Off to Tokyo Next Month 来月は東京へ

Next month I am “going home,” to Japan.

This time I will be living in Tokyo, not Osaka. Some friends are asking me, why do you need to go to Tokyo when you’re studying Kamigata rakugo. They may be partly right, but I’ve never lived in Tokyo before, and also feel that I should get to know Tokyo rakugo a little better in order to understand the “true essence” of Kamigata rakugo.

Of course I’m planning to visit Osaka while living in Tokyo. After all, that’s where Somemaru is, and I will also need to do some more work at Osaka yose and museums.

But, it’s not like I can’t hear Kamigata rakugo in Tokyo. There are a number of Kamigata artists who perform there quite regularly. It will be interesting to see how they perform in Tokyo, whether they perform differently there than they do in Osaka.

I heard there are almost no convenience stores in the neighborhood I am going to be living in, but I also heard it’s a great area.

To the University of Tokyo: 1-minute walk

To the Suzumoto Engeijô (yose): .74mi (1.2km)

To the Shitamachi Museum: .74mi

To the Oedo Ueno Hirokojitei (yose): .86mi (1.4km)

To Kanda-Jinbochô (used bookstores, Rakugo Cafe, etc.): 1.7mi (2.8km)

To the Asakusa Engei Hall (yose): 2.1mi (3.5km)

To the Oedo Nihonbashitei (yose): 2.3mi (3.7km)

To the Asakusa Mokubatei (yose): 2.3mi

To the Edo Tokyo Museum: 2.8mi (4.5km)

To the Tsubouchi Shôyô Memorial Theater Museum (Waseda University): 3mi (4.9km)

To the National Engeijô (yose): 3.3mi (5.3km)

To the Ikebukuro Engeijô (yose): 3.8mi (6.1km)

To the Edo Fukagawa Museum: 3.8mi

To the Shinjuku Suehirotei (yose): 4.3mi (7km)

To the Tenman Tenjin Hanjôtei (yose in Osaka): 307.5mi (495km)

With the exception of the Hanjôtei, all of these places are of bike-able distance from my place. I can’t wait!

I’m sure there are plenty of other worthwhile yose, museums, libraries, etc., but I still know next to nothing about Tokyo.

I would love to hear from anybody that has an interesting place to recommend. Please leave a comment below!

























Tanabe Yose 田辺寄席

Today I went to listen to rakugo at the Tanabe Yose. Though it was my first time, this chiiki yose was holding its 595th and 596th shows this afternoon and evening. The Tanabe Yose, which puts on monthly shows and has changed venues a couple of times, has been making audiences laugh for  some 38 years. This is the “home ground” of Katsura Bunta, and it would seem that many people in the audience are also longtime regulars. Indeed it was a very friendly, family-like atmosphere, and tea and snacks were even served in the garden during intermission.

I am glad that I arrived early, because people soon filled seats in anticipation for Bunta’s pre-show talk. Ten minutes before each show, Bunta comes out for a short set called Kaikô zeroban, a play on the rakugo story Kaikô ichiban. Today, perhaps because he heard a non-Japanese was in the audience, he began by sharing jokes from around the world, including countries such as America, England, India, China, and even Iran. He performed jokes in rakugo style, showing how humor in the world is often universal (if not similar to rakugo).

Bunta performed the story Hyôgo bune, which was fabulous. Today’s special guest was Shôfukutei Kakushi, who was also great in the two stories he performed, Hettsui nusutto and Hana ikada.

The first Tanabe Yose show was held in September 1974 on the third floor of Akatsuki Pan, a bakery not far from Minami Tanabe Station. This remained the venue for but a year since there wasn’t enough space for all the people who wanted in, and the stairs, too steep for elderly yose-goers, also presented a problem. From there the Tanabe Yose was moved to the Abeno Youth Center, where it remained for many years.

The Tanabe Yose was founded by a large group of local citizens who loved rakugo and wanted to listen to rakugo regularly in their own community. The yose was formed at a time when hanashika were at pains to find venues they could regularly perform at. From the beginning there were around eighty people at every show, and high attendance continued at the Tanabe Yose even after the 1970s rakugo boom ended. It is safe to say that most Kamigata hanashika have performed at this venue at least once.

