(Rakugo) Kabuki Stories with Scenery, Part II 道具入り芝居噺 その二 

Miya Nobuaki with Hayashiya ShōjakuI was invited yesterday to another special performance and talk featuring Hayashi Shôjaku at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo  (Tokyo bunkazai kennyûjo). The show was once again organized by Tsubouchi Theater Museum research associate, Miya Nobuaki.

Shôjaku performed one subanashi (lit. plain story) and one dôgu iri shibaibanashi (kabuki stories with scenery), which I wrote a bit about in a previous post. The subanashi was a section of Meijin Chōji (Chōji the Master) and the dôgu iri shibaibanashi was Kajikazawa (At the Kajikazawa River). The scenery used for Kajikazawa was beautiful. There was even live (paper) falling snow, which was especially nice on a humid summer day.

Hayashiya Shôjaku during a post-show  interviewI asked Shôjaku how he transports the scenery and so many props and he said that he relies on a professional courier service. Still, putting everything together and packing it up must be a huge undertaking (especially for his deshi). Apparently, his master (Hayashiya Shôzô VIII [1895-1982]) used to load everything onto a handcart and pulled it to shows himself.

Yesterday’s show was another great one. I am looking forward to Shōjaku performing two more times this year at the Tokyo bunkazai kennyûjo, in fall and winter.


Miya Nobuaki with Hayashiya Shôjaku正雀師匠が二席をお演りになりました。一席目は素噺である「名人長二」(仏壇叩きから湯河原)で、二席目は道具入り芝居噺の「鰍沢」でした。(前に芝居噺について少し書いたことがあります。)「鰍沢」の道具ですが、とッても美しかったです。雪(紙)までも降っていました。蒸し暑い夏の日にちょうどよかったです。

The scenery used for the story Kajikazawa非常に多い道具は、どのように運びますかと正雀師匠に聞いてみました。毎回宅急便会社にお願いしているとおっしゃっていました。それにしても、準備も片づけも大仕事に違いません(弟子さんもおつかれさまです)。正雀師匠の師匠(八代目林家正蔵 1895-1982)が道具を手車に乗せて、寄席まで自分で引っ張っていたそうです。汗


Freedom from Dissertating 論文からの解放

Since moving to Tokyo last September, I have spent most of my time in the Waseda University library, writing my dissertation. I finished last week and sent copies to my committee. I had a great time researching and writing about Kamigata rakugo, but am happy to be wrapping things up.

I still have some things to do to prepare for defense next month, but I took the last few days off to recharge. I’ve been meaning to go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum for some time, so yesterday, I decided to ride my bike over and spend the day there. 

Gojō Tenjin Shrine annual matsuri, UenoI live pretty close to Ueno Park. As I rode around Shinobazu Pond, I heard some Japanese drums, bells, and flutes playing in the distance–my kind of music! As I neared the south end of Ueno Park, I found the Gojō Tenjin Shrine matsuri (festival) in full swing. The timing could not have been better. 

After watching for a few minutes, I peddled west on Kasuga-dōri, crossed the Sumida River, then headed south to the museum. I parked my bike and walked past the Ryōgoku Kokugikan (also known as the Sumō Hall). I was just in time to see a procession of rikishi (sumō wrestlers) making their way into the Hall. I later learned that the yokozuna Hakuhō won his 29th title at the Emperor’s Cup that day. 

Edo-Tokyo MuseumThe Edo-Tokyo Museum complex is huge and the exhibits are fabulous. Two of the attractions are life-size replicas of the Nakamura-za, a kabuki theater, and a section of early modern Japan’s most famous bridge, Nihonbashi. My favorite part of the museum are the exhibits featuring early modern Edo chōnin (townsman, i.e., commoner) life. This is because they give me better ideas of the kinds of places where rakugo stories take place.

Hayashi Shōzō otoshibanashi-goyaSpeaking of rakugo, the art did not have this name prior to the Meiji period (1868-1912). Popular comic storytelling was referred to by a number of names over the past three hundred years or so. One of the more recent ones was otoshibanashi. In a wonderfully detailed model of the Ryōgoku area, one of Edo’s greatest entertainment districts, there is a otoshibanashi hall featuring the storyteller Hayashiya Shōzō I (1781-1842). Assuming that the model is accurate, yose in the past were much smaller than the yose we know today, which seat around 200 to 300 people. Hayashiya Shōzō’s yose looks like it could hold about fifty people, or one hundred at the very maximum. Of course there were many more yose in those days. In the immediate vicinity are a number of other theaters small and large, and a row of hairdressers. 

Katsura Utasuke, Edo-Tokyo MuseumThis was really my lucky day. As if the day was not good enough already, today turned out to be one of the few days each month when rakugo is presented at the museum! Today’s rakugoka was Katsura Utamaru’s second deshi, Katsura Utasuke. He performed a shinsaku piece called Ramen-ya (The Ramen Shop). Yanagi Nangyoku was also on hand to present kyokugoma (top spinning tricks). 

