Volunteer Spirit, Shôfukutei Kakushô ボランティアスピリッツ、笑福亭鶴笑

Shôfukutei Kakushô (photo property of Machida Kezai Shinbun)I’ve met Shôfukutei Kakushô a couple of times in the dressing room at the Hanjôtei. He has always struck me as a man with a special spirit. A special energy. The last time I saw him he was just about to leave for a performance in Iraq!

The other day I read this Sankei News article about him (my translation).

Puppet Rakugoka Shôkufutei Kakushô Talk, “Enjoy Life” (Jinsei o tanoshinde)


May 24, 2013

 On May 23, Shôfukutei Kakushô (53), a rakugoka who uses puppets to perform “puppet rakugo,” gave a talk titled “It is never to late to start doing something.” His audience consisted of approximately 300 administrators and parents affiliated with the city’s kindergarten.

Kakushô is the progenitor of “puppet rakugo.” He has traveled to some 80 cities in 30 countries, including Iraq. He has also volunteered at more than 100 welfare institutions in various Japanese prefectures.

At his talk, he told the audience about his decision at age 40 to move abroad with his family as he underwent artistic training [shûgyô]. “Both my wife–who was going through a bit of depression–and elementary-school-age daughter made some amazing changes,” said Kakushô. “Life can be fun when you change your environs. I’d love for all parents to be able to come out of their shell and raise their children with upbeat enthusiasm.”

Shôfukutei Kakushô (photo property of yoshimoto.news.laff.jp)Kakushô also performed puppet rakugo and “Nanjing bead curtain” [Nankin tamasudare †] bits and had the audience rolling with laughter multiple times. Following this he called out once more to the crowd, proclaiming “It’s never to late to start something new! You can do anything! Please, have a fun life!

Kakushô-san, thank you so much for your beautiful spirit and your wide-ranging volunteerism!

Nankin tamasudare is a traditional street performance in which the performer transforms a specially-made bamboo screen into various shapes while chanting an accompanying poem.



パペット落語家・笑福亭鶴笑さん講演 「人生を楽しんで」 


2013.5.24 02:02






Whirlwind Week 駆け足の一週間

This was an eventful week. I spent just about every day at Somemaru’s, and here are some of the highlights:


This was a practice day, and I helped with the regular routine: breakfast, housecleaning, greeting students, serving tea, and staying within earshot of Somemaru in case he needed something. Somemaru usually decides what he wants for dinner during the last couple lessons, sending Aisome or I out for groceries. Today he felt like kasujiru (sake lees soup), which I haven’t had since last winter, and absolutely love. I have a special memory about kasujiru, which you can read a bit about here: Sunday and Sake no kasu.


I was in charge of breakfast on this day. When I make breakfast at Somemaru’s house, I try to make something just as it would be served at my parent’s house. On Wednesday I departed from my regular omelets, opting instead for eggs sunny-side-up, hash browns, bacon, toast, and orange slices. In the afternoon, Somemaru and I made ponkan (Chinese honey orange) marmalade and had a wonderful talk about his life and rakugo.

In the evening we met a group of friends at the Suzunariza Theater for an exciting Taishû Engeki production featuring the troupe led by the young and handsome Satomi Takashi.


Today was another practice day. In addition to the regular practice-day routine, I had a shamisen lesson of my own. To say the least, this is always a humbling experience. I did my best and just have to make sure I do better next time, improving on all the areas Somemaru told me to work on. During other students’ lessons, I also spent some time practicing taiko (drums) with Aisome. I’ve recently felt a new urgency to practice more since I will be leading a yose workshop in Portland, Oregon this summer. Fortunately, I still have some time left in Japan, and I’m around the right people.

Bunshi ichimon kai

I asked Somemaru if I could be excused before dinner tonight because there was a special rakugo show being put on at the Hanjôtei in the evening. It was a Bunshi ichimon kai, but not one of the typical variety. Tonight was a special charity show to raise money for the Kumano River World Heritage Site marker that was severely damaged in Typhoon Talas last September.

Katsura Bunshi V played a role in this site being built. On his sickbed prior to dying in 2005, he brushed the characters 熊野川 (Kumano River), which were replicated and enlarged for the site marker. Prior to this Bunshi also composed the instant classic Kumano môde (Pilgrimage to Kumano), this being the the last story I heard him perform.

For some reason, I felt “called” to the show tonight. I felt called to support the charity event, and to hear Bunshi’s story narrated by his #4 pupil, Katsura Bunta, the only hanashika who performs Kumano môde today. Bunta did an incredible job. In a touching moment, when he took his final bow, somebody in the audience shouted “Roku daime!!,” indicating they would rather see Katsura Bunta become Bunshi VI than Katsura Sanshi, who is set to ascend to the historic name this July.

It was a wonderful, action packed week. I am now gearing down for a quiet weekend with my books.





この日は僕が朝食を担当させていただました。師匠のお宅で朝食を作る際、必ず自分の親の家で出るようなアメリカンなメニューを用意することにしています。水曜日はいつものオムレツから離れ、その代わりに半熟(目玉) 焼き、ハッシュブラウン、ベイコン、トーストとカットオレンジにしました。昼からはポンカンのマーマレードを作りながら、落語と師匠の人生についての素敵なトークを。









Kamigata Rakugo Charity 上方落語の慈善

Last night while at the Hanjôtei for Somemaru’s show I noticed that their was a box in the dressing room for donations to the Red Cross of Japan, to be used to help those in northern Japan affected by the recent disasters. I was impressed by this, but absolutely amazed when I saw posted the amount (with receipt from the Red Cross) donated in cash on April 1, 2011: ¥7,000,000 (≈ $80,000USD)! The total collected by the Hanjôtei (Kamigata Rakugo Association) as of April 7 was ¥7,174,123 (≈ $84,650USD)! It looks like Osaka hanashika and their fans alike are joining the masses, working hard to help the very unfortunate. Respectable indeed.