A Talking Horse and the Tragic End of a Rakugo Founder

Hi everybody, Eishi here! How’s your day going?

As usual, here’s another quirky history lesson that you might enjoy.

It is about one of the founders of rakugo, the Japanese traditional art of comic storytelling.

Before moving onto the story of a talking horse, here’s a little history lesson for you.

The rakugo tradition began at Seigan Temple (誓願寺 せいがんじ) in Kyoto.

The head monk of this temple, Anrakuan Sakuden (安楽庵策伝 あんらくあんさくでん, 1554-1642), was a well-known raconteur of the day.

He compiled a joke book called “Seisuishou” (醒酔笑 せいすいしょう) with over 1,000 kobanashi (小噺 こばなし) or short stories. This 8-book series was published in 1623.

It is generally agreed that he was the founder of rakugo.

Then, this art was introduced to Osaka and initially developed as a form of street performance, incorporating lively music and wooden blocks (used like slapsticks) to get the attention of the passerby.

In Edo/ Tokyo, rakugo developed mainly as an “indoor art” that was performed in dedicated yose or rakugo theatres and zashiki or Japanese traditional rooms with tatami mattresses, paper screens, etc.

The founder of Edo Rakugo was Shikano Buzaemon (鹿野武左衛門 しかのぶざえもん).

He is the hero of the sad story I’m about to tell you.

In 1693, cholera was widespread in Japan and claimed many people’s lives.

In this national emergency, a ronin (a samurai without his master) and a greengrocer plotted a scam to get money off innocent people.

They tried to carry out their cunning plan by telling people a story something like this:

There once was a talking horse.

One day, this wise horse prophesied that nandina and Japanese plums will protect you from the plague!

We happened to have a lot of those!

Buy one, get one free!

It’s a very timely story right now, but as you can see it was not a very believable scheme.

Soon they got arrested, and the ronin was executed, and the greengrocer was sent to a remote island.

Now, these criminals confessed that they got the idea of a talking horse from Shikano Buzaemon’s book…

For this reason, he was also sent to Izu Ohshima Island (伊豆大島 いずおおしま) and died there…

What a terrible end for someone who established rakugo in Edo!!!

Rakugo performers have to be careful about what kind of stories they tell…

Hope you enjoyed this little history lesson!

If you did, please follow my YouTube channel as well.

Even though I have been sharing these stories here, my real intention is to make them into videos like the ones below.

I unfortunately can’t produce videos during the lockdown because I have my little imps aka kids hovering all over the place…

It’s only a click away to help my rakugo career. Thank you very much for your continued support!!!

Reference

落語「通」検定 社団法人落語協会

“Hairdresser’s Husband”: The Most Independent Women of Edo!

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/17/Hairdressing_in_Japan%2C_1905.jpg/727px-Hairdressing_in_Japan%2C_1905.jpg

Hi all, Eishi here! Hope you are doing well!

I have decided to write a blog article everyday at least until the end of the lockdown, so here is another one!!!

During the Edo period (1603-1868), the society was very male-dominant in Japan, and nearly all women were completely dependent on their husbands.

However, there was definitely one option that enabled women to make a full-time living without relying on their… ahem… lousy husbands. It was the art of hairdressing or kamiyui (かみゆい 髪結).

They of course cut their clients’ hair, but styling was a big part of their job as people of Edo often had rather complex hairstyles 🙂

Their top clients were courtesans at red light districts, and they also visited individual homes to provide their hairdressing services.

Because of the complicated hairdos people had, hairdressers were in high demand, so women in this profession made a good living.

Because of this, the expression “hairdresser’s husband” (かみゆいのていしゅ 髪結の亭主) was born. As you can guess, it meant a man who was financially dependent on his wife/ partner.

In my opinion, female hairdressers were the feminist heroes of Edo!

Actually… Himiko, the first leader of Japan was a woman, but let’s save this topic for another post.

Have a fantastic day, everybody!!!

A Samurai Who Migrated to Thailand 400 Years Ago

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/YamadaNagamasa.jpg

Hi Eishi here! How’s your day going?

After posting an article called “The Origin of ‘Kiseru’/ Japanese Pipe”, my rakugo club friend asked me how in the world it was possible for Japanese to trade with Laotians during the Edo period.

Japan began trading with Portugal in 1543, which was before the Edo period started, and Portugal had already had a strong foothold in South East Asia. So my initial guess was that it could’ve been through the Portuguese.

I don’t know if my assumption was right, but it was a possibility. Japan also traded with China, so it could’ve been through them as well.

Then, I remembered that the Ayutthaya Japanese Village (アユタヤ日本人町) in the present day Thailand had already existed. In fact, Japanese started migrating to Thailand as early as the mid-14th century!!! So it could’ve been through them 🙂

It is said that 1,000-1,500 Japanese lived in the tiny village (570m x 230m) during its heyday.