I had a great time at the museum, but hardly had enough time to look at all of the exhibits as long as I would have liked. I will just have to go back again. The Edo-Tokyo Museum is very reasonable at just ¥600 for general admission (¥480 for students).

Kaiten-zushiAll of that traditional Japanese culture made me want to have Japanese food for dinner. I rode my bike back to Ueno and enjoyed a few plates of sushi. The perfect way to wrap up a my “field trip.”

I think I am now fully recharged, ready to set my mind on defending my dissertation in Hawaii next month. It is hard to believe that my life as a graduate student will soon come to an end. I am not yet sure where I will work yet, but I do know that Japanese culture and food will continue being important parts of my life.  



Ryōgoku Kokugikan僕は上野公園の近くに住んでいます。不忍池を回っているところで、大好きな和太鼓、鉦、笛の音が耳に入り、上野公園の南側に着くと、なんと、五條天神社例大祭の最中ではないですか!なんといういいタイミングでしょう。



Otoshibanashi-goya落語ということばですが、明治時代以前は「落語」と呼ばれていませんでした。300年ぐらい前から大衆滑稽話芸・舌耕芸はそれぞれの名前がありまして、わりと最近のは「オトシバナシ」でした。博物館には、江戸の盛り場であった両国辺りの詳細な模型に、落しばなしの小屋があります。のぼりに林家正蔵(初代、1781-1842)の名前が見えます。模型が正しければ、昔の寄席は今の寄席より小さかったです。現在の寄席は200人~300人も入れますが、模型の中の林家正蔵の小屋は50人(無理して100人?)ぐらいしか入らなさそうです。まあ、確かにその当時の寄席は今より多かったですが… 落しばなしの小屋の周辺には他の劇場、大きいのも小さいのも、色々あります。髪結いさんもたくさん並んでいます。

Rakugo from old Nihonbashi今日はいいことがたくさんありましたが、これで終わらなかったです。博物館では、中村座の前でイベントをやるんですが、今日は偶然落語が一席ありました。今日の落語家は桂歌丸師匠の2番弟子である桂歌助さんで、「ラーメン屋」という新作落語をしました。これにやなぎ南玉さんの曲駒までもあって、本当にラッキーでした。




Kabuki at Colorado College コロラドカレッジの歌舞伎

The Medicine Peddler, directed by Laurence KominzI have been in a city called Colorado Springs since the end of January. I am here to assist with a production of the kabuki play The Medicine Peddler (Uirô uri) at Colorado College. My role is music director. I am also playing shamisen and singing ozatsuma in the show.

Colorado College students have been a great pleasure to work with. They are remarkably talented and are fast learners. I am working especially closely with four students who–in addition to playing important acting roles in the show–will provide the live music for the production. They will play key instruments such as bell, flute, drums, wooden clappers, etc. They have been doing a terrific job in rehearsals and will be sure to wow audiences at our upcoming shows on February 8, 9, and 1o.

In addition to kabuki, there will be other presentations on the program such as buyô dances, a tribute to Ichikawa Danjûrô XII (1946-2013) by Dr. Laurence Kominz, and rakugo by yours truly. If you can make it to Colorado Springs, please come to the show! The students will surely be enjoyable to watch!

If you cannot make it to Colorado College for the show, please watch the Monday show live(!) online at: http://www.coloradocollege.edu/live.

Show dates and times (Mountain Standard Time)

Saturday, February 8, 2014, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.

Sunday, February 9, 2014, 2 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

Monday, February 10, 2014, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (STREAMED LIVE, MST)


Richard F. Celeste Theatre
Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave. (map)


FREE and suitable for ALL AGES!

See you there!

The Medicine Peddler, directed by Laurence Kominz (2)1月末からコロラド州のコロラド・スプリングズという町に来ております。ここにコロラドカレッジという大学があって、英語歌舞伎の「外郎売り」の演出を手伝わせていただいています。僕が囃子音楽(鳴り物)を学生さんに教え、三味線と大薩摩もさせていただいています。



コロラドカレッジまで来れない方は、月曜日の公演はライブストリーミング放送で見えるので、ぜひご覧くださいませ。リンクはこちらです。→ http://www.coloradocollege.edu/live.

ショーの日にちと時間 (アメリカの山地時、MST)



2月10日(月)13時〜15時(ライブストリーミング放送、日本時間 11日(火)の午前5時


Richard F. Celeste Theatre
Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave. (地図)




(Rakugo) Kabuki Stories with Scenery, Part I 道具入り芝居噺 その一

One basic way Kamigata rakugo is different from Tokyo rakugo is that stories in the former regularly include various music and instrumental sound effects (e.g., patting drum with soft mallet for the sound of falling snow). This is especially true for travel stories (tabibanashi) and kabuki-inspired stories (shibaibanashi). Tokyo rakugo is, on the whole, performed without music — stories that have music are often adaptations of Kamigata pieces.

