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Reaching its perfection about 700 years ago, Nohgaku (Noh) is said to be the oldest existing theatrical performance, and is also Japan’s first Intangible Cultural Heritage designated by UNESCO. In addition to the performance itself, each Noh mask or costume also attracts the audience with its artistic excellence.
It has had much influence on various cultures such as Kabuki and Bunraku, which were created later. There are a lot of casual Japanese words which were originated in noh.
Noh is the typical traditional performing art which represents Japan.
Military commander TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, who built Osaka Castle, was such a devoted fan of Noh that he practiced it to perform in front of the emperor or feudal lords. He also commissioned several plays about his own achievements in which he played the lead himself.
As Hideyoshi loved Noh, costumes and stage properties turned into gorgeous and luxury ones which satisfied commander’s taste. Noh was loved by feudal loads, and became essential ceremonial music for families of samurai worriers. As Noh is an imaginative art, please enjoy your own imagination and resonance of the stage, thinking of scenery by yourselves.
(Noh and Osaka)
Military commander TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, who built Osaka Castle, was such a devoted fan of Noh that he practiced it to perform in front of the emperor or feudal lords. He also commissioned several plays about his own achievements in which he played the lead himself.
(Outline of today’s program “Thuchigumo”)
* “Tsuchigumo” is a historical Japanese derogatory term for renegade local clans, and also the name for a race of spider-like monster in Japanese folklore. Minamoto-no-Yorimitsu, a samurai warrior leader famous for his bravery, was suffering from unknown disease. Kocho, his maid, rushed to his bedside with medicine. Yorimitsu, however, felt so weak that he told Kocho that he might not be cured. At night, a strange monk appeared at the bedside of dozing Yorimitsu, approaching and trying to attack him, shouting, “It’s me who is afflicting you!”, throwing a thousand threads toward Yorimitsu. He managed to escape from the danger, taking out the noted sword “Hizamaru” from his bedside and slashed at the monk. Noticing the noise, his subordinate warrior “Hitorimusha” rushed to Yorimitsu.
He followed the blood left in the room to the old tumulus in the mountain (Mt.Katsuragi).
As he tried to break open the tumulus, the spirit of a spider came out of the tumulus and fought back.
After the fighting, finally, Hitorimusha managed to cut off the head of the spider and returned in the triumph to the capital. Today, please enjoy the latter part of the story beginning from the scene where Hitorimusha found the tumulus, the nest of the spirit of the spider, in the Mt.Katsuragi.
 
 
 
 
Kyogen is closely connected with Noh, with these two arts collectively called Nohgaku. They are often likened to no identical twins in that although they are distinct from each other in appearance and style they both have the same origin and are still performed alternately on the same stage.
Noh mainly express profound poetic beauty, depicting stories of warriors who fought the Taira-Minamoto War or other famous battles, or episodes from ancient literature including the “Tale of Genji”. In contrast, Kyogen is based on ordinary events happening in daily life, depicting such characters as easygoing feudal lords, the mischievous servant, Taro-kaja, bogus mountain priests, merchants, and even animals.
While the focus is on comedy, Kyogen uses wide-ranging elements of humor in its performance, from happy congratulatory laughter as in the saying, “Laugh and grow fat,” to satire on social contradictions. This feature of Kyogen provides a sense of familiarity. Even so, the laughter in Kyogen is more than a mere reaction to prankish behavior; it is also the laughter of pure pleasantness, of sophisticated depth refined over generations.
As a traditional performing art with more than 600 years of history, Kyogen has various conventions and rules regarding its performance. But the best way to appreciate Kyogen is just to sit back and sense the depth of humor. Feel free to relax and enjoy the show!
(Kyogen and Osaka)Military commander TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, who established a basis for Osaka as it is today, is said to have practiced kyogen in addition to his passion for Noh. Written records indicate that he performed Kyogen in the presence of the emperor in 1593.
(Outline of today’s program “Kuchimane” (Mimicking) A master was offered Sake(Japanese alcoholic drink). He ordered Taro-kaja (a main servant) to bring someone with whom he would enjoy drinking. Taro-kaja visited a person whom he happened to think of. The person declined the invitation saying, “I’m not a friend of your master” However, Taro-kaja forced him to come. The master glanced at him from his hiding place to find that the guest was notorious as a vicious drinker. Taking it into consideration that Taro-kaja brought the guest forcibly, the master decided to make him go back peacefully and ordered Taro-kaja to behave according to his instruction. But Taro-kaja misunderstood that he should mimic the master, and copied every behavior of him. This made the master furious and drove him to hit down Taro-kaja. This is a simple and easy story based on the stupid misunderstanding of Taro-kaja.
 
