5. Promotion to Futatsume: the happiest moment of my life

Shinoharu Tatekawa

This may be a bit out of the blue, but which human emotion (delight, anger, sorrow, or pleasure) do you use as a base when talking to people? For instance, if you talk about recent events, do you talk about something pleasant and fun, or about things that made you angry or sad? Which topic do you usually choose?

If you were to ask me which emotion I would pick, I would definitely and overwhelmingly go with anger. I sound like an obnoxious person a little bit, don't I? But I would choose "anger." Or "anger," occasionally "sorrow."

This is probably due to the nature of my profession. Most people do not find brags funny, so rakugo performers do their best to avoid brags.

When we perform a pleasant and fun rakugo story, however, people often perceive this as brag, even though it was never our intention to brag. Now, don't you come across a situation like this sometime? When you are complaining about something, the other person might tell you "OK, OK, just another brag." In such cases, even though you think you are expressing displeasure with something, in reality, your story is colored by "delight" and "pleasure" without you even noticing it.

Conversely, it is highly unlikely that stories of failure, slightly annoying happenings, or slightly sad events would be perceived as brags, so they are relatively safe from the perspective of making people laugh. Remember, "slightly" is the keyword here. That is why we often tell such stories.

This introduction got quite long. But anyway, this time I would like to share with you some happy stories. "What? No way!" you might say, but once in a while they are OK.

People often ask me about the happy occasions I have experienced in my work. For me, there are two specific moments when I felt truly happy to be a rakugo performer. The first one is the moment I received my name as a rakugo performer, and the second one is my promotion to futatsume (a recognized rank for independent rakugo performers).

I was so happy when I received the name "Shinoharu." It happened on New Year's Eve, one year and three months after I became a disciple. After the big year-end cleaning, I was called into my master's office, and after receiving a proper dose of ear-bashing, I was told to reform myself because from the following day my name was going to be Shinoharu. I remember slumping on the floor and expressing my gratitude while trying to suppress the tears welling up in my eyes. Some of my fellow disciples got their names in three months or so, but for me it took quite a long time.

The promotion to futatsume came seven years later, again on New Year's Eve. The hierarchy of rakugo performers is composed of three ranks: zenza (opening act performer), futatsume, and shin'uchi (full-fledged master of storytelling). The promotion from zenza to futatsume is quite significant. Finally, I would be able to organize my own rakugo events. Finally, I would be released from my labors in the dressing rooms. I would gain my freedom!

That day, an annual entertainment event Count Down Yose was held at Yokohama Nigiwai-za (a specialized venue for showcasing traditional Japanese popular entertainment forms). I welcomed the New Year in the stage wings, and while the audience and performers were cheering "Happy New Year," I was screaming in my head "I'm free!" I was really very happy indeed.


Shinoharu Tatekawa delivering a message at the futatsume promotion ceremony at Shinjuku Meijiyasuda-Life Hall on June 27, 2011

Recently, my junior disciple Shinotaro Tatekawa was promoted to the futatsume rank. His own promotion ceremony was held in May at Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre in Ikebukuro. It was a cheerful and truly enjoyable occasion. Shinotaro seemed rather proud of himself, which made his face look a little bit longer than usual. This is what Master Shinosuke said: "I hope he becomes a unique rakugo performer, just like Peyoungu instant noodles." As I listened, I thought that was what I myself wanted to become.

And this is what Shinotaro said: "There is a saying that the disciple should walk three steps behind the master, but I always strived to make my master feel comfortable even if this distance was shortened to one step." This is why everyone likes him. I'd rather walk four steps behind the master, so that no one would notice...No, that's not true!

At the futatsume promotion ceremony for Shinotaro, held on May 25 this year. Shinotaro looks tense and nervous before his appearance on stage.

I had my futatsume promotion ceremony four years ago. Back then, barely a year had passed since Shinotaro had become a disciple. I was the last performer on stage after Master Shinosuke and my senior rakugo performers. After completing my performance, I was retreating to the wings, where Shinotaro was, all sweaty and shaken. I asked him how my performance was, and he replied "It was good. Kind of fresh."

Hey, who were you calling "fresh"!

With that, I'd like to conclude this article with "anger." I look forward to seeing you again next month.

shinoharu00.jpg Shinoharu Tatekawa
Rakugo performer Shinoharu Tatekawa was born in Osaka in 1976 and raised in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture. After graduating from Yale University in the U. S., he began working at Mitsui & Co. in 1999. In his third year of work, he chanced upon a performance by Shinosuke Tatekawa. It had such a huge impact on him that he made the decision to become a rakugo performer after half a year, upon much deliberation. He approached Shinosuke Tatekawa directly to accept him as a disciple, but was rejected. However, he then resigned from his job and entreated the master once again to accept him as a disciple. In October 2002, he was accepted as the third disciple of Shinosuke Tatekawa. In January 2011, he was promoted to futatsume (the second highest rank). He performs classical and contemporary rakugo works, as well as rakugo in English, and has even performed in Singapore. In 2013, he received an encouragement prize from the Nikkan Tobikiri Rakugo Kai. His publications include Dare demo waraeru eigo rakugo (Rakugo in English; Shinchosha) and Anata no purezen ni "makura" wa aruka? Rakugo ni manabu shigoto no hinto (Does your presentation have an "introduction"?; Star Seas Company). His latest publication is Jibun wo Kowasu Yuki (Courage to destroy yourself: CrossMedia Publishing).

*Please visit the official websites below for information about his live performances.
Shinoharu Tatekawa's official website http://shinoharu.com/
Shinoharu Tatekawa's blog http://ameblo.jp/tatekawashinoharu/

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