Shime-daiko 締太鼓

Today was lesson day at Somemaru’s. In addition to my shamisen lesson, I also learned how to tighten a shime-daiko, which has to be slackened after every use in order to preserve the taut animal skin. The reason I wanted to learn how to do this is because I will buy a shime-daiko of my own before returning to the United States. If I am going to teach college students how to play, organize amateur yose productions, and host professionals in the future, I will to need to know how to use and care for this instrument properly.

Tightening and securing a shime-daiko takes a lot of muscle. In the yose, you use your hands, legs and feet – and two bachi (drum sticks) – for the job, and it can be dangerous if your not careful…  I was taught a couple ways to do tighten a shime-daiko today, both of which I was advised not do in front of practitioners of noh theater, which also regularly uses this drum. Somemaru has a rare book about the proper way to care for and play shime-daiko, so I made a copy of this for future reference.

Somemaru was very kind to give me an introduction to a respected taiko maker, the Maruoka family, which has been in business since Meiji 3 (1870). Somemaru and other professionals in various arts (e.g., noh, kabuki, etc.) rely on Maruoka Taiko for quality instruments. This is the kind of store you would do well to have an introduction to, and call before going. As with any instrument, there is a very wide range of prices, but what I found most interesting is that you do not simply go in and buy a drum. You discuss your needs – and budget – then the drum maker recommends a selected combination of parts: animal skin (kawa) for drum head and base, wooden body (), and cords (shirabe). Of course one also needs things such as bachi, a stand (teren), and a case for transport.

Finally, all Maruoka drums are handmade, and orders can take up to one or two months. This is perfect for me since I need at least that much time to save the money it will cost. I am excited to get my own shime-daiko and begin practicing. I should probably apologize to my neighbors ahead of time…

今日、師匠のお宅でお稽古日でした。三味線のお稽古と共に締太鼓の締め方を習わせていただきました。皮を守るため、締太鼓を使った後毎回毎々緩めないといけないことまでも… なぜ締め方を習いたかったというと、アメリカに帰国する前に締太鼓を買い求めようと思っているからです。将来に大学生に鳴り物を教えたり、素人落語会を行ったり、プロ噺家をアメリカに招待したりするのであれば、やはり自分で叩くようにならないといけないし、ちゃんと楽器のケアもしないといけません。


とてもありがたいことに、この間、師匠が評判の高い太鼓のお店に紹介してくださいました。丸岡太鼓店 (創業明治3年) と言いますが、染丸師匠のみならず、他の演劇(能楽、歌舞伎など)のプロにも信用されているお店だそうです。このようなお店では、ご紹介があった方がいいでしょうし、本社に訪ねる際、先にお電話していった方もいいかもしれません。どんな楽器にしても同じですが、締太鼓は幅広い価格帯で販売されています。僕にとって最も興味深かったのは、締太鼓一丁をそのまま買うんではなく、太鼓を何に使うや、予算などの相談の上、適当な部品 (皮、胴、しらべ) を進んでくださいます。もちろんですが、バチもテレンもケースも必要です。


Christmas Carving クリスマス木彫り

This year I enjoyed another Christmas Eve at Somemaru’s house.

During the day I helped with some cleaning and decorated Somemaru’s balcony with Christmas lights.

As evening approached, we turned on the Christmas lights, and prepared dinner, which included an appetizer of fried chicken, a longtime Christmas favorite in Japan thanks to the marketing department at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The main dish was Hayashi-ya Rice, or hashed beef over rice, Somemaru-style. We began properly too; with sparkling wine and a toast.

And of course, after dinner came Christmas cake and tea.

As it is finally complete after several months of work, I chose this day to give Somemaru his wood carving. He seemed to like it, and that made me truly happy. (See below for captioned  photos of the carving.)

Somemaru also gave me a thoughtful gift this evening: a signed paperboard (shikishi) with a personalized greeting that reads, Matô ni ikiru shiawase (Happiness is living the way you see fit). [This is also a play on my name: Happiness is living like Matt.] 

Somemaru shishô, thank you for making Christmas special this year too.












