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



With Knowledge Comes Joy 知るは喜びなり

Kakejiku by SomemaruOne of my greatest treasures is a hanging scroll (kakejiku) that Somemaru presented me with prior to my leaving Japan last March.

Somemaru has an incredible collection of kakejiku, so, when he gave me a long rectangular box wrapped in crêpe silk before I left, I wondered if it might not be a one from his collection. I opened the box and found a kakejiku, but I could not have been more surprised by what I saw!

The artist was Somemaru, and the subject was ME!

I couldn’t find the words to say…

I was so touched that I felt as if I was going to cry.

I love the work in general, but I especially appreciate the peacefulness with which Somemaru painted me. While my lips seem to be anticipating something, there is a perfect serenity to my eyes.

Sometimes, when I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, I like to gaze at this kakejiku. I admit that it is somewhat strange to gaze at myself, but this piece of art feels like a mirror that reflects something deeper, something more meaningful than an actual mirror might.

Somemaru’s art presents me in an emotional state of mind that I would like to arrive at.

The Japanese reads, “With Knowledge Comes Joy” (Shiru wa yorokobi nari). Since I am still in the middle of my learning, this is perfect.

This is a truly meaningful gift which I shall always treasure.

Thank you again Master Somemaru.


師匠はすばらしい掛け軸のコレクションを持っていらっしゃいますが、出発する前にちりめんに巻かれた長方形の箱を渡してくださったときは、「えっ!もしかして〜」と思いました。箱を開けますと、掛け軸でしたが、それを拝見し とってもビックリしました。










Omelets, Shamisen, Maps, and Deer オムレツ、三味線、地図と鹿

Today I had a very nice day at Somemaru’s house.

He requested omelets for breakfast, so I stopped on my way to do some grocery shopping. Fortunately the omelets turned out okay. Okay, I will be completely honest: the first one was a flop — it looked more like a scrambled omelet — but that one went to me, of course.

After breakfast, Aisome and I cleaned the house and set out shamisen, etc., for a day of lessons. Now that I am spending most of my time on my research, I really miss being able to hear Somemaru’s shamisen and singing. Today was, therefore, a real privilege.

Somejaku (#5 deshi) stopped by Somemaru’s house today. It had been a while since I had last seen him, so it was nice to see and talk to him, too.

After shamisen lessons, we went grocery shopping, and then had fun preparing a wonderful dinner. After dinner, Somemaru shared with Aisome and I a great collection of Osaka maps. Maps in the set include pre-Edo-, Edo-, and Meiji-period reprints. On map after map he explained where scenes in rakugo stories occur. It was a treat to view the maps with Somemaru, and I am looking forward to taking my time to study them in the future.

Today Somemaru had a new hanging scroll up. This one is quite possibly my favorite yet. I was surprised when I saw Somemaru’s name signed on it, along with his personal seal. The deer in the scroll is great because he allows the viewer freedom to wonder why he is gazing upward. Is he looking at a crow in the tree above? Is he cooling his neck in an unexpected summer breeze? Is he trying to hear something deep in the woods behind him? This is a great scroll because it allows our minds to wonder, our hearts to play.

Thank you for another nice day, Shishô.








Pigeons and Eel 鳩と鰻

Today I spent the day at Somemaru’s house, so, in addition to helping with cleaning and folding kimono, and having a couple very nice meals, I also enjoyed wonderful conversations and learned a lot.

Somemaru is very much in touch with the changing seasons, so he naturally changes his rakugo repertoire and kimono to suit the time of year. He also eats according to season, preferring the newest and freshest seasonal ingredients (hatsumono, kitsetsumono). Considering this, it should not be surprising that he’s written a book titled “The Kamigata Rakugo Seasonal Almanac” (Kamigata rakugo saijiki, Nenshôsha 1999), a book of that rakugo story synopses and commentary, categorized according to season.

I’ve mentioned in past posts that Somemaru loves art. He himself is an artist and collector. He has a fine collection of old scrolls for hanging (kakejiku) and pottery (yakimono), which he displays in a Japanese-style room in his home. He changes scrolls and pottery frequently, according to season or simply taste. Today he hung a very old scroll, one originally from Korea, which I particularly like. In it are two elaborately painted pigeons comfortably perched on a busily swirling flourish, a single line that becomes a Chinese ideogram. In the ideogram is an charming old cherry tree in bloom. Can you read the character? (answer at bottom)

Tonight for dinner we enjoyed unagi-zushi (rice flavored sushi vinegar, seasonal herbs and vegetables, topped with roasted sea eel). As usual, Somemaru meticulously prepared everything, and it was absolutely delicious.

I went home with a smile on my face, my stomach full of fine food, my head full of another day’s worth of great memories.

Thank you Shishô!

