Hayashiya Someya to Become Kikumaru III 林家染弥が三代目菊丸に

Today I read some fabulous news on the news site Mainichi JP. Somemaru’s number 6 pupil will be promoted to the illustrious name Hayashiya Kikumaru. The following is my translation of the story.

Rakugo — Someya to Receive the Name Hayashiya Kikumaru III: A Big Name from the Meiji Period is Resurrected

Mainichi Newspaper,  September 28, 2013  –  5:00 a.m.

Yoshimoto Creative Agency announced on the 27th that Hayashiya Somemaru school rakugoka Hayashi Someya (39) will be promoted to the name Hayashiya Kikumaru III next September. Kikumaru is an illustrious name in Somemaru’s artistic family line. The last Kikumaru was a popular storyteller in the Meiji period. According to entertainment history scholar Maeda Kenji, it appears that he died around 1900. This will be the first time the name has been used in 115 years.

Someya is from Mie Prefecture and joined Somemaru’s school in 1994. This year, he received the Art Encouragement Award at the Osaka Cultural Festival. Someya stated that, “Next year is my twentieth year since joining Somemaru’s school. I am looking at this year as my rakugo coming of age ceremony (rakugoka toshite no seijin shiki), so I will do my best to grow into this great name.”

Somemaru, who has been undergoing treatment and rehabilitation for a cerebral infarction since June, also attended the press conference and stated, “I want to work hard to get better in time for the name ascension. About Someya, he said, “he’s learned how present classic stories (koten rakugo) in a contemporary fashion, and he has a good character. He’s going to be taking a big name; I hope he lives up to it.”

The first Kikumaru brought recognition to the Hayashiya name in Kamigata at the end of the Edo period (1600-1868), and his biological son became the second Kikumaru. Kikumaru I is thought to have composed the rakugo classics Horikawa and Fudôbô, among others.


Previous posts on Kikumaru and Someya.


落語:三代目林家菊丸 染弥さん襲名へ 明治の大看板復活

毎日新聞 2013年09月28日 05時00分








Yuuyake Shimbun 夕焼け新聞

Yuuyake Shimbun, September 2013Eri Luman of the Portland-based Yuuyake Shimbun (The Sunset Newspaper) recently interviewed me and published a nice article titled “Gambaru Nihon- America-jin” (Hard-working Japanese Americans).

Yuuyake Shimbun article by Eri Luman, September 2013

Thank you Ms. Luman, and Yuuyake Shimbun!



Shôfukutei Shokyô, R.I.P. 松喬師匠、おつかれさまでございました。(合掌)

Shôfukutei Shokaku VI, property of Asahi News Kamigata rakugo has lost one of its great storytellers.

Last September I wrote about Shôfukutei Shokyô VI’s inspiring battle against cancer. Since then Shokyô has taken liver cancer head on by continuing to perform rakugo. This June, however, he returned to the hospital and, sadly, he passed away on July 30. He will be missed by countless family, fans and friends.

Nikkan Sports ran the following article on July 31.

Shôfukutei Shokyô Dies of Liver Cancer, Age 62  (reported July 31, 2013, 4:04 p.m.)

Though Kamigata Rakugo storyteller Shôfukutei Shokyô (real name Takada Toshinobu) was diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer in December two years ago, he continued performing as he underwent treatment. He passed away at 4:30 p.m. on July 30 at the age of 62.

His final appearances were on June 8 and 9 at the Tenman Tenjin Hanjôtei, for the Shokyô artistic school showcase (Shokyô ichimon kai). Hanjôtei manager Onda Masakazu commented, “His physical condition might not have been that great, but, it was business as usual onstage. He got laughs by weaving his disease into jokes.” 

Shokyô entered an apprenticeship in 1969 with Shôfukutei Shokaku VI, who was instrumental in the revitalization of Kamigata rakugo during the post-WWII era. Shokyô first performed with the name Kakuza, and in 1987 he received the name Shokyô VI . In Shokaku VI’s school he was junior to Nikaku and Tsurukô, and senior to Tsurubei, all who have played active roles in T.V., radio, and other media. 

Shokyô had a reputation for his unaffected, openhearted style on stage, his faithful adherence to Kamigata dialect and polite speech, and being talented at expressing the subtleties of human nature. Called the hanashika who best carried on the artistic style of Shokaku VI, he received the Arts Festival Grand Prize [from the Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs] in 2007.

In December of 2011, following a show commemorating his sixtieth birthday, he was feeling unwell and went to the hospital thinking, “maybe it’s fatigue.” It was there that he received notice that he had end-stage liver cancer. The cancer was approximately 6.5 centimeters, and surgery would be impossible. He received chemotherapy, and announced his condition at a press conference in March 2012. By April, he was back on stage.

Thereafter, he continued performing while receiving a new cancer immunotherapy to extract the components to make a vaccine from his own blood. Shokyô even joked, “Insurance won’t cover it, so I gotta keep working,” adding that “making people laugh, and laughing myself, is the best medicine.” 

