The First “Lion Show” 第一回 獅子の会

I remember hearing often in my youth the saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” These virtually opposite animals are metaphors for March weather, which tends to begin rough – wet, windy, cold – then end gentle – dry and warm. The transformation of lion to lamb represents the transition of winter to spring.

How auspicious, then, to hold “The First Lion’s Show” (Dai ikkai shishi no kai) on March 1! Please join me for what is sure to be a wonderful show at the Hanjôtei this evening. I am especially looking forward to Somemaru’s performance of the story Kyô no chazuke, and Hayashi Someza’s performance of Karuwaza kôshaku. There will also be rakugo performances by Hayashiya Someya and Katsura Asakichi, and a special shika shibai (a play [shibai] by hanashika) performance of Bakushô・Toki udon.

See you there! (Show starts at 6:30pm; ¥2500 in advance, ¥3000 at the door.)


ということで、3月1日に「第一回 獅子の会」が行われるのはとても縁起が良いですね。今晩、ご一緒に聴きにいきませんか?僕は、特に楽しみにしているのは、染丸師匠の「京の茶漬」と林家染左さんの「軽業講釈」です。林家染弥さんと桂あさ吉さんの落語もあり、「爆笑・時うどん」という鹿芝居(ハナシカが演る芝居)もありますので、ゼイタク〜。


Dinner and Karaoke ディナーとカラオケ

Tonight Somemaru invited me out to dinner and karaoke with a group of friends and pupils. The Chinese food was wonderful, and the karaoke was a blast. The best part of the evening was hearing Somemaru and Sakai Kunio (manzai artist/comedian) talk about the various jobs they’ve done together through the years, and listening to them sing songs from their younger days. Hanamaru, Someya, and Kinuyo (shamisen) were also along for the night’s festivities.

Somemaru has been incredibly generous to me since I’ve come to Japan to study under him. He has given me a number of beautiful gifts, and tonight he presented me with yet another. He gave me a valuable book that I had been wanting but could not afford myself, and he even did the wrapping.

Thank you so much, Shishô!




Long Valentine’s Weekend ロング・バレンタイン・ウィーケンド

I have been off the radar since last Friday, and I am finally back for a brief update on what turned out to be a memorable, rakugo-filled, long Valentine’s weekend.


Today I went to the afternoon show at the Hanjôtei as I wanted to hear Katsura Fukudanji perform. The lineup was fabulous. Fukudanji’s Kushami kôshaku was an absolute masterpiece, and Hayashiya Somesuke, Shôfukutei Sankyô, and Tokyo rakugoka San’yûtei Utamusashi also gave memorable performances. Two very big names appeared in the iromono slots today: Let’s-Go Shôji did mandan (lit. a comical chat/monologue), and Kimiya Tamago (daughter of the late manzai great Kimi Koishi) performed Onna dôraku, also presenting a rare, almost forgotten form of ongyoku manzai, in which comical narrative is chanted while keeping beat with two miniature mokugyo (lit. wooden fish, a hollow, wooden percussion instrument, a larger version of which is used  by monks during sutra chanting).

After the show I caught Katsura Fukudanji to ask him to sign a copy of his book. Master Fukudanji is Katsura Harudanji III’s #1 deshi, is head of the Kansai Entertainment Guild, and also regularly performs and teaches sign-language rakugo (shuwa rakugo). In addition to his many formal rakugo pupils, he is also head of a large family of sign-language rakugo artists.


Today I went to the Dôrakutei to see Hayashiya Someya perform. He did a fine job with the story Shaku no aigusuri, which, in my opinion, is also one of Somemaru’s best. I also enjoyed very much performances by Katsura Harusame and Shôfukutei Shikaku. As I’ve written previously, I enjoy listening to rakugo at Dôrakutei because it is a much smaller venue, and the distance between hanashika and the audience is therefore lessened. You can really see hanashika at work. You can see every detail of the story, and every drop of sweat.

Typically it is audience members–well to do patrons–who take hanashika out after shows, but after the show today Someya was very kind to take me out for sushi. I felt bad about him paying for such a luxurious meal, which included several drinks, but he insisted, saying I should think of him as my “older-brother” in the Somemaru ichimon. He also said he was concerned that I was spending too much money on rakugo books and not on nutritious food. It was a wonderful treat, indeed!


Someya mentioned at dinner last night that he would be making a guest appearance at Katsura Bunza’s dokuenkai (“one-man show,” for lack of better translation) this evening. I wanted to see Someya perform again, and surely wanted to see my longtime friend Bunza in action, so, off to the Hanjôtei I went, again (Thank you Monbukagakushô).

