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18 2010

I Love Rakugo -2-

下谷神社

(A continuation of the previous post)
I got the ticket as a gift and went to Shitaya Shrine (下谷神社) where the rakugo event was held on Thursday evening. The shrine is in Inaricho (稲荷町) near Ueno and famous for the birthplace of yose (a rakugo theater). It’s said that in 1798 the first performance facilities for rakugo were established inside the shrine grounds. Until then, rakugo was performed on a street or in a rented place.

落語会

In 2010 the venue was a large hall on the second floor of the shrine office. The photo above shows the stage in the hall. The main performer was Ichiba (柳亭市馬, 1961-, his photo and introduction on Rakugo Association’ HP), a well-qualified mid-career performer, and the others were his apprentices.

Ichiba told 2 stories that night. I’m going to introduce a digest of one of them.

The Other End (片棒, the original story appeared in a book published in 1705)
(Befor telling a story, a performer always gives a talk related to the one he’s going to depict. In this case, a performer would talk about people who are stingy with their money for a while.)

[Scene 1: dialogs between an owner of a large retail store in Edo and a head clerk of the store]
The owner known for his stinginess said he was approaching retirement age and wondering who was the best successor among three sons. He preferred the one who could save his wealth and run the business steadily. The clerk advised him to ask his sons individually what kind of funeral one would hold for his father. The clerk said, “Way I see it, a funeral shows its host.”

[Scene 2: dialogs between the father and the eldest son]
This son was shanty and said, “I want to hold a lavish funeral which deserves your reputation. I’ll banquet more than 20,000 people at Tokyo Dome.” The father angrily said, “I won’t die first!” (There wasn’t Tokyo Dome in the Edo period, but a performer often arranges the story to promote an understanding of the audience.)

[Scene 3: dialogs between the father and the second-eldest son]
This son was a music and dance lover and said, “I want to hold a unique funeral featuring a chorus, geisha dancers, a parade of floats and so on, which will go down in the history.” The father angrily said, “I’m going to repudiate you.” (Ichiba is a versatile entertainer. He is a very good singer and wooden flute player. In this scene he sang songs and festival music a cappella through depicting the funeral. The audience was excited and gave him a big round of applause.)

[Scene 4: dialogs between the father and the youngest son]
This son was stingier than the owner and said, “I understand death as coming to naught, so a funeral should be as simple as possible. To tell the truth, I’d like to leave your corpse exposed to the vultures. However, I’ll hold an inexpensive funeral.” The father was happy to hear it and asked its details. The son said, “ I won’t buy a casket because it’ll be burned with you anyway. There are many large wooden containers for pickles at home, so I’ll put you in one of them, bind it with rope, sling it from a stick and carry.” The father said contentedly, “Use the oldest container.” When the son told he’d shoulder one end of the stick and hire a parson for the other end, father said, “Don’t waste money, I’ll do it.”

A rakugo performer plays 5 characters in this story through throwing his voice, changing in pitch and tone, and using gestures.

A good performer like Ichiba makes us imagine and picture scenes by telling a story.

Well, I hope you feel just a little bit the atmosphere of rakugo!
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