With each show, organizers also distribute a free newspaper titled Yoriai zake (named after a rakugo story). In addition to Tanabe Yose-related news, Yoriai zake also has regular articles on Osaka history, interesting culture, and even the air raids during World War II.

Today attendance remains high, with close to 200 people attending each show. Attendance numbers suddenly rose following the Hanshin Awaji Megaquake of 1995, and this is no doubt thanks to the Tanabe Yose’s volunteer efforts, which included putting together and donating backpacks with relief supplies and putting on charity outreach rakugo shows at ground zero. Apparently, a number of quake victims continue to this day as regulars in the audience.

Today the Tanabe Yose is at home in the Momogaike Citizen’s Activity Center (shimin katsudô sentâ, JR Minami Tanabe Station, or Tanabe Station on the subway). If you would like to enjoy a wonderful community yose experience, please do visit the Tanabe Yose. Be sure to make reservations and plan to arrive a little arrive early.

Finally, I would like to mention a unique exhibit of yose models by Medaru Kôbô on display in the lobby. This is quite interesting, so be sure to take a look!











Osaka Shitennôji Doyadoya 大阪四天王寺どやどや


If you have some free time and happen to be in Osaka, I recommend checking out the Tennôji area. Though the neighborhood  on the immediate south side of Tennôji station has been undergoing a major upgrade (mostly new shopping centers) over the past several years, the stretches north and west of the station still offer some of Osaka’s finest shitamachi (working-class neighborhood) flavor. I absolutely love the people, food, and air here. To me it feels like “real Osaka,” if there is such a thing.

Tennôji is also home to the historic temple Shitennôji, which is dated to the year 593, when Prince Shôtoku, the first great patron of Buddhism in Japan, is believed to have had it constructed. This is also where Tennôji gets its name. Obviously the structures standing in the complex today are not the originals, but it is still a wonderful temple, for ages a favorite religious and entertainment destination.

20120114-184318.jpgI visited the temple today to see for my first time Osaka Shitennôji Doyadoya. According to the City of Osaka website,  Shushôe takes place at the Rokujidô (Pavilion of the Sixth Hour) from New Year’s Day until January 14. During is a period when the entire clergy holds services to pray for peace in the realm and bountiful harvests of the five grains. On the final day, services are held for the Ox god (Goôhô) and paper amulets bearing this seal are sent fluttering from the rafters of the pavilion. A tradition of scrambling to catch these began ages ago and continues to this day. This particular festival is referred to as Doyadoya.

Written in the Edo period, the Settsu meisho zue states, “Shushôe takes place from New Year’s Day to the hour of the Rooster on the fourteenth day…” Doyadoya used to begin at the hour of the Rooster (6:00PM) and amulets bearing the seal of Ox god where released between around 8:00 to 9:00PM, but the time has since been moved to 2:30PM or so, to prevent disorder. Students from the following schools are regular participants: Seiryû Gakuen, Shitennôji Habikio Junior High and High Schools, and Izumi Chairudo Kindergarten.

This is a gallant event in that participants come unclothed to jostle for the hundreds of Ox god talismans sent down from above. Today these are tied to willow branches and taken home, but in years past these branches were believed to ward off pests if planted in rice paddies.  The word Doyadoya is thought to come from a common expression referring to the crowds that noisily flocked (doyadoya to) to the Rokujidô in hopes of winning a talismans bearing the seal of the Ox god.

Especially entertaining are the the teachers, also clad in loincloths, who lead the high-adrenalin exercises through megaphones and hurl water on the young men. The students cry out in the winter cold while the crowd roars with laughter, and perhaps a few sympathetic groans.

It was a great time, and I am glad I went.