Now the leader of this village was a samurai warrior called Yamada Nagamasa (1590-1630). He was a great leader and well trusted by the Ayutthayan authorities, and he eventually became the governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat Province !!!

I learned from a TV documentary that he was given a Thai name and completely treated as a local, so some people didn’t even know he was actually a Japanese!!!

[Eishi’s Japanese Trivia 1] The Origin of “Kiseru”/ Japanese Pipe

Hi all, Eishi here!!! Hope you are having a fantastic day!!!

This morning I was doing a little research for my rakugo and encountered a very interesting trivia so decided to share it here 🙂

Have you ever seen traditional Japanese pipes before?

They look like the one in the photo above, and they are called “kiseru” (キセル). They were already in use in Japan in early 17th century.

It is usually spelled in the katakana writing system, which suggests that it is a foreign word, but I’d never thought it actually was… until today!!!

As it can also be written in kanji or Chinese characters (“煙管”: 煙=smoke; 管=pipe, tube), I had never doubted that it was a uniquely Japanese word.

I was completely wrong!!!

First of all, a Japanese pipe can be broken down into 3 different parts.

The metal tip where you put shredded tobacco is called “gankubi” (がんくび 雁首), which literally means “goose neck”. (* Technically, the very tip of gankubi where tobacco is put is called hizara or “fire dish”.)

The middle part, which is usually made of bamboo, is called “rao” or “rau” (らう 羅宇).

The metal mouth piece is called “suikuchi” (すいくち 吸い口).

Now, the words gankubi and suikuchi make sense as Japanese, but rao doesn’t.

Rao is actually from “Raosu” (Laos) as bamboo for Japanese pipes were often sourced from Laos.

So…

I have learned that the word kiseru itself is from the Laotian language!

We learn something new everyday!

My Brand-New Original Rakugo on YouTube!

Hi all, Eishi here!

I have just uploaded my brand new rakugo story called “The Fortune Teller” on my YouTube channel!

As you may have noticed, the video is not listed on the channel, but bear with me. I’ll tell you how to watch it soon 🙂

But first, please listen to my story.

After the lockdown, I temporarily lost ALL my performance jobs just like most of my actor/ performer/ producer friends. (No worries I’m not gonna ask for donations or something!)

Through this sudden development, I realised the importance of improving my online presence so that I could potentially perform rakugo on internet.

In order to do that, I need more followers on my YouTube and other SNS to have enough people who would watch my rakugo online.

I’m basically building an audience base or even better a fan base at the moment!!!

So…

I have decided to take this opportunity to increase my YouTube and other SNS followers.

(FYI: I need only 10 more followers on my YouTube channel to get a custom url, which is going to be “rakugonz”.)

As such, to access my video, please do the following:

  1. Follow my YouTube channel (Also, Twitter, Facebook, and/ or Instagram if you wanna show me extra love; you can subscribe to this blog, too!) If you already do, go to 2.
  2. Please comment on one of the videos on my channel (I learned that more comments mean increased discoverability online… of course, you can “like” as well!!!).
  3. DM me using one of my SNS, then I will send you the link to the video.

Sorry about this complicated process, but I only want to share this video with people who don’t mind doing this for me 🙂 The story is still in an early stage of development and quite rough, so I thought I wanted my “genuine supporters” (not internet trolls) to get involved in improving the story!!!

Please comment and give me feedback about “The Fortune Teller” so I can improve the story!!!

This is just the beginning of the future of rakugo!!! Thank you very much for your continued support in this journey!!!

Pinky Promise- Japanese Style!

Hi all, Eishi here! Hope you are doing well 🙂

As you might’ve noticed, my blog is very random.

It is a pure reflection of who I am as a scatterbrained Japanese comedian.

Yes, everything here is written from the perspective of an English Rakugo performer, but the topics may vary from rakugo and Japanese language/ culture to wellness, positive psychology, and philosophy.

Today’s post is about pinky promise/ swear.

The other day my son asked me to pinky-promise to take him to a certain fast food restaurant once this chaos is over.

Pinky promise is cute, but do you know how it is done in Japan?

The action of a pinky promise is the same (as in the photo above), but we say the following phrase as well.

ゆびきりげんまん、うそついたらはりせんぼんのます。ゆびきった!

指切りげんまん嘘ついたら針千本飲ます。指切った!

This roughly translates as…

Pinky promise, if you tell a lie, I will cut your finger, hit you with the fist 10,000 times, and make you swallow 1,000 needles…

Kids often don’t know the whole meaning of this phrase, but this is what it actual means…

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you are pinky-promising with a Japanese kid, think twice.

Deliver what you promise, or else…