Dôgu iri shibaibanashi backdropThere is an exception to this rule, however. There is an old Tokyo tradition called “kabuki stories with scenery” (dôgu iri shibaibanashi), which is full of hayashi music and authentic kabuki scenes. This is a form of rakugo, but the aim is not necessarily make audiences laugh; the goal is to impress. In this art hanashika implement curtains and colorfully painted backdrops to create a more authentic kabuki atmosphere. These painted backdrops remind one of the (much smaller) illustrated boards used in Japanese “paper drama” (kamishibai). Dôgu iri shibaibanashi even have quick onstage costume changes (hayagawari) and “men in black” (kuroko) to assist, usually the hanashika‘s own pupils. Hanashika do not sit on cushions (zabuton) for these stories because they move around a great deal, frequently rising to their knees.

Storytellers have been adapting kabuki material and doing impressions of kabuki actors since the middle of the seventeenth century. San’yûtei Enshô I (1768-1838) was likely the first hanashika to perform shibaibanashi in yose, in 1797.  Dôgu iri shibaibanashi date at least to the turn of the nineteenth century when they were introduced by Kingentei Bashô I (d. 1838). Because the shogunate viewed kabuki as a threat, shibaibanashi were often regulated.¹

Hayashiya Shôjaku performing dôgu iri shibaibanashi

There are very few people who perform dōgu iri shibaibanashi today. Hayashi Shôjaku, a pupil of Hayashiya Shôzô VIII (1895-1982), may be the only recognized master of the art

I was fortunate to be invited yesterday to a special performance and talk featuring Shôjaku at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo  (Tokyo bunkazai kennyûjo). The show was organized by an acquaintance and Tsubouchi Theater Museum research associate, Miya Nobuaki.

I had previously read about dōgu iri shibaibanashi, but, needless to say, I got a great deal more from seeing Shōjaku perform live. Different from regular shibaibanashi (i.e., without scenery, etc.) I have heard in Tokyo and especially Osaka, the tone of Shôjaku’s story was decidedly serious and there was no punch line (ochi), which is common for this genre. Dôgu iri shibaibanashi felt like true one-man kabuki as opposed to a kabuki parody, which is generally the case with regular shibaibanashi.

I still know very little about dôgu iri shibaibanashi, so I look forward to seeing Shôjaku perform this rare art again in the near future.

(Rakugo) Kabuki Stories with Scenery, Part II 


Hayashiya Shôjaku performing dôgu iri shibaibanashi


噺家(舌耕者)は17世紀の半ばごろから歌舞伎の内容(声色など)を取り入れているそうです。初代三遊亭円生 (1768-1838) が寛政9(1797) 年に寄席で芝居噺を披露したのが最初と見られます。道具入り芝居噺の場合、初代金原亭馬生 (没年1838)が最初に道具を芝居噺に取り入れたので、19世紀の始めからあったものと考えられます。幕府が歌舞伎を脅威と見なしたためか、芝居噺もよく政令を発せられました。¹

今日現在、道具入り芝居噺を演る噺家は非常に少ないです。故八代目林家正蔵師匠 (彦六, 1895-1982) の弟子である林家正雀師匠はその第一人者です。

Miya Nobuaki with Hayashiya Shôjaku




道具入り芝居噺 その二

¹(参考) See shibaibanashi in Heinz Morioka and Miyoko Sasaki, Rakugo: The Popular Narrative Art of Japan (Cambridge: Harvard Council on East Asian Studies, 1990).

“The Sensei” 「ザ・センセイ」

shores sensei by takacheeI am lucky to have another group of talented students, this time for the course Traditional Japanese Drama.

Last year the final project for this course was a kabuki production, which I directed the hayashi ensemble and played ozatsuma shamisen for. This year I was planning on making kyôgen the centerpiece of our show Drama, Dance, Drums, but, since I’ve got such a great group, we’re going to take on even more.

In addition to two kyôgen plays, we are  going to do a kyôgen dance (komai), a kouta (“little song”) accompanied by shamisen, a comical folk dance called Dojô sukui (Loach Fisher), a nô-butô dance fusion, and rakugo. And, believe it or not, there will be even more. My co-director and his students will be putting on several taiko and buyô numbers, including a lion dance (shishimai). We are all very excited for the show, and it is a great pleasure to teach such a course.

We have our formal rehearsal sessions on Friday afternoons. While one student was waiting for her rehearsal time, she apparently painted me from the side. I had no idea she was doing this, but was pleasantly surprised when she shared the work with me. The work (above) is titled “The Sensei.” You can see more of her work at this site.

We have about six more weeks until our recital on June 6, and we hope to see you there!