“I’m happy he’s better! o(^-^)o”「お元気になられてよかった o(^-^)o」

Hayashiya ichimonkai Jan. 2013Since the beginning of November, Somemaru has been working hard every day to make a full recovery from his stroke. His hard work has paid off. On January 12, Somemaru delighted a packed audience with one of his favorite stories at the Hayashiya School New Year Showcase.

I was happy to read Tweets from fans who attended the show, like the following:

@kumakosuki The “Hayashiya School New Year Showcase” at the Hanjôtei just ended. Master Somemaru was headliner. Compared to before, his articulation was just a tiny bit… but as he kept talking I completely stopped noticing. He was thoroughly amusing, and his melodies were superb. Niban senji lasted a full 30 minutes and was full of laughs. I’m happy he’s better! o(^-^)o

After the show, Somemaru wrote the following in his blog, Nikikishi.

Appreciation for a Full House at Our Showcase (January 13, 2013)

Yesterday our ichimon-kai was so packed that they had to put out extra seating. I would like to extend my warm thanks to my fans for all their support. Unfortunately, I caught a cold before the show, so I should apologize for my voice being a little hoarse. Thanks to so many loud shouts of encouragement, I was finally able to make it through a story. As I pushed on in a loud voice, for some reason, I started sounding kind of like Master Shokaku VI.¹ Master Shokaku looked after me from the time I was young, so maybe he had come back and was on my shoulder saying, “Hey, get with the program!”

. . .  Today the professional sumo tournament got underway. My, the wrestlers seem especially spirited on day one. Like them, I will keep at it, driving forward in full force. Thank you for your continued cheers of support in 2013.

I am very happy that Somemaru is better, and I am extremely excited that I will be able to see him again next month.



@kumakosuki: 繁昌亭での『新春林家一門顔見世興行』終わり~トリの染丸師匠はほんの、ほんのすこぅし以前に比べ滑舌が… 話し進むうちに全く気にならなくなって、ほこほこ面白く節回し見事で笑いいっぱいの「二番煎じ」を30分たっぷり。お元気になられてよかったo(^-^)o



昨日の一門会には補助席を出すほどの大入ご贔屓を賜わり厚く御礼申し上げます。私が風邪を引いてしまいまして、ちょっと声が枯れかけて申し訳ないことでした。皆さんの大きな声援に支えられてやっと一席終えることができました。頑張って大きな声をはりあげてやってますと、何故か六代目松鶴師匠みたいな感じになりました.¹  若いときから可愛がっていただいた松鶴師匠が『おいしっかりせえよ』と私の肩に乗り移って下さったのかもしれません。

. . . 今日から大相撲初場所が始まりました。何か初場所初日のお相撲さんはとても気合が入ってるように感じました。私もしっかり気合を入れて頑張っていきます。どうぞ今年もご声援よろしくお願い致します。


¹ Shôfukutei Shokaku VI (1918-86) has been dubbed one of the four greats (shitennô) of post-World War II Kamigata rakugo. 六代目笑福亭松鶴 (1918-86) は、戦後上方落語の四天王の一人といわれる。


The First “Lion Show” 第一回 獅子の会

I remember hearing often in my youth the saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” These virtually opposite animals are metaphors for March weather, which tends to begin rough – wet, windy, cold – then end gentle – dry and warm. The transformation of lion to lamb represents the transition of winter to spring.

How auspicious, then, to hold “The First Lion’s Show” (Dai ikkai shishi no kai) on March 1! Please join me for what is sure to be a wonderful show at the Hanjôtei this evening. I am especially looking forward to Somemaru’s performance of the story Kyô no chazuke, and Hayashi Someza’s performance of Karuwaza kôshaku. There will also be rakugo performances by Hayashiya Someya and Katsura Asakichi, and a special shika shibai (a play [shibai] by hanashika) performance of Bakushô・Toki udon.

See you there! (Show starts at 6:30pm; ¥2500 in advance, ¥3000 at the door.)


ということで、3月1日に「第一回 獅子の会」が行われるのはとても縁起が良いですね。今晩、ご一緒に聴きにいきませんか?僕は、特に楽しみにしているのは、染丸師匠の「京の茶漬」と林家染左さんの「軽業講釈」です。林家染弥さんと桂あさ吉さんの落語もあり、「爆笑・時うどん」という鹿芝居(ハナシカが演る芝居)もありますので、ゼイタク〜。


Long Valentine’s Weekend ロング・バレンタイン・ウィーケンド

I have been off the radar since last Friday, and I am finally back for a brief update on what turned out to be a memorable, rakugo-filled, long Valentine’s weekend.


Today I went to the afternoon show at the Hanjôtei as I wanted to hear Katsura Fukudanji perform. The lineup was fabulous. Fukudanji’s Kushami kôshaku was an absolute masterpiece, and Hayashiya Somesuke, Shôfukutei Sankyô, and Tokyo rakugoka San’yûtei Utamusashi also gave memorable performances. Two very big names appeared in the iromono slots today: Let’s-Go Shôji did mandan (lit. a comical chat/monologue), and Kimiya Tamago (daughter of the late manzai great Kimi Koishi) performed Onna dôraku, also presenting a rare, almost forgotten form of ongyoku manzai, in which comical narrative is chanted while keeping beat with two miniature mokugyo (lit. wooden fish, a hollow, wooden percussion instrument, a larger version of which is used  by monks during sutra chanting).

