Hey everyone, most of the posts on the library tended to be about updates to the library (these are somewhat in the works, but not until I finish sorting out the old library lists into something more maintainable), however; today I’ve got something different for you! Rakugo Notes!
I’ll be translating some notes on each of the rakugo performed in the anime we screened both seasons of this semester, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. These describe what happens in each Rakugo so if you didn’t understand it, you can come look at these to work out what happened and then re-watch.
These stories are those that first come up in the director’s cut of the first episode.
「The Grim Reaper」
In front of a man having trouble with money, a grim reaper appears. The grim reaper casts a spell on the man, allowing him to see the reaper and teaching him an incantation to drive the reaper away. Should a reaper have made their way to someone’s sleeping face, their time is near, so naught can be done, however, should the reaper have only made their way to the foot of their bed, they can still be saved and this incantation could drive them away to do just that. Hearing this, the man opened a practice as a doctor. By driving away reapers, every patient in his care made miraculous recovery and he made a killing as a renowned doctor.
Having earned such a tremendous sum, the man engaged in an extremely luxurious lifestyle and once again returned to being penniless. Out of necessity, the man re-opened his business, however, each and every place he went, reapers sat beside the heads of his patients’ beds. As well as continuing to helplessly turn down patient after patient, his ravenous desire to earn his next great sum clouded his eyes. Taking his chance when the reaper briefly began to doze off, the man rotated the sleeping patient’s bed so it lay in the opposite direction and chanted the incantation to drive away the reaper.
Following those events, the reaper who first taught the man the incantation appeared once again. Being swept away, the man found himself in a cavern in which countless candles stood. The reaper said that candles represent a human’s lifespan and through his earlier actions, the man had changed his lifespan for that of the gentleman’s. The man pleaded with the reaper for his life, in response, the reaper produced a fresh candle, and commanded him to transfer the flame from his candle to the newer. But through the shaking of his hands, the man was finding it awfully difficult to transfer the flame. The reaper continued to softly whisper.
「It’s going out, it’s going out … … Oh, look at that, it was snuffed out」
Feeling that warning the people of the town to be careful of fire was not a roll that could be entrusted to the watchman, a group of gentlemen from the town volunteered to make the late winter rounds.
The gentlemen broke into two groups and decided that they would take turns in making the rounds, however when it came time to actually make the rounds, they weren’t sure what they should call out. Tatsu decided on「Let us be careful of fire」 and happily continued to shout it out. Pleased with himself, he completed his round and returned to the watchman’s shelter, while warming themselves by the fire, one man had brought some alcohol with him. Another man had brought some meat and a pot, so they drank while they poked at the sizzling pot.
Just as they began to get drunk, their comrades returned and knocked on the door. As there was a strict prohibition of drinking in the watchman’s shelter, in fear of being reprimanded by the others, the gentlemen tricked them into believing that the sake they were warming in their earthen teapot was simply a medicinal decoction and that the meat filled pot was simply a mouth cleanser. Gulping down a single mouthful, their comrade said 「Well, that sure is some great medicine」, and began seeing if he could get some more medicine and mouth cleanser. As the gentlemen worried all their food and drink would be consumed, they declared that was the last of it, their comrades replied 「How ‘bout while we make another round, you decoct seconds」
Hachigorou was making a visit to the residence of a retired master, while chatting, a curious wall painting caught his eye. According to the master’s explanation, the image was a drawing of Official Oota Doukan. One time when Doukan was out gathering, he met a passing shower, and headed towards a run-down building he happened to spot and there he asked for something to protect him from the rain. However, the girl who came from the building presented him a tray with a Yellow Rose branch sitting atop, and then retreated inside. At first Doukan didn’t understand, but his servant explained that, in the same style as the old poem, 「Seven or eight flowers may bloom, but alas a Japanese Yellow Rose has but one stem」, they may have been saying they had no more coats to lend (with the fibre from the branch signifying they had no fibre coats to lend). Hearing this, Doukan reflected that 「My poetic path is dark」 and thereafter made effort in his poetic studies, he eventually continued on to make a name for himself as a poet.
Hearing this, Hachigorou thought he’d try the same thing. Before long, rain began to fall and a man visited Hachigorou’s house, however the man said he would like to borrow not rain gear but a lantern. Hachigorou forced the man to ask, 「I would like to borrow some rain gear」, he decided to recite the old poem, but he couldn’t remember it exactly. Nonetheless, Hachigorou made fun of him by saying 「Your poetic path seems to be dark」, the man replied, 「The reason I’m here to borrow a damn lantern is because this path here is dark」.
