A critical study of kamigata rakugo and its traditions

Shores, Matthew Wayne
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2014]
There are two distinct rakugo traditions in Japan, one based in Tokyo, the other in Osaka. Many people believe them to be the same, which is understandable since they look similar on the surface. Both are one-person arts with the same basic conventions. Hanashika, or rakugoka (storytellers) perform in kimono and narrate stories using two properties, a fan and a hand towel. There is a common belief that rakugo is essentially an Edo/Tokyo art, this being a consequence of the tendency to focus on Japan's dominant center. The present study will show that Kamigata rakugo is not an insignificant regional offshoot of the Edo/Tokyo art, but something that developed on its own separate trajectory, grounded in the distinctive cultural context of Kamigata-Osaka. A review of Kamigata-Osaka history and the region's comic storytelling from the early modern era (1600-1868), along with critical analyses of selected Kamigata stories told today, will show that Kamigata rakugo is a product of the Kamigata-Osaka sociocultural milieu. Stories are more geared toward local audiences in that they are routinely musical and hade (colorful, flamboyant). Kamigata rakugo is also 'merchant centered'. There are any number of stories in the repertoire set in and around merchant homes. Even stories that are not tend to have references to the merchant world or contain qualities beneath the surface that can be associated with Osaka's historic chōnin class. Interestingly, however, merchant stories usually do not reflect shōnin katagi--the way idealized merchants are perceived to act, think, and feel. Instead of being presented as hard workers, innovative, and skilled, they are regularly portrayed as unskilled, obtuse, and irresponsible. This incongruity creates the basis for much of the humor in Kamigata rakugo stories, but also points to a transgressive undercurrent in the art.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2014.
Includes bibliographical references.
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