(answer: hana 花, flower)


師匠がとてもおしゃれなことに変わっていく四季と接触なさっていて、季節に合うように落語も着物も選択なさいます。食べ物も季節的で、季節ものと初物をよくいただきます。「上方らくご歳時記」(平成11年 燃焼社)という本をお書きになったこともやはり師匠らしいですね。






Japan’s Smallest Mountain, Tenpôzan 日本一低い山天保山

Atagoyama (Mt. Atago) is a popular rakugo story in which two Osakan taikomochi (professional male entertainers for hire — kind of like the male version of geisha) accompany a rich man from Kyoto and his entourage of geisha on a hiking-picnic trip to Mt. Atago, a 924-meter mountain in the northwestern part of Ukyô-ku, in Kyoto. The rich Kyotoite half-jokingly apologizes for making the young men from Osaka climb a mountain. This is the exchange that follows:

TAIKOMOCHI: And just why do you think it’s such a problem for Osakans to hike up mountains? …

RICH KYOTOITE: Well, it’s a problem because nobody’s climbed a real mountain in Osaka! Anybody and everybody from Kyoto has experience climbing mountains, but you don’t have any mountains in Osaka, so…

TAIKOMOCHI: W-what? Now that’s not true. We’ve got mountains in Osaka!

RICH KYOTOITE: Okay, where? You tell me where one is.

TAIKOMOCHI: What do you mean one, we’ve got plenty of mountains! Mt. Sanada, Mt. Chausu, Mt. Tenpô…

RICH KYOTOITE: Oh come on, you can’t call those mountains! Those are little more than bumps on the ground!

TAIKOMOCHI: Bumps on the ground, humph!

The taikomochi don’t have much of a case in waging Mt. Tenpô (or Tenpôzan), in 1831 a manmade mountain of about 20 meters, against Mt. Atago (or Atagoyama), which was more than 900 meters taller. The Osakans insisting on arguing the matter, though, says something about their hometown pride and about Tempôzan having a special place in the hearts of people from Osaka.

The Tenpôzan vs. Atagoyama argument is even funnier today when one is aware that the Osaka “mountain,” located  in Minato-ku near the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyûkan, is a mere 4.53 meters! Tempôzan was leveled in 1854 to make space for an artillery unit. It’s height in the Meiji period was 7.2 meters. As a result of overuse of ground water following Japan’s post-WWII economic recovery, Tenpôzan continued to shrink. By 1977 its height was down to 4.7 meters. Tenpôzan was even temporarily removed from maps for being so small, only to cause Osaka’s citizens to cry out in protest. Tenpôzan, celebrated as Japan’s smallest mountain, is back on maps today.

On a jog today I visited Tenpôzan Park for the first time. I was interested to see if it, or the view it offers, at all resembles the several ukiyo-e I’ve seen that feature Tenpôzan. If one can mentally block out the modern anchorages, buildings, fishing boats, and other ocean-bound ships, one can imagine the Tempôzan of the late Edo period. Pine and cherry trees have been replanted throughout the park, and this reminds one of the Tenpôzan of old, depicted in ukiyo-e such as Utagawa Hiroshige I’s Osaka Tenpôzan in the series Honchô meisho.

I found the Tenpôzan “peak” and was surprised to see it was no more than a small, square, granite stone marker in the ground, too small to even be called a stepping stone. An older gentleman watching me from a distance soon approached and asked me to stand atop the peak marker. I followed his instructions.

“Congratulations!” he said enthusiastically. “On this day, June 12, 2011, of all the famous mountains to climb, you have chosen Japan’s smallest, Tenpôzan, 4.53 meters. As you have successfully reached the summit, I hearby present you with a certificate stating so.” With that, he actually gave me a certificate, complete with a handsome Tenpôzan picture postcard. Upon closer inspection I learned the certificate is produced and distributed jointly by the Tenpôzan Shop Owner’s Club, the Tenpôzan Park Conservation Club, and the Minato Autumn Festival Planning Committee. I thanked the man and was on my way.

What a climb I had up the mighty Tenpôzan today! Now that I’ve had the Tenpôzan experience, I don’t think the taikomochi in the story Atagoyama were out of line after all — this “mountain,” a historic amusement spot and the traditional marker of the waterway entrance (Ajikawa, or Aji River) to Osaka, is certainly one to be proud of.

If you’re in the neighborhood, Tenpôzan Park is worth a visit.










天保山 vs. 愛宕山という話は現在、特に面白いですね。だって、港区の海遊館の近くにある天保山はもう、4.53メートルの高さしか残っていません。1854年に河口を守る砲台を建設させるため、山土の削り取りが行われまして、明治時代に高さが7.2メートルになってしまいました。高度経済成長の後、地下水のくみ上げのため、天保山の地盤沈下が起こり、1977年までに4.7メートルまで標高が低下しました。小さい過ぎるため、天保山が日本の地図より一時期消されていましたが、大阪市民がこれに対して怒り出し、強く反対したので、今日は日本一低い山である天保山はちゃんと地図に載っています。




今日、立派な天保山で本当に素敵な山登りでした。天保山の経験をして、「愛宕山」の太鼓持ちを見直しました。今更、全然言い過ぎじゃないと思っています。だって、歴史的な遊興地である、大阪への伝統的な水路の入口 (安治川) の印である天保山に誇りを1000メートル以上持つべきだと僕も思います。