January 30: A "Rakugo" performance
I got in hand a ticket of "Rakugo", or Japanese traditional comic story told by a professional storyteller. The performer was Mr. Yamato Yano of Oita Southern Prefectural Rakugo guild. He often appears on TV. It is my pleasure to enjoy his live art today. I visited a Campus Hall in NHK (Japan Broadcasting Committee) Oita branch with my friend. I found a billboard like this that reads: "Rakugo performance by Yamato Yano."
Oita Southern Prefectural Rakugo guild consists of 15 members. Mr. Yano, right, has two other faces: a Shinto priest, and an officer of Ume town hall.

The guild won "Suntory Local Culture Award" last year. Our COARA invited Mr. Hijiya, boss of the guild, center, on our regular meeting and enjoyed his great art. He introduced Mr. Yano to us.

We still have 30 minutes before the start. Mr. Yano is till wearing a sweater.
(Right) The receptionists wait guest with PR pamphlets of Ume town on the desk. (Left) There are many TV monitors at the entrance of the hall. A TV left under shows the waiting guest in the hall. You may see a gilded folding screen on the back.
Mr. Hijiya asked a young member to replace a floor cushion to the other one which our New COARA presented to the guild last year. I was very delighted. On the surface of the floor cushion is a golden print of characters that reads "Congratulations the winning of Suntory Local Culture Award, from New COARA."
Many members who wear "Happi" coats are busy in escorting the guests to the seats. On the back of the Happi is a large Chinese character which means "laughing." A lot of bouquets are decorated here and there of the hall and the stage.
The hall is already filled with many audience and in something like a pleasant atmosphere. Soon, we hear a musical accompaniment. Mr. Shin-ichi Saigawara, from Saeki City, plays a subordinate part of the performance. He first made an introduction small talk: "I hope all of you have a 'progressive attitude' of trying to laugh even my talk is boring." The hall burst into laughing.
Next showed up Mr. Yano with a light musical accompaniment of "Konpira fishing song." First I took a seat in the front row, but the number of audience grew so large, additional chairs were brought in and arranged ahead me. I lost a good sight.

"I am very glad to see here so many of you, but I am afraid that you may have some reasons that you can't stay in home?" He set the audience roaring with laughter.
He started Rakugo 25 years ago and has been a member of the guild for 15 years. He toured all 58 towns and villages in Oita prefecture, making more than 1,000 times performance. Today, he makes a commemorative one-man show.

He "delivers" his talk to every community here and there. He performs his art without a fee at senior homes or females meetings whenever a request comes.

He introduced his experience of meeting people and having funny things in a comical tone.
The audience has almost no time to escape from laughing.
He loves "Kamigata Rakugo", or Kyoto-Osaka-area-style comic stories. The final theme was a talk about a guy who lives poor in a shabby terrace house and got married with a female who was born high-hierarchy and spoke a court noble language. As he promised in advance, all the audience had nothing but laughing all through for 90 minutes one-man show.
He appreciates the audience at the exit. Today, the hall was packed full to capacity. He will have another performance here tomorrow. I may join it again. Thank you very much Mr. Yano for your wonderful performance of as much as 90 minutes. I have had a very pleasant time today.
As I laughed too much, I felt something hungry. My friend laughed and nodded to drop in a restaurant of Okonomi-yaki (a thin, flat cake of unsweetened batter fried with various ingredients.) The cake was of gorgeous Kansai-style. Today, I have fully enjoyed by laughing and eating!

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