Since I am on the subject, I also have to mention that Shitennôji, being such an important place in Osaka religious and cultural history, is also the setting of a number of Kamigata rakugo stories. Tennôji mairi (Pilgrimage to [Shi]Tennôji) has to be the best known of these. In this rakugo it is the middle of higan, vernal equinoctial week. A man gets his friend (Jinbei) to join him on a pilgrimage to Shitennôji, saying he wants to have a service held and sound the requiem bell for his recently departed, beloved dog Kuro. Soon, they pass through the fabled stone gateway, and, on Jinbei’s lead, the two proceed on a whirlwind tour through the temple precincts. They come to any number of shops and show-tents (misemono goya), giving listeners a great illustration of the lively place Shitennôji used to be.

What with all the enthusiastic participants and eager crowd, whistles shrilling in unison with manly chants, quality entertainment in an old temple-school tradition, not to mention a crowd of preparatory school and cell phone company representatives stationed outside the temple gate waiting to sweep up students and their families on their way out, I felt momentarily what Shitennôji must have been like in ages past, what a lively place it still is.












Himekuri Calendar 日めくりカレンダー

Last year Somemaru taught me all kinds of things.

In addition to rakugo he also taught me about art, history, geography, cuisine, Japanese dress, Japanese language, not to mention much more.

A couple things he taught me about I failed to grasp, however, such as the jikkan (Ten Heavenly Stems) and jûnishi (Twelve Earthly Branches) of the sexagenary cycle, and how time was told in the Edo Period (e.g., the third “hour” of the Snake = 10 a.m.).

I got a great present for Christmas this year; a Japanese tear-away calendar. I’ve seen them in movies and local restaurants in the past, but this is the first time I’ve had my own. These tear-away calendars are really useful. In addition to the date, they hold all kinds of information. Things like “January 1, Monday (Dec. 16 on the Lunar calendar) Coming of Age Day,” and even the daily adages such as “Stars reveal the night without toil” (Kai naki hoshi ga yoru o askasu) are easy enough to comprehend, but how about things like “Mutsuki (month of affection), Hatsumi (the first snake), Tsuchi no to mi (second [to/yang] earth snake), Nijûhasshuku ki (Ki [“Roof Top,” or Alpha Aquarius/Pegasus] of the 28 Chinese Constellations)… (sigh) Pretty tough. But, looking at a calendar such as this one day in and day out and not knowing, it’s frustrating to say the least.

And that’s when I remembered Somemaru’s lesson on the jikkan and juunishi last year, that it certainly has something to do with all of this on my new calendar. I figured it was time to revisit what he taught me. Also, as Somemaru said before, knowledge of these things will be useful in comprehending older rakugo stories.

I still have much to learn, and “calculations” still take more time than I’d like, but I think I’m gradually getting it. Old wisdom is something else.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, hey what time is it?

Huh, it’s 5.

6, 7, 8, 9… ¹





Image property of http://keisan.casio.jpそれで、去年師匠が教えてくださった十干十二支を思い出して、とても関係していることに気づき、もう一度勉強しなおさないといけないと思いました。師匠が言ってくださったように、落語の古い噺を理解するには、この知識はとても役立ちますし。





¹ These are the final lines of the rakugo story Toki udon (Time Noodles), in which a cheapskate customer tries to confuse the noodle vendor by asking the time as he’s counting out coins to pay with. As we can see, the plan backfires.

“Kamigata hanashi” 「上方はなし」

I have been saving for months, and today was the day…

Yes, I finally got it.

The centerpiece for my collection of rakugo books.

Those who know Kamigata Rakugo already know what I’m referring to. Those who don’t, well, this is a must-have if your doing serious work on Kamigata Rakugo. (Wait, is that an oxymoron?)

Okay, here it is, one of just 1000 sets:

Shôfukutei Shokaku V, ed., Kamigata hanashi (vols. 1-2). Tokyo: San’ichi shobô, 1971-2.

Really, I still can’t believe I got it. I came straight home after buying it, put it on my bookshelf, and have just been looking at it from across the room…

(Jeez, what did I get it for, decoration?!)

I’ll start reading tonight after dinner. (Yeah!)






五代目笑福亭 松鶴編、「上方はなし」(上下).昭和46-47  東京:三一書房