Katsura Bunshi V
Professional hanashika experience
58 years (1947-2005)
Previous artistic names
Katsura Ayame II, Katsura Kobunshi III
Dates of birth and passing
April 12, 1930 (Shôwa 5) – March 12, 2005 (Heisei 17); 74 years old.
Place of birth
Debayashi (entrance song)
Artistic family crests
Mitsu kashiwa (Triple oak [leaf], left); Musubi kashiwa (oak [leaf] knot)
20 (listed below)
Kamigata Rakugo Association (served as Chair from 1984-1994)
With a background in Nihon buyô (traditional dance), and even formal hayashi training in the kabuki theater, Bunshi’s forte was lively rakugo filled with ohayashi music. Bunshi had a large repertoire of stories and was particularly talented at portraying women of all ages.
Bunshi’s master, Bunshi IV, was first and foremost a dancer (a natori in the Bandô-ryû school of Nihon buyô), so he encouraged his pupils to also seek training from other rakugo masters. Bunshi V’s biggest influence was Shôfukutei Shokaku V, who, despite being of carpenter background and having huge hands and stature, was known for his comical yet realistic portrayals of women. Bunshi was often praised for performing Shokaku V’s stories just the way he had. Some of Bunshi’s finest stories include Funa Benkei, Rinki no koma, Keikoya, Tachigire senkô, Atagoyama, Tennôji maeri, Sanmai gishô, Tabako no hi, and Daimaruya no sôdô. Shortly before his death he composed the instant classic Kumano môde. His final performance was of the story Kôzu no tomi, just two months before his death.
In his final years Bunshi frequently spoke of the importance of hamemono and yosebayashi, for without music, Kamigata rakugo would most definitely cease being Kamigata rakugo. He also expressed disappointment in shinsaku/sôsaku rakugo trends, stating that most new stories are far too simplistic. While Bunshi would not say composing new stories was “wrong,” he did say there was not much use for them. Composing Kumano môde at the end of his career seems in many ways to be a statement–perhaps especially to some of his own pupils–along the lines of, “If you’re going to compose new stories, this is how you do it.”
Along with Shôfukutei Shokaku VI, Katsura Beichô III, and Katsura Harudanji III, Bunshi V is remembered as one of the Shitennô (lit. Four Heavenly Kings) of Kamigata Rakugo in the post-World War II era.
Rakugo timeline (chronological order)
1947: At age 17 he enters the artistic school of Katsura Bunshi IV and receives the artistic name Katsura Ayame II.
1949: Due to conflict between Kamigata rakugo factions, Bunshi leaves the rakugo world to apprentice as a hayashi musician in the kabuki theater. There he receives the name Umeya Tasaburô.
1951-53: Hospitalized with tuberculosis. Undergoes multiple operations, and passes the time by listening to rakugo broadcasts on the radio.
1954: Returns to the rakugo world and is promoted to Katsura Kobunshi III to mark the occasion.
1961: Contracts with Yoshimoto.
On the NHK Kamigata raguko no kai show, launched this year, Kobunshi performs for the first time what would become two of his greatest masterpieces, Tennôji maeri and Tachigire senkô.
1967: Holds his first dokuen kai (one-man show) on April 22 at the Higobashi YMCA. The title of the show is Kobunshi garakuta yose (Kobunshi’s Garbage Yose).
Awarded the Osaka bunkasai shô (Osaka Culture Festival Prize).
1971: Holds a two-man show with Tatekawa Danshi. This sparks Kobunshi’s popularity in Tokyo, and the Tokyo-based show (and fan club) Tokyo Kobunshi no kai is organized shortly thereafter.
Wins an Excellence Award at the Geijutsusai (Arts Festival) for his performance of Karuwaza kôshaku.
1973: Awarded the Kamigata owarai daishô (Grand Prize for Kamigata Comedy).
1978: Awarded the Osaka fumin gekijô shô (Osaka Prefecture Citizen Theater Award).
1982: Awarded the Osaka shimin shô (Osaka City Citizens Award).
1984: Becomes chair (kaichô) of the Kamigata Rakugo Kyôkai, serving in this position until 1994.
1986: Appears on the NHK TV series Miyako no kaze.
1990: Awarded the Bunkachô geijutsu sai shô (Ministry of Culture Arts Festival Award).
1992: Promoted to the historic Kamigata Rakugo name Katsura Bunshi V.
Awarded the Osaka geijutsu shô (Osaka Arts Award) and Kamigata owarai daishô (Grand Prize for Kamigata Comedy).
1997: Awarded the Jijuhôshô (Medal with Purple Ribbon)
2003: Awarded the Kyokujitsushô jushô (Order of the Rising Sun).
2004: Performs his original story Kumano môde for the first time.
2005: Holds his final performance in January, and passes away two months later, at age 74.
2006: Memorial tablet erected in his honor at the Kôzugû Shrine, Osaka.
Selected publications & media (from most recent)
Rakugo kenkyûkai: Godaime Katsura Bunshi meienhen (DVD anthology), 2012.
Shishô, Godaime Bunshi e. Tokyo: Yoshimoto bukkusu, 2012 (Katsura Sanshi).
Zuihitsu: Kamigata rakugo no shitennô–Shokaku, Beichô, Bunshi, Harudanji. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2011 (Toda Manabu).
Bikutâ rakugo Kamigata hen Katsura Bunshi (CD anthology), 2006.
Katsura Bunshi (CD anthology), 2005.
Ankerasô yawa. Tokyo: Seiabô, 1996 (autobiography).
Formal rakugo pupils (deshi, all use the artistic family name Katsura, written using the kanji character 桂)
1. Bunshi VI (previously Sanshi) 2. Kinshi 3. Bunchin 4. Bunta 5. Okaru 6. Bunbuku 7. Bunkyô 8. Bunya 9. Koeda 10. Shimeta 11. Shikô II 12. Ayame III 13. Bôshi 14. Bunshô IV 15. Shisomaru II 16. Bunka 17. Kokeshi 18. Bunza V 19. Kaishi 20. Akashi