Karuwaza Dôrakutei 軽業動楽亭

I read on Somemaru’s blog yesterday that he will be performing for the next few days at the Dôrakutei, a small yose run by Katsura Zakoba. This is apparently Somemaru’s first time performing at this venue, and, since it was the first time I had heard of it, I decided to go for today’s show.

First, a little bit about the yose.

I heard today that it has been in operation for the past few years. If that is the case, this is one Kamigata rakugo’s best kept secrets. It may be because this is a “home-ground” of sorts for hanashika contracting with Beichô jimusho (i.e., members of the Katsura Beichô artistic school). I have hanashika friends in the Beichô ichimon, but I never heard about Dôrakutei. (No foreigners allowed perhaps?)

Dôrakutei is in the heart of Osaka shitamachi (traditional working-class neighborhood), just a short walk from Shinsekai, through Jan-jan Yokochô, and under the train tracks. Or, steps from Dôbutsuen-mae Station (subway, exit 1).

Dôrakutei is on the second floor of a rather new condominium complex (manshon). The yose was obviously originally a condo unit, but professionally remodeled to be a yose. It is surprisingly nice, and I suppose this speaks to the taste of Zakoba. It looks like it could fit an audience of 100 or so, perfect for rakugo. There is Katsura Beichô and Beichô ichimon memorabilia throughout the yose, including on stage behind the kôza, where a framed sheet of paper with Beichô’s writing — the word raku (ease, relax, enjoy) written several times — hangs. I think this may be the sheet on which Beichô practiced for the real product, which went to the Hanjôtei stage.

Dôrakutei is a great yose because it is small, and comfortable. It was a great to be in such an itimate space with talented performers today.

By the way, today’s lineup was Taizô, Jakugorô, Asakichi, <Naka iri> Koharudanji, and Somemaru.

Somemaru did a story that I have never heard him do before, Karuwaza kôshaku. This made me remember that Katsura Bunshi V performed this story once or twice when I was with him — but I could hardly comprehend it at the time. Today I understood it much better. I could see just how complex a story it is, and how much energy is needed on the part of the hanashika, no matter who s/he is.

Karuwaza kôshaku, a story about a pompous kôshaku storyteller blowing up in anger after repeatedly being muted (he can’t hear his own voice) by loud, neighboring show booths (misemono goya). The climax toward the end of the story and think-for-yourself punch line (kangae ochi) are wonderful. This story has been categorized as perhaps the busiest and noisiest of all stories in both Kamigata and Tokyo repertoires.

Today after Somemaru’s appearance, everybody in the audience looked thrilled with his big story. Afterward, I went to the dressing room to greet Somemaru, and he said, half-jokingly, the most stylish thing: “Well, I heard you were coming today, so I thought I would do a rare story for you.” Now that’s Somemaru for you. (Wow.)

Dôrakutei event info (external link in Japanese)







今日の出演者ですが、鯛蔵さん、雀五郎さん、あさ吉さん、枝女太師匠、<中入> 小春團治師匠、染丸師匠でした。






Somemaru’s Life Work 染丸師匠のライフワーク

I spent the day at Somemaru’s today. The highlight of the day was receiving, complete with signature and senja fude (sticker label printed with one’s name, see glossary), Somemaru’s new book, Kamigata rakugo yosebayashi no sekai (Osaka: Sôgensha 2011). This is a book I will always treasure.

Thank you Shishô!

今日、朝から師匠の家に伺わせていただきました。色々ありましたが、僕にとって、一番良かったことが師匠の新しい本「上方落語寄席囃子の世界」(大阪: 創元社 2011)をいただいたことです。サインも千社札もいただきました。これは僕の宝物です。


The World of Yosebayashi 寄席囃子の世界

Today was a red-letter day. In commemoration of the publication of his “life work,” Kamigata rakugo yosebayashi no sekai (The World of Kamigata Rakugo Yose Music, Sôgensha Press 2011), Somemaru held a special concert that offered the audience a unique behind-the-scenes look at the hayashi orchestra in action, which is usually hidden from audience view. Even ichiban daiko and niban daiko (first and second drum, respectively, with which audiences are beckoned) were performed in audience view.