Last October, Shokyô set a goal to complete a four-year, 16-show seasonal showcase called “Sixteen Nights of Shokyô” (Shokyô jûrokuya). He launched the series, but by mid-June his health began deteriorating. He had to cancel “The Fourth Night,” scheduled for July 21. 

A wake in Shokyô’s honor will be held  at 6:00 p.m on August 1. A funeral and memorial service will be held at 1:00 p.m. on August 2. All services will be held at the Osaka City Yasuragi Tenkûkan (Osaka-shi Abeno-ku Abeno-suji 4-19-115). Shokyô’s oldest son, Takada Kenta, will be representing the family as chief mourner.

Shokyô once said, “I would like to present the fragrance (nioi) and fun of Kamigata in an easy-to-follow manner, and let my speech flow naturally. I hope to bring forth a new flower during my 60s.” Considering his inspiring finalé, he did just this. He brought forth a truly beautiful flower.

Shokyô-shishô, rest in peace. Gasshô.




笑福亭松喬さんが肝臓がんで死去 62歳

Shôfukutei Shokyô, property of Nikkan Sports一昨年12月、末期肝臓がんの告知を受け、闘病しながらも高座に上がり続けた上方落語家、笑福亭松喬(しょうふくてい・しょきょう=本名・高田敏信)さんが30日午後4時30分、大阪市西区の病院で死去した。62歳だった。











Sanshi Book Review 三枝師匠の本 書評

"Shishô, Godaime Bunshi e" (Katsura Sanshi)Last year I wrote a post about the publication of Katsura Sanshi’s (now Bunshi VI) book titled Shishô, godaime Bunshi e (To My Master, Bunshi V [Yoshimoto Bukkusu, 2012]). Since I’ve read it, perhaps it is time I share my thoughts on the book. Please note, these are my own views.

What I got from the book was probably what Sanshi wanted to get from writing it — to know Bunshi V better. Sanshi didn’t know Bunshi V well because he ended his formal training for show business even before a year had passed.

Sanshi obviously felt guilty about taking his master’s name. Before doing so, he wanted to get a concrete idea about who Bunshi V was, and make it clear to readers that he would not be able to become the same person. He also wanted to create an image that he had received unanimous approval from the entire Bunshi V school (19 other members) for his name change.

The bulk of the book consists of interviews with all of Bunshi V’s pupils, in chronological order, with the exception of his interview (dialogue rather) with Katsura Bunchin, the other Bunshi V pupil who has become rich and famous through broadcast media. I found it somewhat suspect that Bunchin was saved until last.

Sanshi’s interview questions frequently seem loaded, geared toward alleviating his own doubts about taking such an illustrious name. His comments, too, seem motivated by a desire to show that he was indeed Bunshi V’s #1 pupil (in every sense of the word), one his master could be proud of.

There is constant focus on the fact that Bunshi V let pupils be “free” (jiyû ni saseru) and do just what they wanted, and that he himself focused energy on non-rakugo and rakugo-fusion projects. However, Sanshi hardly mentions the fact that Bunshi V, down to his core, was all about rakugo and passing on a tradition.

Bunshi V allowing pupils to be “free” was not a result of him being a kind, giving man, as Sanshi leads readers to believe. In my opinion, this was Bunshi V’s way of saying nicely, you don’t have what it takes to do rakugo as it should be done, so, feel free to find your own way. Essentially, Bunshi V was “raising” them by tossing them out (sute-sodachi). In doing this, it was always Bunshi V’s hope that they would one day return to rakugo proper.

I was disappointed that Sanshi did not research/write the closing section on Bunshi V’s art and life (Godaime Katsura Bunshi: Sono gei to hito). He hired a scholar to do this. The fact that Sanshi didn’t take this task on himself told me that he still hadn’t learned who Bunshi V was, or wasn’t interested. Nevertheless, it was not Sanshi’s goal to learn Bunshi V’s art, or become him.

Godaime Katsura Bunshi: Sono gei to hito is quite scholarly. This,  along with the painstakingly detailed timeline and performance history, are very informative. The interviews, however, are the most valuable part of the book. Though Sanshi’s questions often seem loaded, there is much said that transcends them. I especially enjoyed the interviews with Bunta and Bunza. All interviews serve — more or less — as dialogues (geidan) on Bunshi V’s art.

I conducted a formal geidan interview with Bunshi V on his art for my master’s thesis in Japan. As far as I know, nobody else has done one, or at least published it. From the geidan I conducted, and from my personal conversations with Bunshi V, I know well that he was an extremely giving man. He hated to tell people no. His acceptance of me as a minarai is perfect example of this. After all, Bunshi V had better things to than teach an American kid about rakugo.

