Dinner and Karaoke ディナーとカラオケ

Tonight Somemaru invited me out to dinner and karaoke with a group of friends and pupils. The Chinese food was wonderful, and the karaoke was a blast. The best part of the evening was hearing Somemaru and Sakai Kunio (manzai artist/comedian) talk about the various jobs they’ve done together through the years, and listening to them sing songs from their younger days. Hanamaru, Someya, and Kinuyo (shamisen) were also along for the night’s festivities.

Somemaru has been incredibly generous to me since I’ve come to Japan to study under him. He has given me a number of beautiful gifts, and tonight he presented me with yet another. He gave me a valuable book that I had been wanting but could not afford myself, and he even did the wrapping.

Thank you so much, Shishô!




Hayashiya Family Showcase 林家一門顔見世興行

Tonight I went to the Hanjôtei for the Hayashiya Ichimon-kai (showcase of those in the same artistic family). This is one of the biggest annual events for the Hayashiya family, and what a show it was!

It was a special show featuring seven hanashika and eight rakugo stories. The highlight of the evening was Somemaru’s performance of Funa Benkei (Benkei on the Boat), which I had never seen performed before. It is a fabulous story. It is lightly based on the the Heikei monogatari tale of the same name, though the rakugo version is all about the comedy of a henpecked husband sneaking out to have with his best friends a midsummer night of boating, music, and geisha, only to be discovered by his wife, who is the Benkei (legendary monk-warrior possessing supernatural strengh) of this story. Somemaru did an incredible Benkei impression, which looked as if it was pulled straight from ukiyo-e illustrations of celebrated early modern kabuki actors in the role of Benkei.

Property of Honolulu Academy of Arts

It was wonderful to see performances from so many of Somemaru’s pupils. While they each have their own unique styles, bits of Somemaru — his facial expressions, his voice, his stylistic gesticulations, and great female impersonations — can at times be found in his pupils’ rakugo.

This was a wonderful night of rakugo, indeed. In addition to Somemaru’s masterpiece, Funa Benkei, I also especially enjoyed the stories by (in order of performance) Usaburô (Enyôhaku), Somejaku (Unagiya), Someza (Sarayashiki), and Hanamaru (Naimongai).

Tonight Hanamaru was given the headliner (tori) spot, and he did not disappoint. He began by talking about his infatuation with the Takarazuka Music Revue, singing bits of the recently staged “Romeo and Juliet,” and a rewritten Kamigata Rakugo version, in which it is not the Montagues and Capulets in conflict, but certain members of the Katsura and Shôfukutei rakugo families.

The story he performed was the “classic” Naimongai (Trying to Buy What Shops Don’t Have), but with an amusing twist. The two protagonists are Hiroshi and Billy–a Japanese and non-Japanese (presumably an American, who has an irritatingly in-depth knowledge about Japan, and a amusingly thick accent)–and they make their way through the famous (Japan’s longest) Tenjinbashi shopping arcade, even making a stop at the Hantôtei, only to be turned away by the current manager. Billy can not help pilfering things at each stop; at the Hanjôtei he swipes the red rickshaw, and Katsura Harudanji III in it!  The audience loved Hanamaru’s performance, and I could see just why he was recently awarded the “Gut-buster Prize” (Bakushô shô).

On the way out tonight I was asked if the character Billy had been based on me… Hmm… good question, but I doubt it. I am not as clever as Billy, and my accent it worse.

I had a great time at the yose tonight, and am looking forward to listening to Somemaru and his talented artistic family perform in the near future.









Rakugo Show Honoring Hayashiya Ancestors 林家のご先祖様の落語会

A historic rakugo show honoring ancestors of the Hayashiya family will be held tomorrow at the Hanjôtei yose at 6:30pm (doors open at 6:00). Somemaru, a few of his pupils (Someji, Hanamaru, and Someya), and Katsura Akashi will be performing a set of stories that were composed by past members of the Hayashiya rakugo line. Some of the stories have not been performed for decades, so this show will be a revival of sorts. If you have time tomorrow night you should really come and be a part of Kamigata rakugo history. There are just a few tickets left, and you can get them by calling the Rinseikai (Somemaru’s official fan club) offices at 06-6355-4659; the Hanjôtei box office at 06-6352-4874, or Ticket Pia at 0570-02-9999 (P-code: 597-700, also available at Circle K, Sankus, and 7-11 stores). I will be at the show (of course), so see you there!

明日の夜、6:30(6時開場)より、歴史的な「林家のご先祖様の落語会」が行われます。染丸師匠が、弟子さんたち(染二、花丸、染弥)、そして桂阿か枝とご先祖の作品を語ります。その中のお噺は長年語れていないもので、明日の会が復活祭でもあります。明日の晩、お時間がございましたら、ぜひ、歴史的な会を聴きにいきませんか。チケットはあまり残っていませんが、お求めの方はこちらへどうぞ:林染会事務所:06-6355-4659、繁昌亭のチケット窓口:06-6352-4874、チケットぴあ:0570-02-9999 (Pコード: 597-700、ぴあ店頭:サークルK、サンクス、セブンイレブン)。もちろん、僕も聴きにいくので、あそこでお会いしましょう!