Needless to say, the show was great. Tonight Someya performed one of his original (sôsaku) pieces, Mitsugu onna, a funny piece inspired by cheesy Japanese soap operas he remembers from his youth. The story is well arranged, and the audience loved it . I tend to prefer older stories, but tonight’s sôsaku was a good one.

I have always respected Bunza as a person, and have long enjoyed his rakugo, but tonight I was convinced that he is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest hanashika in Kamigata rakugo. During the makura of his second story, he spent a good deal of time speaking about the special relationship Katsura Bunshi and Somemaru shared. I appreciated this especially, since these are the two hanashika I have called Shishô. After the makura, Bunza’s rendition of Kushami kôshaku had the audience in stitches. In all honesty, I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard at rakugo as I did tonight. I laughed so hard that I cried, and cried so hard that it hurt.


Last week Somemaru asked half-jokingly, “Matt, are you going to bring me chocolates too?” Without any hesitation, I answered, “Of course.” Well, this evening, I was in the neighborhood, and, remembering it was Valentine’s Day, a promise is a promise. I picked up something sweet and dropped by Somemaru’s house after dinner. He was busy working on something, but he appreciated me remembering just the same. We enjoyed a cup of tea and I was on my way.

Yes, it was a wonderful long Valentine’s weekend.















World Politics and Kim Jong-nam 世界の政治と金正男

Today was another great day at Somemaru’s. Though it started off in rather Japanese fashion, with my bringing Somemaru suguki (a kind of pickled turnip, tsukemono in season now) from Kyoto, our day seemed to end in Korea.

During and after breakfast I had a meaningful talk with Somemaru about important issues such as world religions and politics. While Somemaru is a hanashika–a comedian of sorts–by profession, this doesn’t mean that he is blind to problems in the world. Perhaps such a profession allows him to be that much more aware of them. Somemaru is quite concerned about the world, and is remarkably well educated about other cultures.

Somemaru is currently without a live-in pupil, so, until a new one comes along and is accepted, a few of his pupils will take turns helping him at home, or at rakugo shows, when necessary. Today Someya, his #6 pupil, came to help for the day.

I have met Someya on numerous occasions in the past, but we have never really had the chance to talk at length. Fortunately, today we had a good deal of time to speak with one another, and I was thoroughly impressed with what an intelligent man he is. He is currently reading a book about Kim Jong-Il’s exiled son, Kim Jong-nam. Someya has apparently read a number books on North Korea and is knowledgeable about the country and other world issues. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s Somemaru’s deshi after all. By the way, I have heard Someya’s rakugo several times before; he too is a terrific hanashika.

Fitting for such a day, I suppose, we all (Kinuyo, professional shamisen player and Somemaru’s deshi, incuded) went out for Korean food following shamisen lessons. Some more nice conversation went perfect with the delicious meal.






Rakugo Show Honoring Hayashiya Ancestors 林家のご先祖様の落語会

A historic rakugo show honoring ancestors of the Hayashiya family will be held tomorrow at the Hanjôtei yose at 6:30pm (doors open at 6:00). Somemaru, a few of his pupils (Someji, Hanamaru, and Someya), and Katsura Akashi will be performing a set of stories that were composed by past members of the Hayashiya rakugo line. Some of the stories have not been performed for decades, so this show will be a revival of sorts. If you have time tomorrow night you should really come and be a part of Kamigata rakugo history. There are just a few tickets left, and you can get them by calling the Rinseikai (Somemaru’s official fan club) offices at 06-6355-4659; the Hanjôtei box office at 06-6352-4874, or Ticket Pia at 0570-02-9999 (P-code: 597-700, also available at Circle K, Sankus, and 7-11 stores). I will be at the show (of course), so see you there!

明日の夜、6:30(6時開場)より、歴史的な「林家のご先祖様の落語会」が行われます。染丸師匠が、弟子さんたち(染二、花丸、染弥)、そして桂阿か枝とご先祖の作品を語ります。その中のお噺は長年語れていないもので、明日の会が復活祭でもあります。明日の晩、お時間がございましたら、ぜひ、歴史的な会を聴きにいきませんか。チケットはあまり残っていませんが、お求めの方はこちらへどうぞ:林染会事務所:06-6355-4659、繁昌亭のチケット窓口:06-6352-4874、チケットぴあ:0570-02-9999 (Pコード: 597-700、ぴあ店頭:サークルK、サンクス、セブンイレブン)。もちろん、僕も聴きにいくので、あそこでお会いしましょう!