 
 
 
Kamigata-mai is a generic name for various dance forms established in the Kyoto-Osaka area (“Kamigata”) during premodern times. The most famous of these dance forms is zashiki-mai (lit. parlor dance; also called jiuta-mai), in which the dancer is casually dressed and dances quietly in a small room where folding screens are installed. Regarding the difference between mai and odori dance forms, the former is named for its suppressed, circular movement, while the latter, developed from kabuki, played on a big stage, is named for its dynamic movement, with leaping or skipping.
( Kamigata-mai and Osaka )
Kamigata-mai, originated during the Bunka era (1804-17), is best known for its jiuta-mai dance form, with choreography to jiuta local songs popular in the Kansai region. Kamigata-mai evolved also as a “parlor dance” to entertain samurai, who came to Osaka from feudal domains across the nation to trade tax rice during the Edo period. The pillar of the repertoire is hongyo-mono (nohgaku adaptations), which are based on nohgaku practiced by samurai as one of their cultural accomplishments; other categories include kokkei-mono (comical pieces) befitting banquets, and tsuya-mono (amorous pieces) depicting painful love.
The Yamamura school, oldest of the four Kamigata-mai schools*, was founded by YAMAMURA Tomogoro (later renamed YAMAMURA Busensai Goto), a choreographer recognized by kabuki actor NAKAMURA Utaemon III who was very popular during the Bunka and Bunsei eras (1804-30). The school penetrated deeply not only among professional dancers in nightlife districts, but also among ordinary boys and girls as lessons for learning good manners. For example, in the novel “Sasame-yuki (tr. The Makioka Sisters)” by TANIZAKI Jun’ichiro, which depicts an old family in the Senba commercial district of Osaka, there is a scene in which Taeko, one of the four-sister heroines, dances the famous jiuta-mai piece of the Yamamura school entitled “Yuki (Snow).”
* The four Kamigata-mai schools: Inoue, Umemoto, Yamamura, Yoshimura
 
 
 
 
Bunraku, also called “Ningyo-joruri” (lit. puppetry and recitation accompanied by the shamisen), is a “trinity” performing art of recitation, shamisen music, and puppetry. This trinity, however, was not there in the beginning.
Groups of puppeteers are said to have existed already in the Heian period (794-1185). And, through a combination of puppetry, Joruri recitation and shamisen (stringed instrument) brought to Sakai, Osaka from China via Ryukyu (now called Okinawa), the original form of Bunraku was established about 400 years ago. The mid-17th century saw a number of Joruri narration schools in Kyoto, Osaka and Edo (now called Tokyo). However, when narrator TAKEMOTO Gidayu from Tennoji Village, Osaka established the Takemoto-za theater in Dotombori to attract people with his rich, fresh expressiveness and accurate description, his “gidayu-bushi”(gidayu narration) became synonymous with joruri. TAKEMOTO invited playwright CHIKAMATSU Monzaemon to Takemoto-za to narrate his sewamono plays that vividly pictured the society of ordinary townspeople at the time, and their plays were a huge hit among commoners. In the days of TAKEMOTO Gidayu and CHIKAMATSU Monzaemon, each doll was manipulated by only one puppeteer; it was about 260 years ago when three puppeteers came to be used to operate each puppet, as they are today.
Most items in the kabuki repertoire are adaptations from Bunraku plays.