Karukuchi and Niwaka 軽口と仁輪加

Today Somemaru kindly asked me to help him and a couple of pupils at a special performance for a crowd at a historic sake brewery in Nishinomiya. My jobs today: driver, luggage transport, costume assistant, and sound technician. Wow, so many titles, it really sounds official… It was 100% fun though!

Today was “special” because Somemaru presented two comic arts that are rarely performed anymore. They are called karukuchi and niwaka.

Karukuchi (lit. light, or loose, mouth) is a comedy routine which looks somewhat like manzai in that it is a fast-paced, two-man, stand-up act in which artists perform kashikoi (wit) and aho (stooge) roles. It is different in that performers of this art are traditionally hanashika, wear kimono, and subject matter is typically more “traditional.” Today’s act was about two guys who tried to reenact a scene from a kabuki play. Though they both claimed to be kabuki connoiseurs, they couldn’t for the life of them (and this where the comedy lays) make it work. This was largely the fault of the aho, which was brilliantly played by Somemaru. The kashikoi was played by his pupil, Hanamaru (unfortunately I couldn’t get a good shot of this from backstage…).

Niwaka is also an old form of theater–mostly of comic variety, though kabuki spin-offs were part of the repertoire–that dates back to the Edo period. In Osaka the art was performed early on by “career entertainers” (shokugyô geinin) and is thought to be a precursor of the shinkigeki (lit. new comedy) theater and manzai. Actors have long performed multiple roles, and incredibly (unreasonably?) quick costume changes are a major part of the fun for audiences. Today’s show was no different. Aisome played four different characters with four different costumes, and Hanamaru played a married couple who somehow have to be in the same place at the same time. I was backstage helping Hanamaru jump in and out of kimonos and wigs, but even with my help we could not be fast enough… Somemaru, to delight the audience, rushed Hanamaru through costume changes to the point where he had to basically thrust the wigs alone into audience view as he spoke for the characters from backstage, in his underwear. The show came to a hilarious end when Somemaru pulled the underdressed Hanamaru out onto stage. The audience loved it! Here are a couple photos from our dressing room just before niwaka:



The final portion of the show was an interview that Somemaru gave to a local university professor. He talked about the history of these rare arts, and of course, things rakugo-related. Somemaru also spent a good deal of time talking about me, and had me join him on stage. I was asked a few questions about my interests in rakugo, and even got to perform a portion of Sake no kasu in English, which I was happy to do.

Today, even though I didn’t do much, and even made a couple mistakes with musical cues, Somemaru gave me an extremely generous and unexpected money gift. I didn’t deserve this, so I will have to go back and help him again soon.

On the way home we stopped by a wonderful Korean restaurant and had dinner. The restaurant also sold its own kimchee, some of which Somemaru bought for me. When we got home Aisome and I unpacked everything, hung up Somemaru’s kimono to air out, and scrubbed his tabi. We finished the day with tea and cake.

Somemaru said to me half-jokingly, “you miss the good life, don’t you?” Yes, he’s absolutely right. He really did take wonderful care of me over the past several months. Being back with Somemaru for the day today reminded me of how much I am missing now that I am back to studying full-time.

Shishô, call me whenever you like, and I’ll be there in a blink!










Pines, Rakugo, Togetherness 松、落語、連帯

Today was a very busy day, with five engagements on Somemaru’s schedule. In the morning we drove to the Rihga Royal Hotel in Nakanoshima (central Osaka) to perform at a banquet of about 500. Somemaru spoke a bit then performed with two pupils an auspicious dance for New Years, Matsu zukushi (Pines Plentiful). Next we sped off to the Hanjôtei for a afternoon show, of which Somemaru was the tori headliner (as usual).

After the afternoon slot, we went to a nearby cafe to have coffee/tea and cake with Rinseikai, Somemaru’s group of devoted fans. One man I spoke to has been following Somemaru for more almost 40 years! Now that is devotion (Interestingly, this man told me he made his way to the famous Ebisu Shrine in Nishinomiya that morning–as a reward, he felt, he won the wonderful framed shikishi that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog). After the break with Rinseikai, we returned to the Hanjôtei for a Hayashiya ichimon-kai, a show put on by all members of an artistic family. Because there is no way so many (14) people can be fit into one show, the Hayashiya family does a couple of these shows per year. Of course we had to have an after-show party, and that took place at a nearby restaurant. One of the highlights was a gift (new obi) presentation to Hanamaru, for winning the recent “Roaring Laughter Prize.” This party was a nice way to end a long day.