese skills). I was wondering if you have any advice regarding English Rakugo lessons. I have been to several performances and attended a workshop in Umeda in the fall, but it seemed more geared towards Japanese citizens looking to improve their English skills than to a foreigner looking to perform English Rakugo. Do you know of any English Rakugo performers willing to take on a foreigner as a student? Or any classes/workshops available?

    Thank you!
    B

    • Hi B,

      Thank you for your comment.

      That is great that you are interested in performing rakugo in English. English rakugo is still a rather grass-roots, do-it-yourself movement. I am not aware of any English rakugo performers formally taking on pupils since it is neither a mainstream nor “professional” art.

      Diane Kichijitsu has been at it for a long time, and is probably the best out here. Diane actually worked with the late Katsura Shijaku, who may be considered the pioneer of the English rakugo movement. There are hanashika in the Kamigata Rakugo Kyôkai who perform in English from time to time, including Katsura Kaishi, Katsura Asakichi, Hayashiya Someta, Shôfukutei Kakushô, et al. We shouldn’t forget Katsura Sanshain (Sunshine), either, who is currently the only non-Japanese (Canadian) member of the Kyôkai. All of these people keep blogs, and you can get in touch with them that way. I can’t say how they would respond to lesson requests, but it might be worth contacting them to see.

      The English rakugo movement began at an English conversation school; it was a intended as a new way for Japanese to practice speaking and listening. Target audiences today remain largely Japanese of various levels of English, novice to advanced. Consequently, it still feels to me like a simplified version of “real” rakugo. My hope for anybody taking on English rakugo is that they approach it as an art they would like to spend years polishing, aspiring one day to the level of artistry Japanese rakugo is at. Wouldn’t that be something else? Only then, in my opinion, will we be able to truly call it rakugo, and narrative art (wagei).

      I wish you the best on your English rakugo adventure. Stay in touch.

  3. Hello, I am one of a rakugo fan in Yokohama. I have been following your tweet since your list of hanashi-ka san was very useful. And I was reading your blog today, glad to know that you enjoyed yose in Tokyo, and wanted to know about you.

    It is great that you are a pupil of Bunshi shisho and Somemaru shisho—and wow, those cool names of yours!! Since I have a preference in Kamigata rakugo, I am envious that you have these chances to be in the circle of rakugo world.

    Being a Bunshi shisho’s pupil, you are brother pupil of Sanshi(will be next Bunshi) san and Kaishi san? I have heard Kaishi san’s English rakugo when he came to Tokyo. You must know Katsura Asakichi san, too, since he does English rakugo. Personally, I love Beicho ichimon and try to go to Kiccho ichimon’s rakugo stages as many as possible, mostly in Tokyo. (But oh, I love to move to Osaka if I could.)

    I hope that you have a wonderful time and experiences in Osaka, and keep on working on rakugo study.

    Sachiyo Watanabe

    • Sachiyo-san,

      Thank you for visiting, and for your kind message.

      I’m glad that you find my Twitter site useful, too. I do my best to keep up with all the Kamigata hanashika using Twitter, and keep them categorized in their respective ichimon. While some hanashika rarely tweet, others seem to carry on all day tweeting, chirping, chittering, and squawking. Twitter is definitely a good way to keep up on today’s rakugo world, and your favorite artists.

      I was lucky to know and learn from Katsura Bunshi V. I truly wish he could have enjoyed a little longer life… Considering the fact that tuberculosis came close to taking his life when he was a young man (he was hospitalized for well over a year, and had many rough operations), however, it was a blessing that he lived as long as he did.

      Yes, I do know Katsura Asakichi, too. He is a very nice person. I was recently lucky to help him with the English translation of the story Shichidan-me (The Seventh Act [of Chûshingura]). I was quite impressed that he was doing such a challenging story in English. Most of the English rakugo I have heard to date has been much simpler, with stories such as Dôbutsuen (The Zoo) Irachi gurama (The Hot-tempered Rickshaw Driver), and Toki udon (Time Noodles). I hope Asakichi-san continues taking on tougher stories–much more interesting and enjoyable in my opinion–such as Shichidan-me.

      Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hear Katsura Kitchô perform live before he passed away. He reared some talented pupils though, so, in a way, we can still hear Kitchô-shishô through them.

      Thank you again,
      m

      • Thank you for the quick reply, Mathew-san, or should I call you Genkan-matt-san?

        Oh, I have read about the English traslated version of Shichidan-me in Asakichi-san’s blog, which I love most among all the kamigata rakugo stories that I have heard of.(I mean, I know just a part of all the repertoire.) I have even memorised it.

        Asakichi-san’s younger brother Yonekichi-san is a really good performer when it comes to Kabuki stories, so I visit his live often, and came to love Shichidan-me.

        It must have been really hard to translate it into English, since this unique set of Kabuki dialogue and acting is not so familiar to the audience in other countries. But if you put too much explanation, then it would break the rhythm of rakugo. So I am very curious how you and Asakichi-san modified it to fit into a good rakugo rhythm. I would love to see it and also love to perform, too!

        (Hope Asakichi-san will perform it in Tokyo area!)

        I wish that through English rakugo, people in other countries would be more interested in Japanese Edo culture, so hopefully more rakugo stories about Kabuki, Kaidan, cultures in Senba area, etc. will be translated.

        I heard that Bunshi-shisho was one of the 4 great performers in Kamigara rakugo(including, Beicho, Harudanji, Shokaku), unfortunately I just heard his rakugo once on TV, but his “Yadoya-gataki” was really fun. yeah, I wish he had a longer life. You were really lucky to be one of his pupils.

        Good luck on your apprenticeship, and your study.
        I will visit your blog again.

        Thank you.

        Sachiyo

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