Osaka Kamigata Performance Resource Center 大阪府立上方演芸資料館

Today I spent about four hours at the Osaka Prefecture Kamigata Performance Resource Center (Osaka-fu ritsu Kamigata engei shiryô kan), also known as Waha Kamigata. Here they have a great museum devoted to traditional yose arts such as rakugo, naniwabushi, manzai, kôdan, etc. My favorite part of the museum were clips of rakugo masters from the SP record era such as Katsura Harudanji I and Hayashiya Somemaru II, and a walk-through Kamigata Performance timeline, complete with a fine collection of artifacts from different periods on display (e.g., props, clothing, flyers, performers’ cherished personal belongings, etc.). There is also a great resource library with a nice selection of books to read, and CDs and DVDs to listen to and view, in house. I have been to a number of shows held at the performance spaces in the Waha Kamigata complex, which also houses the bookstore Junkudô, but this was the first time I visited the museum and library. I had a wonderful time, and will be going back very soon, and often since international students get in without dropping a yen. Not that the price of entry is expensive: ¥400 for general admission, ¥250 for domestic students, and FREE for those only wanting to use the resource library! Whether you spend money or not, the experience will definitely be worth it. Please do stop by if you’re in the neighborhood (Nanba).


Used Books 古本

A few months ago Somemaru introduced me to a great used book store in Osaka that specializes in books on theater arts. It has a great selection of rakugo books, both by scholars and hanashika. Many of the books there are reasonably priced, but some rare books are incredibly expensive. I have had my eye on a spendy two-volume set for some time. The other day I finally decided to go in, money in pocket, ready to haggle. I was quickly deflated when I learned the set, which I thought had previously seen for ¥32,000, was now priced at ¥60,000 (almost $750USD!), and this was without the thin but important scholarly index/commentary supplement. Needless to say, I left without the two-volume set. I didn’t leave empty-handed though. I picked up a few “new” titles to add to my growing Kamigata rakugo/ Osaka culture library.


Kamigata Rakugo Charity 上方落語の慈善

Last night while at the Hanjôtei for Somemaru’s show I noticed that their was a box in the dressing room for donations to the Red Cross of Japan, to be used to help those in northern Japan affected by the recent disasters. I was impressed by this, but absolutely amazed when I saw posted the amount (with receipt from the Red Cross) donated in cash on April 1, 2011: ¥7,000,000 (≈ $80,000USD)! The total collected by the Hanjôtei (Kamigata Rakugo Association) as of April 7 was ¥7,174,123 (≈ $84,650USD)! It looks like Osaka hanashika and their fans alike are joining the masses, working hard to help the very unfortunate. Respectable indeed.


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!