Symposium at University of Oregon! オレゴン大学でシンポジウムが行なわれます!


I am now in Oregon visiting family and taking care of a little business.

This Saturday, I will participate in a symposium titled “The Art of Traditional Japanese Theater,” being held at the University of Oregon.

The symposium will also feature Laurence Kominz of Portland State University, Alan Pate of Alan Scott Pate Antique Japanese Dolls, and Glynne Walley of University of Oregon.

This will be an afternoon of lectures exploring the nô, kyôgen, bunraku, and kabuki traditions behind the art on display in the exhibit of the same name in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

This lecture series is presented by the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at UO.  It is cosponsored by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA) and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture.

Time: Saturday, February 22 at 1:00pm to 4:oopm

Place: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Ford Lecture Hall 1430 Johnson Lane, Eugene, OR, 97403 

Price: FREE!

Open to students and the general public.

For more information, please call 541-346-1521.


今週の土曜日は、オレゴン大学で行われる「日本伝統演劇の芸術」(The Art of Traditional Japanese Theater) というシンポジウムに参加させていただきます。




日時 2月22日(土)13時〜16時

会場 ジョーダンシュニッツァー美術館のフォードレクチャーホール  1430 Johnson Lane, Eugene, OR, 97403

入場料 無料



Students Make Teachers 生徒が先生を育てる

Curtain call 6.6.2013

In his book Kamigata rakugo wa doko e yuku (Where Will Kamigata Rakugo Go?), Katsura Fukudanji (1940-) writes that “it takes at least three days to prepare for a rakugo show.” Three days…  I suppose this is one of the things that separates professionals from amateurs.

Yobikoe (kyôgen)It took my students and I about seven weeks to prepare for our recent show, Drama! Dance! Drums! Granted, for most, it was their first time doing anything on stage, let alone Japanese performing arts. There were many firsts for me too. Still, we were able to bring everything together and give the audience a fast-paced and entertaining show.

My students made me very proud.

Dojô sukuiAnd they taught me a great deal about being a teacher. They asked terrific questions throughout the term that pushed me to be better informed about Japanese drama and music.

I hope my students learned as much as I did in the course of the term.

Great work everyone (otsukaresama deshita)!

Previous article → Show This Week

Rakugo 6.6.2013「上方落語はどこへ行く」という本の中に桂福団治師匠 (1940-) が、「ひとつの会をするのに、三日はかかる…」と書きました。三日…  これはプロの素人の違いの一つでしょうね。



Komai (Kaminari)それに、「先生」という役割について色々と気づかせてくれました。毎日とてもいい質問を聞いたり、日本の演劇や音楽などについてもうちょっと説明できるように考えさせてくれました。



先の記事を読む→ いよいよ今週

nihon.buyo2 Karakasa (kouta)Shibiri (kyôgen) ShishimaiNoh-butoh fusion Nihon buyôManzai Taiko

“The Sensei” 「ザ・センセイ」

shores sensei by takacheeI am lucky to have another group of talented students, this time for the course Traditional Japanese Drama.

Last year the final project for this course was a kabuki production, which I directed the hayashi ensemble and played ozatsuma shamisen for. This year I was planning on making kyôgen the centerpiece of our show Drama, Dance, Drums, but, since I’ve got such a great group, we’re going to take on even more.

In addition to two kyôgen plays, we are  going to do a kyôgen dance (komai), a kouta (“little song”) accompanied by shamisen, a comical folk dance called Dojô sukui (Loach Fisher), a nô-butô dance fusion, and rakugo. And, believe it or not, there will be even more. My co-director and his students will be putting on several taiko and buyô numbers, including a lion dance (shishimai). We are all very excited for the show, and it is a great pleasure to teach such a course.

We have our formal rehearsal sessions on Friday afternoons. While one student was waiting for her rehearsal time, she apparently painted me from the side. I had no idea she was doing this, but was pleasantly surprised when she shared the work with me. The work (above) is titled “The Sensei.” You can see more of her work at this site.

We have about six more weeks until our recital on June 6, and we hope to see you there!






Whirlwind Week 駆け足の一週間

This was an eventful week. I spent just about every day at Somemaru’s, and here are some of the highlights:


This was a practice day, and I helped with the regular routine: breakfast, housecleaning, greeting students, serving tea, and staying within earshot of Somemaru in case he needed something. Somemaru usually decides what he wants for dinner during the last couple lessons, sending Aisome or I out for groceries. Today he felt like kasujiru (sake lees soup), which I haven’t had since last winter, and absolutely love. I have a special memory about kasujiru, which you can read a bit about here: Sunday and Sake no kasu.


