Hatsutenjin (初天神) or “A New Year Visit to the Shrine”* or even more precisely “A New Year Visit to Tenjin Shrine” is one of the most widely performed rakugo stories in Japan.
As the title suggests, it is a story about a New Year visit to a shrine where Tenjin (天神) is enshrined, and it is considered an auspicious story and often performed in January.
Tenjin is the god of learning, but he was an actual historical figure called Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真 845-903 AD) before enshrined.
Michizane was a scholar, politician, and poet of the Heian period (平安時代 794-1185). He was enshrined as a god because of his immense contribution to the academia.
Tenjin Shrine or Tenmangu is where Michizane is enshrined, and shrines all over Japan enshrine him as their patron god. Among them, Dazaifu Tenmangu, Osaka Tenmangu, Kitano Tenmangu, and Kameido Tenjin Shrine are particularly famous.
Hastutenjin was originally a Kamigata Rakugo** created by Shofukutei Shochiku (松富久亭松竹 DOB/ DOD unknown), the founding father of the Shofukutei (笑福亭) clan. It was exported to Tokyo by Sanyutei Enba III (三代目三遊亭圓馬 1882-1945).
Having said that…
this story is almost nothing to do with Tenjin Shrine itself, but it’s a simple lighthearted story about a relationship between a father and his son.
You can watch the story at the bottom of this post, but here is what dango looks like.
Hope you will enjoy the story!!!
* You might have noticed that my YouTube thumbnail says “The First Visit to Tenjin Shrine”, but it is mistranslated. The official translation by my master Kanariya Eiraku is “A New Year Visit to the Shrine”, but I also presented a more literal translation “A New Year Visit to Tenjin Shrine” for educational purposes.
** Rakugo from the Kansai region especially from Osaka and Kyoto
Japanese Kites: Momotarou2012, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons