I have heard Katsura Beishi IV’s rakugo on numerous occasions. He is an energetic and precise performer. He specializes in koten rakugo, but apparently also performs shinsaku rakugo from time to time. He is going to turn 40 this week and strikes me as one of the young hanashika out there who will develop into one of the great masters in the coming years.
However, the road to mastery is not an easy one. In their younger years, hanashika have their fair share of hard times. Indeed, when they enter the professional world, their teachers often tell them things such as, “You’re not going to be able to eat for ten years.”
The other day, I was reading a Taishō-period magazine and came across a short article about Katsura Beishi II (1877-1943), who was also right around 40 when it was run. It became clear that Beishi II had it extremely hard.
Katsura Beishi-kun (By Chûbê, 1918)
△ Although Katsura Beishi tells funny stories on stage every day and night, he gets nothing more than his set monthly wage. There are shipping millionaires and steel upstarts in the world, but the economy is horrible. We can’t put away a single mon and this is absolutely ridiculous. Beishi therefore took a chance as a performer and took his act to the provinces in hopes of one day being able to slap his friends on their cheeks with wads of cash. He zealously put together a show and headed to Hiroshima, where the the money is supposed to flow a little better. However, at every turn he suffered one misfortune after the next. After three months, his zeal was thoroughly stamped out. He faced the same hardships as a beggar. He had no money to board the locomotive and had no acquaintances to borrow money from. He had no means whatsoever, so he made poles of his legs and took to the road. When he at last made it back to Osaka, he asked for a meeting with the manager of the Kōbaitei (yose). Beishi’s clothes looked like the tattered kimono of a beggar, so the woman at reception gave him a suspicious look. In any case, she brought him to the attention of the manager, but, because he saw him without even getting a name let alone any particulars, he had no clue who he was. “I won’t have anything to do with beggars like you,” he said, “now quit dawdling and out you go!” To this piercing greeting Beishi responded, “Sir, I’m no beggar. It”s me, Beishi!” The manager gave him a hard look and uttered, “Oh…” and nodded, “so, you’re still alive after all.” Beishi was a man of small stature to begin with, but this made him shrink a little more.
桂米紫クン （寄稿 忠兵衛、大正７年）