「Spur of the Moment」
A clumsy newcomer burglar was warned by his boss that he wasn’t suited for the crime game and that he should wash his hands of it and go straight. He swore he’d have a change of heart and endeavour to enthusiastically commit crimes, so in response his boss guided him on how to burgle empty houses. Having been taught how to find when a house would be empty, how to get away when the owners returned home, and get away with it if he was caught by crying 「It was just a spur of the moment thing」, he made his way to burgle his first house.
The first house he entered, he was helping himself to all manner of things such as tobacco and sweet bean jelly when he heard the owner coming down from the second story. In a panic, he rushed from the house, and unfortunately left his sandals behind.
The longhouse he next snuck into seemed to have next to nothing of any value. As soon as he’d finished the thought, the owner, Hachigorou, returned home, the burglar thought there was not much he could do and hid beneath the floor. Having a feeling that his house might have been broken into, Hachigorou lied to his landlord that the money he had for his overdue rent had been stolen. The landlord wanted Hachigorou to tell him what had been stolen so a report could be sent to the police, thinking on his feet, he said his bed, shoes, chest of drawers, and listed item after item as being stolen, when asked about the details of each item he dealt with each by answering 「The inside was solid and warm, with a light indigo coloured wooden lining」.
As Hachigorou had been spouting nothing but nonsense, the burglar got out from under the floor to defend himself. When the landlord began to scold the burglar, he did as his boss had taught him and apologised with 「It was a spur of the moment thought」. Next, when Hachigorou was challenged about his lies, he also said 「It was a spur of the moment thought」.
「Stomach Ache Bug」
One upon a time, a doctor discovered a strange bug. As he was about to squish it, the bug spoke to him, giving its name as「Stomach Ache Bug」. The stomach ache is an illness which usually affects men from the waist down. Normally, it is inside the human body and acts throughout the body, affecting people’s physical and mental wellness.
It said that its most favourite food was soba, when humans eat soba, it becomes overjoyed and very active. Conversely, it’s least favourite food was chilli, and should it come into contact with chilli its body would decompose, so it retreats to its “vacation house” whenever chilli enters the body. By “vacation house” it meant the testicles. It seemed he would get a little more information from the bug, however it was at this point that the doctor woke up from his dream.
Thereafter, right on cue, a patient suffering from a stomach ache requested a house call. The doctor decided to change his treatment method from his usual course of treatment for this patient, first off, he recommended the male patient smell the smell of some soba, and when he’s got a good whiff, to have his wife to eat it. Without delay, the bug moved from the man’s body to his wife’s and started causing her negative symptoms. Almost instantly, she appeared to be in pain, so the doctor had her drink some chilli which had been dissolved in water. The bug panicked and travelled further and further down, it ran but it couldn’t see its “vacation house” anywhere. 「Where’s my vacation house… Huh, she doesn’t seem to have any vacation house」.
A gentleman who was no stranger to the establishment visited a second-hand store. This man possessed a strange hobby of collecting an awful lot of pictures of spirits. Seeing a hanging scroll with an image of a spirit which had just entered the store, which the shopkeeper had originally acquired on the cheap, the man was awfully excited and procured the item. Handing over the money he had on hand as a deposit, he asked the shopkeeper to deliver the scroll tomorrow morning.
Overjoyed that he’d made such a profit on a sale, that night he drank some alcohol to celebrate. He set the hanging scroll up in the decorative alcove and offered a drink and snack to the spirit image. Right as it became 2:30am, a female spirit came from the hanging scroll. The spirit said, even though the image of the spirit was quite an unpleasant one, still the shopkeeper had offered his alcohol, and had gone so far as to offer rest to the spirit, so in order to say her thanks, she had emerged from the picture.
While exchanging drinks with the spirit, the spirit talked about her past and put on display her songs and limericks which departed from the hustle and bustle of city life. As the night once again started to brighten, the spirit returned to her hanging scroll, but her face was bright red. Sleeping on his arms where he was, the shopkeeper dozed off. The shopkeeper had to deliver the wall scroll to the gentleman that morning, so he asked the spirit to wake up, however the spirit did not want to. When asking how long the spirit would continue to rest, she replied 「Let me sleep until 2:30am tomorrow」.
The fish market’s Genbee, Seihachi and Kiroku were together in whatever they did, as such, their group had been given the name 「Start-to-End Three」. On their way back from sightseeing as far out as Kanazawa-Hakkei, the band of three stopped to lodge in Kanagawa-juku’s Musashi Inn. The three ordered an entertainer, drinking and singing the night away, making an awful ruckus. On top of that they had begun treating the building like it was their property, the samurai in the next room felt this was something he could simply not let continue. As the night prior had also been too noisy for the samurai to sleep, he asked the young shopboy Ihachi to 「Quieten down that room」. Each time they once again became rowdy, he called Ihachi and ordered him to make them be quiet.