I also know that Bunshi V was concerned about the future of Kamigata rakugo, that fewer hanashika were doing stories with hamemono, that there was no formal yose in Osaka. If Bunshi V could see it, he would be relieved that the Hanjôtei is now in operation. He would be pleased that Somemaru IV has more than doubled the number of  professional shamisen players. He would be proud that there are some hanashika are carrying on the tradition of rakugo that he loved most.

Sanshi has taken his master’s name, but he will not carry on the Bunshi V tradition. It is clear in his closing statements, though, that he is okay with this. Why? Because considers himself the “New Story” (shinsaku) Bunshi — Sanshi’s repertoire consists almost entirely of stories he wrote — and wants posterity to remember him as the man who made the classics of tomorrow. Whether this will happen, only time can tell.

Did Sanshi get to know Bunshi V better by writing Shishô, godaime Bunshi e? Perhaps. More than this, Sanshi learned about Bunshi V’s other pupils, and that they shared a number of experiences with each other. He also found that he didn’t have many of the experiences others did. Still, by meeting each individual and asking the questions he wanted, Sanshi found a way to feel better about moving ahead with the ascension to Bunshi VI.

Bunshi VI at press conf. May 23, 2013 (property of Daily News)According to Daily Sports Online, Bunshi VI held a press conference on May 23, in Osaka. He eagerly told reporters that he will be hosting the “Namba Grand Kagetsu Bunshi Festival” on July 17, to celebrate his seventieth birthday and commemorate a full year with his new name. He also announced that he would be featuring “The Man Who Summons Storms: The Ishihara Yûjirô Story” and a new rakugo piece “Dear Friend” (Tomo yo).

At the very end his 2012 book, Sanshi writes, “I will do my best not to soil the name Bunshi, and bring even more honor to it.” In order to accomplish this, I think he will need work hard to study Bunshi V’s rakugo, and transmit Bunshi’s most popular stories and artistic style to the next generation. If there is no transmission, the tradition will die out. Of course, it is an entertainer’s job to sell oneself, and promote their own style. However, more important than this is preserving the Kamigata tradition. Especially if your name is Bunshi, indeed, one would like to see you bringing rakugo classics to the stage.

去年このブログで、桂三枝師匠の本「師匠、五代目文枝へ」(ヨシモトブックス 2012)についての記事を書きました。今日は読み終えた感想をアップしたいと思います。あくまでも、これは個人的な見解です。












ところで、デイリースポーツによると5月23日に六代目文枝師匠が大阪で会見し、70歳を祝う古希と襲名一周年記念を迎える7月16日に「三枝改メ六代 桂文枝襲名1周年記念『文枝フェスティバルinなんばグランド花月』」を行い、そこで「嵐を呼ぶ男 石原裕次郎物語」と新作のネタ「友よ」をやると意欲的に発表した。


Sarutahiko Daijin: Against Shûmei? 猿田彦大神: 襲名反対?

Yesterday I posted the following bit on Twitter (in Japanese):

Today, on Master Sanshi’s blog: “Immediately after my offertory rakugo it started raining. I am guarded by Sarutahiko Daijin.” In Japan when it suddenly starts raining like this, is this a common expression/belief? In the US and elsewhere we usually say “God is crying.” There are all kinds in the world.

And now, this news just in from Suponichi anekkusu makes one wonder about the possibility of divine intervention…

Katsura Sanshi: Taxi Ride in a Jam, ¥140,000, Bill Yoshimoto?

Katsura Sanshi (68), who will ascend to the historic Kamigata Rakugo name Katsura Bunshi this July, visited the Sarutahiko Shrine in Ise City, Mie Prefecture, on February 22. There he prayed for a successful name-change [shûmei] celebration tour, which will begin on July 16, and last about a year and a half.

To get started on the right foot, since the god Sarutahiko Daijin is believed to help guide affairs in the right direction, Sanshi performed at the shrine the story Taiken shita bakari, which has to do with a taxi. It so happened that Sanshi’s apprentice brought with him the wrong size of kimono, so they had to leave their Ise hotel at 11pm by taxi, making a round trip to Sanshi’s home in Ikeda City, to pick up the proper habutae kimono. Recounting the hectic events Sanshi said, “We returned at 5:30am.” Not forgetting to express gratitude to the god of the shrine, he added, “It was by the grace of Sarutahiko Daijin that we could return safely, and feel refreshed despite the lack of sleep.”

Considering such a happening, Sanshi decided to change the story to one of his originals at the last minute. In a press conference that followed, he said with satisfaction, “I kind of felt that I could hear the god chuckling.” He also joked, “I meant to ask the god if I should send the ¥140,000 taxi bill to Yoshimoto, but forgot. I’m sure he would say ‘send it!'” Having announced his name-change celebration tour before the god, he also said with a tightened expression, “It’s hit me that this is all quite real.”




桂三枝 ハプニングでタクシー代14万円 吉本興業に請求する?