I was in charge of breakfast on this day. When I make breakfast at Somemaru’s house, I try to make something just as it would be served at my parent’s house. On Wednesday I departed from my regular omelets, opting instead for eggs sunny-side-up, hash browns, bacon, toast, and orange slices. In the afternoon, Somemaru and I made ponkan (Chinese honey orange) marmalade and had a wonderful talk about his life and rakugo.

In the evening we met a group of friends at the Suzunariza Theater for an exciting Taishû Engeki production featuring the troupe led by the young and handsome Satomi Takashi.


Today was another practice day. In addition to the regular practice-day routine, I had a shamisen lesson of my own. To say the least, this is always a humbling experience. I did my best and just have to make sure I do better next time, improving on all the areas Somemaru told me to work on. During other students’ lessons, I also spent some time practicing taiko (drums) with Aisome. I’ve recently felt a new urgency to practice more since I will be leading a yose workshop in Portland, Oregon this summer. Fortunately, I still have some time left in Japan, and I’m around the right people.

Bunshi ichimon kai

I asked Somemaru if I could be excused before dinner tonight because there was a special rakugo show being put on at the Hanjôtei in the evening. It was a Bunshi ichimon kai, but not one of the typical variety. Tonight was a special charity show to raise money for the Kumano River World Heritage Site marker that was severely damaged in Typhoon Talas last September.

Katsura Bunshi V played a role in this site being built. On his sickbed prior to dying in 2005, he brushed the characters 熊野川 (Kumano River), which were replicated and enlarged for the site marker. Prior to this Bunshi also composed the instant classic Kumano môde (Pilgrimage to Kumano), this being the the last story I heard him perform.

For some reason, I felt “called” to the show tonight. I felt called to support the charity event, and to hear Bunshi’s story narrated by his #4 pupil, Katsura Bunta, the only hanashika who performs Kumano môde today. Bunta did an incredible job. In a touching moment, when he took his final bow, somebody in the audience shouted “Roku daime!!,” indicating they would rather see Katsura Bunta become Bunshi VI than Katsura Sanshi, who is set to ascend to the historic name this July.

It was a wonderful, action packed week. I am now gearing down for a quiet weekend with my books.





この日は僕が朝食を担当させていただました。師匠のお宅で朝食を作る際、必ず自分の親の家で出るようなアメリカンなメニューを用意することにしています。水曜日はいつものオムレツから離れ、その代わりに半熟(目玉) 焼き、ハッシュブラウン、ベイコン、トーストとカットオレンジにしました。昼からはポンカンのマーマレードを作りながら、落語と師匠の人生についての素敵なトークを。









Crying and Laughing with Somemaru 師匠と泣いたり笑ったり


Today Somemaru invited me to see a special taishû engeki production featuring the troupe of Hasegawa Takeya. Today Takeya’s wife, Ai Kyôka, starred in a play as “Okichi,” a woman who, legend has it, was forced to become a mistress against her will for the first American Consul in Japan, Townsend Harris (1804-78). In today’s version, Okichi reluctantly submits to the “call of duty,” but she and her true love, Tsurumatsu (Takeya), reunite years later. As happy as this reunion is, they pay for it dearly in a life filled with tragedy after heartbreaking tragedy. The couple never loses in the eyes of the audience though, because the couple’s love is undying in the truest sense. They maintain utmost dignity by refusing to let go of the one thing they value more than life: one another. Needless to say, I was deeply moved by the performance.

This  play was a tear-jerker indeed. At points the entire theater was in tears! There were also happy points in the play where the audience (a completely packed house, some standing) could not help laughing out loud.

Can something like taishû engeki discussed side by side with rakugo? On the surface, they do not seem to have a single thing in common. In taishû engeki, audiences just have to sit back and enjoy the wonderful spectacle of bright lights, blaring music, fabulous makeup and kimono, and sex appeal. In traditional (denshô) rakugo, much more imagination is needed, along with a little knowledge about early modern Japan. Yet, there are some things these arts have in common that warrants discussing them together.

While taishû engeki is decidedly dramatic and rakugo comedic, they can also be the opposite. Themes of plays and stories are often similar, as are the periods (usually Edo and Meiji) represented. Another important thing they have in common is that they are both forms of taishû geinô, or arts for the masses. Both have their roots in the lower ranks of society, and were meant for people of the same class. While entertainers in both worlds occasional become wealthy, and it is not uncommon for the rich patronize them, taishû engeki and rakugo can still be considered arts of the taishû variety.

After having a good cry, along with some good laughs at the show, Somemaru and I got Chinese for dinner and parted for the evening.

Thank you for a great Monday Shishô!