After the show I caught Katsura Fukudanji to ask him to sign a copy of his book. Master Fukudanji is Katsura Harudanji III’s #1 deshi, is head of the Kansai Entertainment Guild, and also regularly performs and teaches sign-language rakugo (shuwa rakugo). In addition to his many formal rakugo pupils, he is also head of a large family of sign-language rakugo artists.


Today I went to the Dôrakutei to see Hayashiya Someya perform. He did a fine job with the story Shaku no aigusuri, which, in my opinion, is also one of Somemaru’s best. I also enjoyed very much performances by Katsura Harusame and Shôfukutei Shikaku. As I’ve written previously, I enjoy listening to rakugo at Dôrakutei because it is a much smaller venue, and the distance between hanashika and the audience is therefore lessened. You can really see hanashika at work. You can see every detail of the story, and every drop of sweat.

Typically it is audience members–well to do patrons–who take hanashika out after shows, but after the show today Someya was very kind to take me out for sushi. I felt bad about him paying for such a luxurious meal, which included several drinks, but he insisted, saying I should think of him as my “older-brother” in the Somemaru ichimon. He also said he was concerned that I was spending too much money on rakugo books and not on nutritious food. It was a wonderful treat, indeed!


Someya mentioned at dinner last night that he would be making a guest appearance at Katsura Bunza’s dokuenkai (“one-man show,” for lack of better translation) this evening. I wanted to see Someya perform again, and surely wanted to see my longtime friend Bunza in action, so, off to the Hanjôtei I went, again (Thank you Monbukagakushô).

Needless to say, the show was great. Tonight Someya performed one of his original (sôsaku) pieces, Mitsugu onna, a funny piece inspired by cheesy Japanese soap operas he remembers from his youth. The story is well arranged, and the audience loved it . I tend to prefer older stories, but tonight’s sôsaku was a good one.

I have always respected Bunza as a person, and have long enjoyed his rakugo, but tonight I was convinced that he is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest hanashika in Kamigata rakugo. During the makura of his second story, he spent a good deal of time speaking about the special relationship Katsura Bunshi and Somemaru shared. I appreciated this especially, since these are the two hanashika I have called Shishô. After the makura, Bunza’s rendition of Kushami kôshaku had the audience in stitches. In all honesty, I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard at rakugo as I did tonight. I laughed so hard that I cried, and cried so hard that it hurt.


Last week Somemaru asked half-jokingly, “Matt, are you going to bring me chocolates too?” Without any hesitation, I answered, “Of course.” Well, this evening, I was in the neighborhood, and, remembering it was Valentine’s Day, a promise is a promise. I picked up something sweet and dropped by Somemaru’s house after dinner. He was busy working on something, but he appreciated me remembering just the same. We enjoyed a cup of tea and I was on my way.

Yes, it was a wonderful long Valentine’s weekend.















Hanjôtei’s 5th Anniversary 繁昌亭5周年

Today marks five years since the Hanjôtei opened to the public on September 15, 2006. The day began with a formal ceremony, followed by a press release. There was plenty of rakugo on the bill as usual, but the day’s main attraction was “Bakushô (lit. explosive laughter) Kabuki,” a hanashika rendition of the famous play Kanjinchô (The Subscription List). The three stars of the show were Tsukitei Happô (Togachi Saemon), Hayashiya Somemaru (Minamoto no Yoshitsune), and Katsura Sanshi (Musashibô Benkei).

I attended the day’s opening show. The costumes and makeup were outstanding, all applied by theatre professionals. The actors were even better, getting laugh after continuous laugh from the audience. Throughout the show kakegoe (emotional cheers of support, often heard in kabuki theaters), came from all directions.

Bakushô Kabuki” was staged just prior to intermission, so I imagine Somemaru had no break as he rushed to get out of costume, remove his thick makeup (quite difficult, messy, and time-consuming), get into his own kimono, and get ready to go on as the morning show’s headliner.

Bakushô Kabuki was staged three times today, so all people involved, especially the stars, must have been quite exhausted come the end of the day. They did this for an important cause though; to celebrate the Hanjôtei’s fifth anniversary, which wouldn’t have been possible without a supportive and enthusiastic public.

Congratulations on five years Hanjôtei! Thank you for a wonderful show everybody. Otsukaresama de gozaimashita.

I couldn’t take pictures during the show, but I should be able to get some taken by public media in the coming days. In the meantime, here are some shots from the pre-morning show festivities (left, and below).











Somemaru’s Sense of Humor 染丸師匠のユーモアのセンス

Last week I performed the role Tarôkaja in the kyogen play “Shibiri.” Since I had been out of touch with Somemaru for the better part of three weeks, I sent him a picture of me on show night, just prior to going on. He responded with a text message, telling me I looked good in costume.

This week Somemaru performed all week at the Hanjôtei afternoon show. I went with a friend to see his show on Tuesday. After the show I visited him in his dressing room. He surprised me with a present in an envelope. I had no idea what it was. He told me to open it there. What I pulled out of the envelope made me laugh at the top of my lungs. It was the picture of me in costume as Tarôkaja, superimposed onto an image of the majestic Mt. Fuji!

I think the only way I could become more Japanese would be to naturalize as a Japanese citizen! This picture makes it clear that Somemaru has a great sense of humor on and off the stage.

Thank you for the gift Shishô, and for the good laugh.