As the three thought that making the samurai mad would mean a lot of trouble, they decided it was time to sleep, however in some pillow talk, Genbee began talking about his love affairs. At the end of one of his illicit love affairs he’d done away with both of them and stolen their money, on hearing this, the other two went wild. However, upon hearing this story, the Samurai once again called Ihachi, and told him that he had a grudge against the men in the room next door because of what they’d done to his little brother and his little brother’s wife, and would decide their suitable punishment tomorrow morning, so he should tie them up in preparation. After being told this, in a panic, Ihachi tied the three men up for the samurai.
The next day, the samurai decided to leave as if nothing had happened. Ihachi enquired about the reason why, and the samurai said he had lied. 「Had I not said that, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night」.
Hatsutenjin is the very first festival for the heavenly gods. Kumagorou had bought a new formal coat and had just decided to wear it on his visit to the festival when his son began pestering him to take him along to the festival. Promising he wouldn’t buy anything for him from the night market, even if there was one, he reluctantly agreed to take his son along with him, however, sure enough, as soon as they were at the festival, his son pestered him to buy this and that, and began to throw a fit when his requests were turned down.
He was screaming too loudly, so Kumagorou gave in and bought him a round sweet. Kinbou continued licking through his sweet while he walked when they came to a puddle, Kumagorou tapped him on the back. When he did, Kinbou dropped his sweet and began crying. When asked where it fell, he replied 「It fell into my tummy」.
After that Kinbou continued asking for all kinds of things, some honey sweet dumplings, and a kite, each time he’d make such a fuss that it ended up really troubling Kumagorou. 「This is exactly why I didn’t want to bring you along」 and reluctantly bought a kite and gave it to him. Kinbou was overjoyed and wanted to fly the kite right away, so Kumagorou decided to show him the basics of how to do it. However, somewhere along the way Kumagorou got really into it and no matter how long he flew the kite, he wouldn’t let Kinbou have a turn. Seeing this, Kinbou said 「Dad, if you’re going to do something like this, you’re not really bringing me along at all」.
Travelling from Edo to Mt. Minobu to visit the temple, a traveller passed through several smaller mountains to get a poison erasing charm, and had begun his trek home. However, he met with a large snowfall and had to take refuge in a small mountain hut. The owner of the hut was a woman who gave her name as Okuma. Warming themselves by the fire, they talked about each other’s life stories, during which Okuma mentioned she had a past as a Yoshiwara courtesan, and that the traveller had entered as a guest. She mentioned she had failed a double suicide with a regular customer, and the two had eloped and that’s how she was in her current situation. The traveller had made it clear he was willing to offer money for his lodgings, however Okuma couldn’t overlook that he also had an awfully large sum also hidden away in his possession.
Noticing as such, Okuma offered the traveller a drink of alcoholic eggnog. The traveller went to bed while Okuma when to get some more alcohol, Okuma’s husband returned home as she left. Her husband drunk the alcoholic eggnog the traveller had left, and as he finished, Okuma finally returned. Right then, her husband’s body began to go limp and he lost consciousness. In order to steal the large sum of money the traveller had, Okuma had added some numbing medicine to the alcoholic eggnog.
Upon hearing this state of affairs, the traveller placed the poison erasing charm in his mouth and ran from the mountain hut. He found a raft and began to ride the rapids down Kaji-kazawa, however partway down, the raft came apart and ended up in pieces, the traveller began to chant his Devotion to the Mystic Lotus Sutra while he clung to the roots of a single log. Chasing after him, Okuma fired her gun at him but each shot missed its mark, somehow he had managed to escape, to which the traveller said 「WhEw, I was saved. AlL thanks to the ruots ah」.
[Though I think this was the closest I could think of, the pun here is that because of the exasperation of the traveller, his attempt to say the name of the “Nichiren Chant” (題目 Daimoku – which refers to the chant “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra” (南無妙法蓮華經 Namu Myouhou Renge Kyou) ) sounds like “timber” (材木 Zaimoku), I tried to make “roots, ah” sound similar to “sutra” but not sure that really comes across well]
Thanks for reading, I hope this helps you enjoy Rakugo better the next time you watch it. I’ll be aiming to put out another set (the seven from Episodes 2 and 3, and the two from episodes 4 and 5) at some point in the near future, and then the last set after that (the five from Episodes 6 and 7, the four from episodes 8 and 9, and then the two each for episodes 10 and 11 and 12 and 13), I was originally planning to put it in one single post, but when I’d finished the first nine I realised it had become quite long and should probably be broken up to fit a more comfortable reading pattern. If you’d prefer a different split, or have any comments or questions, feel free to let me know.
You can find the next nine stories here.