Hanjôtei’s 5th Anniversary 繁昌亭5周年

Today marks five years since the Hanjôtei opened to the public on September 15, 2006. The day began with a formal ceremony, followed by a press release. There was plenty of rakugo on the bill as usual, but the day’s main attraction was “Bakushô (lit. explosive laughter) Kabuki,” a hanashika rendition of the famous play Kanjinchô (The Subscription List). The three stars of the show were Tsukitei Happô (Togachi Saemon), Hayashiya Somemaru (Minamoto no Yoshitsune), and Katsura Sanshi (Musashibô Benkei).

I attended the day’s opening show. The costumes and makeup were outstanding, all applied by theatre professionals. The actors were even better, getting laugh after continuous laugh from the audience. Throughout the show kakegoe (emotional cheers of support, often heard in kabuki theaters), came from all directions.

Bakushô Kabuki” was staged just prior to intermission, so I imagine Somemaru had no break as he rushed to get out of costume, remove his thick makeup (quite difficult, messy, and time-consuming), get into his own kimono, and get ready to go on as the morning show’s headliner.

Bakushô Kabuki was staged three times today, so all people involved, especially the stars, must have been quite exhausted come the end of the day. They did this for an important cause though; to celebrate the Hanjôtei’s fifth anniversary, which wouldn’t have been possible without a supportive and enthusiastic public.

Congratulations on five years Hanjôtei! Thank you for a wonderful show everybody. Otsukaresama de gozaimashita.

I couldn’t take pictures during the show, but I should be able to get some taken by public media in the coming days. In the meantime, here are some shots from the pre-morning show festivities (left, and below).











Somemaru’s International Spirit 師匠の国際スピリッツ

Today I spent the day at Somemaru’s. He has recently agreed to give an Australian Ph.D. student shamisen lessons while she is here on research, which has to do with music in rakugo (i.e., yosebayashi). Today was her first day. Of course she will be expected to speak Japanese and be able to follow and make progress in lessons, just as his other Japanese students. I believe she is up for the challenge.

With an American and now an Australian under his tutelage, Somemaru is becoming quite “international.” Well, I guess he was so long before we came along. He has traveled to more than 20 countries for rakugo-related business!

Somemaru’s current live-in pupil, Aisome, jokingly asked us not to speak English around Shishô, because it tends to “infect” his speech for the next week or so.

I’m not sure about that, but one thing I do know is that Somemaru is generous to take on informal pupils from other countries. Thanks to him we are having unforgettable research experiences.





Omelets, Shamisen, Maps, and Deer オムレツ、三味線、地図と鹿

Today I had a very nice day at Somemaru’s house.

He requested omelets for breakfast, so I stopped on my way to do some grocery shopping. Fortunately the omelets turned out okay. Okay, I will be completely honest: the first one was a flop — it looked more like a scrambled omelet — but that one went to me, of course.

After breakfast, Aisome and I cleaned the house and set out shamisen, etc., for a day of lessons. Now that I am spending most of my time on my research, I really miss being able to hear Somemaru’s shamisen and singing. Today was, therefore, a real privilege.

Somejaku (#5 deshi) stopped by Somemaru’s house today. It had been a while since I had last seen him, so it was nice to see and talk to him, too.

After shamisen lessons, we went grocery shopping, and then had fun preparing a wonderful dinner. After dinner, Somemaru shared with Aisome and I a great collection of Osaka maps. Maps in the set include pre-Edo-, Edo-, and Meiji-period reprints. On map after map he explained where scenes in rakugo stories occur. It was a treat to view the maps with Somemaru, and I am looking forward to taking my time to study them in the future.

Today Somemaru had a new hanging scroll up. This one is quite possibly my favorite yet. I was surprised when I saw Somemaru’s name signed on it, along with his personal seal. The deer in the scroll is great because he allows the viewer freedom to wonder why he is gazing upward. Is he looking at a crow in the tree above? Is he cooling his neck in an unexpected summer breeze? Is he trying to hear something deep in the woods behind him? This is a great scroll because it allows our minds to wonder, our hearts to play.

Thank you for another nice day, Shishô.