(Bunraku and Osaka)
The mid-17th century saw a number of Joruri narration schools in Kyoto, Osaka and Edo (now called Tokyo). However, when narrator TAKEMOTO Gidayu from Tennoji Village, Osaka established the Takemoto-za theater in Dotombori to attract people with his rich, fresh expressiveness and accurate description, his gidayu-bushi (gidayu narration) became synonymous with joruri. TAKEMOTO invited playwright CHIKAMATSU Monzaemon to Takemoto-za to narrate his sewamono plays that vividly pictured the society of ordinary townspeople at the time, and their plays were a huge hit among commoners. In the days of TAKEMOTO Gidayu and CHIKAMATSU Monzaemon, each doll was manipulated by only one puppeteer; it was about 260 years ago when three puppeteers came to be used to operate each puppet, as they are today.
In the early 19th century, UEMURA Bunrakuken from Awaji Island established a Joruri puppetry theater called “Bunraku-za” in Osaka, and the theater competed for popularity against “Hikoroku-za”, which was founded later. However, as Hikoroku-za and many other theaters closed, Bunraku-za became the only surviving theater that inherited the tradition of puppet Joruri. This is how the word “Bunraku” became synonymous with Joruri puppetry as one of the representative performing arts of Osaka.
(The outline of today’s program:“Osono no Sawari”-extracted from “Adesugata Onna Maiginu”)
A Japanese style pub named “Akaneya”-the Stage of “Osono no Sawari” was supposed to be in “Kamisiomachi”, which is the center of Osaka. The name of the place still remains between Uemachi-suji and Tanimachi-suji. There are also Kozu-shrine, which is famous for <Natsumatsuri Naniwakagami>, a title of kabuki and joruri performance, and the tomb of CHIKAMATSU Monzaemon,
around here. You might enjoy the program with imagination of this area.
Story: Hanshichi, a son of “Akaneya” has been in love with a prostitute “Sankatsu”for three years. His wife Osono, whom his father had chosen as his wife, has been ignored by Hanshichi.
However, Osono loves her husband and endures his coldness, never complaining about it.
There are a number of incidents including family and love affairs, which happen around Hanshichi and Osono. This story is famous for Osono’s monologue, worring about
where Hanshichi is and what he is doing. Please enjoy just the beginning part of the story.
 
 
 
 
Rakugo was established as a performing art about 300 years ago, during the mid-Edo period. Rakugo is characterized by comic monologues about the lives of townspeople or folk tales, and also by a final punch line called, “ochi” (lit. the drop). Rakugo can be categorized into “Kamigata Rakugo”, developed in Kansai (also called,“Kamigata”) region around Osaka and Kyoto, and “Edo rakugo”, developed in Edo (now called Tokyo).
Kamigata Rakugo was originally performed out in a noisy street, and in order to attract chance customers who happened to pass by with no intention to stop and listen, the performance had to be attention-getting in every possible way. For this reason, one characteristic of Kamigata Rakugo lies in its gaiety compared to Edo Rakugo, with the use of props and “narimono”(musical instruments; also called “hamemono”).
In addition, Kamigata Rakugo takes the method of talking to audience in Osaka dialect, which is full of loveliness and a sense of service. It always puts importance on the communication with audience.
Dialog between characters is very important for Rakugo. Two characters can be distinguished by changing the direction of speaker’s face. This technique is called “Kamishimo o tsukeru”, which literally means “distinguish between upward and downward”.
In Rakugo, when a character talks to a senior, the speaker sees in the direction of left upward, while when talks to a junior, the speaker sees right downward. Such human relations or sense of distance can be delicately expressed by direction of eyes and body movement.
(Rakugo and Osaka)
In Osaka, it is said that Rakugo is originated in narrative art, which was performed by
a Rakugo speaker in middle-Edo era, named YONEZAWA Hikohachi in the precinct of Ikutama Shrine in Osaka. While it was a kind of street performance at first, later it was performed in a vaudeville theater. A lot of funny stories where ordinary townspeople act lively as a protagonist were created. Stories of these ordinary people, such as an old master and his wife in an established shop, their son (young master), their daughter, a general manager (Banto), an assistant manager (Tedai), an apprentice (Decchi), or residents of “nagaya”, a wooden one-stored row house, are especially full of wisdom of life, and teach us that there are countless ways to enjoy everyday life even if there is not much money. So Rakugo is popular also nowadays.
 