The bulk of the show consisted of a major yosebayashi recital (with three shamisen players!), but also included were several informative–and entertaining–talks by Somemaru, a hilarious geisha-parody ongyoku (musical) manzai performance by Anesama Kings (Katsura Ayame & Hayashiya Somejaku), rakugo by Hayashiya Someza and Somemaru, and the formal announcement that six of Somemaru’s shamisen pupils were being given the professional name Hayashiya. The show was ended in proper yosebayashi fashion, with wakare daiko (the parting drum, used to send audiences on their way after shows). Somemaru played drums and another instruments throughout the show, and, since it is generally the lower-level hanashika who play percussion instruments, this was a unique treat.

Somemaru publishing a book such as this one–which includes more than 200 songs on four CDs, sheet music for all songs, and much commentary–and putting on a show like tonight’s sends a message not only to general readers and the audience that music (yosebayashi, hamemono, etc.) is important–indispensable–to the art, but it also sends a strong message to performers–many of whom fail to see that Kamigata Rakugo without music would cease to be Kamigata Rakugo.

During my time with Katsura Bunshi V (1930-2005), he spoke to me about the importance of music in Kamigata Rakugo, and his concern that the former might soon die out. I know for a fact that Bunshi shishô, whose repertoire was loaded with music-filled stories, would be proud of the work that Somemaru has done and continues to do. In many regards, Somemaru is ensuring that the next generation will enjoy Kamigata Rakugo the way his predecessors meant it to be enjoyed. Because of this, Hayashiya Somemaru IV is a living national treasure who only needs to be officially recognized as such.





Busy Day at Home 家で忙しい一日

Today there were no shows scheduled, but it was a busy day at home for Somemaru. He worked on his book all day, and also made time for an interview with a reporter from the Kyoto Shinbun News.

I got a lot of my own reading done, but was also able to help out with some research and sheet music editing. In between all this I tried to make sure Somemaru was comfortable and had hot tea as he worked. By the way, you can find his book at this link (in Japanese): Kamigata rakugo yosebayashi no sekai.

Somemaru let Aisome and I take charge of dinner tonight, so we went shopping and made chicken cacciatore with garlic toast. I have to admit, it was a little bland–nothing like Mom makes–but Somemaru still ate a huge serving! I’m happy that it was at least edible.

Somemaru was still pouring over his manuscript as I left his house this evening. Remember to take a break every now and then Shishô!





Fun at the Hanjotei 繁昌亭楽しいひと時

There were a few songs for his new book that Somemaru needed to record, so he got together with a couple shamisen players and a few pupils at the Hanjôtei this morning. It was a treat to hear so much yose bayashi music live.

Since the recording was going on all morning, I had some time to do some exploring. There is much of interest at the Hanjôtei, but today I spent a good deal of time looking at the neta-chô (story registers), which have been diligently kept since the Hanjôtei opened in 2006.

Another item of interest is the kamidana (Shinto altar), which hangs on the wall in front of the gakuya (dressing room). A lot of families in Japan have these small altars in their homes. Somemaru has one in his kitchen devoted to a god that offers protection from fire. It is quite common for theaters to have these altars, which I assume house gods of arts and/or entertainment.

I heard from Somemaru that he noticed some time ago that nobody seemed to be taking care of the altar at the Hanjôtei. He mentioned to the management that neglecting the altar might bring bad luck to the yose. Since then, apparently, fresh branches, salt, and water, (and perhaps occasionally food) have been offered on a regular basis.

After lunch we drove out to Hirakata (northern Osaka) for a show. Today Somemaru performed Shiri mochi (Butt Mochi), a story about a poor yet prideful couple who put on an aural spectacle to make it sound as if they are busy pounding mochi at New Year’s. This is supposed to make a statement about the couple’s year-end financial situation; that they have indeed prospered in the previous year, at least enough to bring in the New Year like other families traditionally do. To make the perfect mochi-pounding sound effects, the husband convinces his wife expose her bare bottom, and he goes to work pounding it and slapping it, in time with his cadences (the way Somemaru performs this is absolutely hilarious). The story ends with the wife not being able to take another slap. She says, “Just eat the ‘rice’ as it is.”