Eishi’s Rakugo Commentary No.4 [A New Year Visit to the Shrine 初天神]

Traditional Japanese Kites

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.

Sugawara no Michizane (菅原 道真 845-903 AD)

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.

Dango

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

Photos Credit

Japanese Kites: Momotarou2012, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reference

落語手帖 矢野誠一

Eishi’s Rakugo Commentary No.3 [Nopperabo のっぺらぼう]

[You can watch this rakugo story at the bottom of this post. Please let me know what you think of it!!!]

In my personal opinion, this is one of the uniquest rakugo stories of all.

This is not because it is a pure ghost story with very little laughter but mainly because it was inspired by a story written by Lafcadio Hearn or better known in Japan as Koizumi Yakumo (小泉 八雲 1850-1904).

The story of Nopperabo had already existed as folktales before his writing, but it was him who made it famous.

In 1850, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn was born in Greece to a Greek mother and an Irish father. Due to family complications, he moved to Dublin and then to the United States where he worked as a newspaper reporter.

As a correspondent, he was sent to French West Indies for 2 years, and then finally ended up in Japan where he spent the rest of his life.

He got married with a Japanese woman and became a Japanese citizen himself.

He is the reason why I am so attached to this story.

Someone from overseas bothered enough to learn, live, and love the Japanese way, and he shared his learning with the west and ended his life as a Japanese citizen.

I feel so closely to this man perhaps because I am in a little similar situation myself as someone who has spent more than half of his life overseas and married to a non-Japanese woman.

Whenever I perform this story, I think of him, and I feel immensely honoured to carry on with his story.

Going back to the story itself, it had already existed as I mentioned earlier.

There is a mention about Nopperabo in Sorori Monogatari (曽呂利物語 そろりものがたり) in 1663.

The fascinating thing about this particular Nopperabo is that he was over 2m tall!!!

In general, people believed that animals such as foxes, racoon dogs, or mujina (Japanese badgers) turned into Nopperabo and tricked humans.

In Koizumi’s version, the culprit was a mujina.

You can read the original story here on The Project Gutenberg website. As you can see, the term “Nopperabo” is somehow not used in his story.

Now you can watch Nopperabo below and see how the original evolved into a rakugo story.

References

のっぺらぼう

Lafcadio Hearn

Eishi’s Rakugo Commentary No.2 [Jugemu 寿限無]

[The recording of this story is at the bottom of this post.]

Jugemu (寿限無) probably is one of the best-known rakugo stories in Japan along with Time Noodles (時そば) and Scary Manju (まんじゅうこわい).

It is also one of my favourite stories to perform for people who are new to rakugo.

This tale is about this Japanese boy who had an unnecessarily long name, which would cause all sorts of problems. I am very glad that my name is NOT…

Jugemu jugemu
Gokouno surikire
Kaijari suigyono
Suigyoumatsu unraimatsu furaimatsu
Kuneru tokoroni sumutokoro
Yaburakoujino burakouji
Paipo paipo paipono shuringan
Shuringan no gurindai
Gurindai no ponpokopi no ponpokona no
Chokyumei no chosuke

(*There are some different variations.)

The exact origin of this story is unclear as its basic structure appears in many books and folktales.

The prototype of this story is found in Shasekishu (沙石集) or “Sand and Pebbles”, which was a collection of Buddhist parables compiled by a monk called Muju (無住) in 1283.

It was widespread, and the same concept can be found in Kyogen and a traditional lullaby from Shinano Azumigouri Yamato Village (信濃安曇郡倭村).

One of the scary variations I have heard of before is that Jugemu drowns because his name was a bit too long…

Just like the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales, some stories became un-PC, so they have been rewritten over time as rakugo is not only a traditional art but a popular art at the same time.

(My Jugemu might be more appropriate to be called “New Zealand Jugemu”! 😁)

References

落語手帖 矢野誠一

沙石集

Eishi’s Secret Film Project Revealed!

How are you all doing? Eishi here AGAIN!

Thanks to my voice issues, I’ve been finding my creative outlet in writing this week. Hope you are not sick of reading my version of War and Peace.

The title today is a…

click bait…

but I am telling you more about the film project that I mentioned in another post.

It is an Asia New Zealand Foundation funded film project, and it will be directed by the dangerously talented film director/ academic extraordinaire, Fiona Amundsen.

This will probably become one of the most important works in my life as a rakugo performer and a human being.

It is all Fiona’s concept, and I just happen to be someone with the knowledge and skills that she needs to complete her project.

As a film director, an aikido practitioner, and a good human being who understands the utter stupidity of war, she came up with a concept to combine the remembrance/ reminder of the mistakes humans committed in WWII, the aikido concept of Zanshin, and the Japanese traditional storytelling of rakugo.

We connected closely especially because of our stance on war, and we have decided to create something that would hopefully show better options for fellow humans.

As some of you may know, I lost my great grandfather and other family members in Nagasaki, and my grandpa and great uncle were both hibakusha.

So I have a very strong reason to get involved in a project like this.

We have just started working together yesterday, so I thought this is a good time to let you know.

For those who want to know more about this project, please read Fiona’s interview. It was written for Tokyo Biennale, but we are trying to create the New Zealand version of this film/ installation.

Eishi’s Rakugo Commentary No.1 [Chotan 長短]

[The video is at the bottom.]

Hi there, how are you doing? Hope everything is well with you 🙂

As a part of my Online Rakugo Project, I have just decided to write commentaries about my stories so that you can understand and enjoy them better.

I am also secretly hoping that it would increase viewership magically.

I will be talking about the origins of the stories, techniques, and other trivia.

The first up is “Chotan” (長短) or “Long-Tempered vs. Short-Tempered”.

It is said that this story is based on “Wakan Rikutsu Monogatari” (和漢理屈物語), which was published in 1667.

This title, by the way, roughly translates as “Logical Tales from Japan and China”, but I have no idea what is so logical about it…

As the title suggests, the concept of “Chotan” originated in China, and the same story is found in “Xiao Fu” (笑府: Pronounced “Shouhu” in Japanese) written by Feng Menglong (1574–1646).

So this is actually a Chinese story if we go all the way back.

The premise of this rakugo is what would happen if someone with the shortest-temper becomes the best friend with someone who is extremely laid-back.

I was told by my master that this story is performed with face.

So… pay attention to my facial expressions to enjoy this story!

Feel free to ask me questions in the comment section below.

REFERENCE

落語手帖 矢野誠一