Back to the Books 机上に戻って

As I’ve written in prior posts, I’ve recently been urged by professors to spend more time focusing on “book work,” and writing my dissertation. It is true that my purpose for coming to Japan–thanks to a Monbukagakushô scholarship–is to conduct research for my dissertation. Of course, the time I spend day to day, morning to night, with Somemaru is anything but meaningless. I do learn an incredible amount while with him. Nevertheless, I have a major paper to write. Since it was very hard to speak to Somemaru about this directly, I sent him the following email yesterday afternoon:

I’m sending you this email today because I would like to discuss my future with you. As you know, I discussed my dissertation in the meeting with Prof. XX. He said that, from April, he would like me to make regular presentations on my research, and also take a course on early-modern literature.
This is very difficult for me bring up, but the reason I’m writing this email is to ask for time off beginning in March, so I can get ready for the beginning of the new school year in April.
Every second I get to spend with you is extremely important to me. The very thought of being away makes me sad. The fact that you have taken on an American such as myself, done so much for me, means an awful lot…
In my “desk studies” I have come to understand the way in which scholars perceive things, think, and write, but, as you’ve taught me, scholars often tend to over-categorize things to a point where the essence of the focus (rakugo) is lost.
I did not come to Japan to write a dissertation in this fashion. In order to be able to write a fine paper on Kamigata Rakugo and present it in the United States, it would make me extremely happy if I could continue to benefit from your expert advice.

Somemaru was very understanding in his reply, which included the following:

Okay. I guess you can’t study according to plans if you’re always by my side. Change your frame of mind and immerse yourself in your studies. Stay away from alcohol and women, and, of course, stay healthy.

So, though I am sure that I will continue to meet Somemaru to discuss my research, join him at shows, etc., from time to time, he is being kind to excuse me from full-time deshi responsibilities from March 1, so that I can focus on my studies and write. I will be sad not to see him everyday, but, as he instructed, I will work hard on my studies.






Reality Check 現実を把握させられて

Today Somemaru gave me the day off so I could go out to Ritsumeikan to meet with my research advisor. Though my advisor thinks the experiences I am having with Somemaru are wonderful, he suggested that that I start spending more time in the library with rakugo, and other related materials. I will also have to present my research regularly and attend classes in the grad school from April.

There is an fascinating (okay, maybe not so fascinating) conflict to be found in my research. It seems that the storytellers themselves often feel that it is scholars who have done damage to their art by insisting on picking apart rakugo and placing it into various categories. In a sense, some storytellers feel that scholars have taken the fun out of rakugo, therefore distancing it from the people it is intended for–the masses. On the other hand, scholars feel there must be some kind of theoretical or critical approach to rakugo. Simply appreciating it as it is does not constitute a substantial work on the art. Rakugo must be analyzed and placed next to similar arts.

I love most being with Somemaru, being in the rakugo world. I feel that it is here where I learn the most. However, I also I understand that, since I have chosen a path of so-called academia, I must follow that which my academic advisors instruct me to do. Then again, there is something, a hunch, that tells me that I have the best of both worlds in my research. I almost feel that I won’t be able to bring forth a fine piece of research if I don’t include the hanashika perspective. I feel that it would hurt my work if I don’t include the thoughts and guidance of a man such as Somemaru.

It is clear that I will not be able to able to continue as Somemaru’s full-time deshi, but I cannot begin to think of severing my ties with him completely.





Terrible Japanese and Calligraphy むちゃくちゃな日本語と習字

Somemaru is headlining at the daytime (hiruseki) show practically every day this week, so today was much like the previous hiruseki days that I wrote about.

Today Aisome departed early for the Hanjôtei. After he left Somemaru couldn’t find one of his personal seals, with which he wanted stamp a piece of artwork. I sent a text message to Aisome to see if he knew of its whereabouts. He did, so followed up with a thank-you text. His reply was, “I’ve been thinking lately, your Japanese is really a mess! Calm down a bit before you send messages…” Ouch. Before responding I checked my previous text, which was along the lines of “Thank you very mwaah!” (doimo arigatô gozaimasita). I could then only respond with an “I’m sorry, I’ll work on it.”

Perhaps in response to this, after a good laugh, Somemaru sat me down for a lesson in Japanese calligraphy. I’ve been using cheap calligraphy brush-pens to write letters for years, but I found out today that I was using them incorrectly all along. I had a great time, and learned a lot about brush-writing. Now I just need to practice! Thank you very much Somemaru.

After this we made our way to the Hanjôtei. Somemaru performed the story Nedoko (The [Stolen] Bed). After the show Somemaru invited the entire cast and crew out to dinner at a nearby restaurant. We got home by 7pm and ended the day with tea and cake.