 
 
 
Kodan is a vaudevillian performing art in which a professional storyteller tells a story in front of a desk. Initially termed “tsuji-koshaku” (lit. street storytelling), it used to be rhythmical annotated recitations of such war tales as Taiheiki (Chronicle of the Great Peace).Kodan had been playing a role to deepen the citizen’s understanding of historic incidents and news, by adding comments and simple explanations when there had been no mass media such as a radio, TV or newspaper as nowadays.
 Kodan established itself as a storytelling art during the Bunsei era (1818-1829). Its subjects diversified with time to include “sewamono” (stories of the lives of ordinary people) as well as news around town, in addition to such traditional topics as heroic stories, vengeance, family troubles and politics. These stories also served as referential materials for many works of kabuki and Joruri. Kodan stories were even transcribed for printing during the Meiji to Taisho period (1868-1926), which became the basis for popular fiction. Newspapers also carried kodan transcribed in shorthand, which gained much popularity. Kodansha Ltd., one of the biggest publishers in Japan, was founded based on the success of Kodan books.
(Kodan and Osaka)
Kamigata kodan, developed in Osaka, was enthusiastically received during the Meiji to Taisho period. This led to the establishment of “koshakuba”(permanent Kodan theaters) in many parts of Osaka City for people to enjoy kodan. The repertoire of Kamigata kodan contains many Osaka-based stories. (Outline of today’s program, “Asako Hirooka Story”)Asako Hirooka is a female entrepreneur who represents Meiji-era. She has been admired as “A heroic women of the era” because of her dynamism and intelligence. Daido-Seimei(Daido Life Insurance Company), one of the biggest life insurance companies in Japan, was established in 1902 by the merger of Gokoku-Seimei in Tokyo, Hokkai-Seimei in Hokkaido and Kajimaya, an operating body and which run Asahi-Seimei (which is the different company from present Asahi-Seimei(Asahi Mutual Life Insurance Company)) at that time. Kajimaya, one of the richest merchandises in Osaka in Edo-era, had been declining due to the upheaval of Meiji Restoration. It is Asako Hirooka, who got married to Shingoro Hirooka in Kajimaya at her age of 17, that saved the Kajimaya from the crisis.
Asako’s motto is “More than Ups and Downs” (making a parody of Japanese proverb, “Ups and Downs of Life”:In Japanese,“Nana korobi Yaoki”). She participated in the establishment of Kajima Bank and a mine business. She fully exhibited her skills including her deep involvement in the establishment of Daido-Seimei, inviting skilled human resources such as Kojuro Nakagawa, etc.
After rebuilding Kajimaya, Asako handed over the business to her son in-low, Keizo Hirooka (the second president of Daido-Seimei). She then devoted herself to the improvement of women’s social position and established Japan Women's University.Asako Hirooka, who passed away in 1919 at the age of 71, left no last words based on her thought “What Iusually say is my will”. Asako has run through the eras of Edo, Meiji and Taisho at her full speed.She is a model of heroin of “Asa ga kita”, the NHK morning TV serial story of latter half of fiscal 2015, which started on September 28.Today,the story of Asako Hirooka will be talked by Kodan.
 
 
 
 
Rokyoku is a narrative art accompanied by the shamisen, and was perfected at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Rokyoku began as a street performance based on older joruri, sekkyo-bushi (chants of Buddhist tales) and saimon-katari (chants of traditional literature and worldly episodes). Later, an Osaka entertainer named NANIWA Isuke appealed greatly to the public with his new style of performance; it is said that, for this reason, the performance was named “naniwa-bushi” after the name of the performer. Rokyoku is another name which was given later.
Most items in the rokyoku repertoire appeal to ordinary people’s sense of “love versus duty.” Rokyoku became extremely popular during the 1920s and ‘30s, and the term naniwa-bushi came to be used as a general word, in such phrases as “just like naniwa-bushi” to refer to a story dealing with love versus duty. Rokyoku stories were taken from many genres, including kabuki, kodan, joruri, and also the news of the times.
The main feature of rokyoku lies in its storytelling method with fushi (chants) and tanka (narration). Fushi is the chanting part where the performer sings about the situation or feelings of characters, while tanka is the dialogue part where the performer plays the role of each character. In learning rokyoku, tanka are often said to be more difficult than fushi; there is even a saying that goes, “Three years to learn fushi and five years for tanka.”
(Rokyoku and Osaka)
As seen in the genre name naniwa-bushi being derived from the name of performer NANIWA Isuke from Osaka, the culture of Osaka certainly provided the setting for the formation of rokyoku. Even today, rokyoku includes a type of fushi chant called Kansai-bushi.
 
 
 
 
Music and dance are always present at a party with guests. In Japan, female entertainers called geiko (geisha in the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo) have flourished widely for such occasions, exhibiting their skills and handing them down for generations. Geiko have a wide-ranging repertoire that contains dancing, singing, and playing the shamisen (three-stringed instrument) as well as percussion instruments. Through this tradition, various types of party entertainment have been developed.
Strictly speaking, entering the party site, such as a parlor at a ryotei (traditional Japanese-style restaurant) or ochaya (establishment where geiko entertain), is already considered ozashiki-asobi in itself. However, ozashiki-asobi in common speech refers to calling geiko to a party to enjoy their music and dance, as well as playing games with them. Many different types of ozashiki-asobi are known from olden times.
(Ozashiki-asobi and Osaka)
Since red-light districts were established by authority during the Edo period (1603-1867), Osaka’s four major nightlife districts-Kitashinchi, Nanchi, Shimmachi and Horie-enjoyed popularity and prosperity. Times have changed since then, with only Kitashinchi and Nanchi surviving, but these two areas still keep up the tradition.
Geiko are also involved in quite a few festivals at shrines in Osaka, which indicates their high popularity.
 
 
 
 
Silent movies, or katsudo-shashin in the old Japanese, is said to have first appeared in 1895, when the Lumiere brothers from France released the cinematograph in Paris. However, optical lanterns, which can be called the predecessor of today’s movies in terms of optical projection devices, had already been invented in the 17th century and introduced to Japan in the late 18th century.
Optical lantern slideshows with musical accompaniment, narration and elaborate mechanism, which were called utsushi-e in Edo and nishiki-kage-e in Kamigata, had been all the rage in Japan since the early 19th century. They were so popular that they even had regular venues.
With such spread of image culture, the cinematograph by the Lumiere brothers was released in Japan in 1897, almost simultaneously with the vitascope, invented by Edison. Since both devices projected silent movies, a film interpreter, later called a katsudo-benshi (lit. orator for moving pictures), was indispensable at a screening. Another requirement for a successful screening was that the film interpreter worked in perfect harmony with the cinematographer, because projectors in those days were operated by hand.
(Silent Movies and Osaka)
Despite a boom in nishiki-kage-e in Osaka since the end of the Edo period, the first movie shown in Japan is thought to be the release of the cinematograph at the Osaka Nanchi Embujo theater on February 15, 1897. A week later, on February 22, the vitascope was also released at the Osaka Shimmachi Embujo theater. The film interpreter at the vitascope screening was UEDA Hoteiken, a skilled gidayu narrator born into a merchant family in the Minami-Semba district, and recognized as Japan’s first katsudo-benshi. As these facts show, Osaka is the birthplace of movies (katsudo-shashin) in Japan.
 
 
 
 
Onna-doraku is an entertainment with shamisen music, singing and dancing by one or more female performers.

At rakugo theaters called yose, the program shows rakugo performances in black letters while other variety acts are written in vermillion. Due to this custom, entertainments other than rakugo were classified as “iromono (lit. colored),” and onna-doraku used to be played as one of such iromono acts. Onna-doraku was actively performed in Tokyo (formerly Edo) as well, but the art is now extinct in Tokyo due to a lack of successors.

(Onna-doraku and Osaka)
In the Kamigata (Kansai) region, onna-doraku was at its peak during the Taisho period (1912-1926), and was gradually merged with such entertainments as manzai (comic dialogue) and mandan (comic monologue).

Since around 1965, performer AZUMA Hinako (1924-1980) became popular with her “onna-hodan (lit. female free talk)” developed through arrangement of onna-doraku, holding a shamisen in her hand and satirizing social conditions in her speech. The best part of her performance is said to have been her stylish humor; she would talk without playing the shamisen, even while pretending to play it at any moment, and would slowly hold her plectrum in the middle of her talk but would not play it after all.
 
 
 
 
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