Looking at Kagurazaka from Shinnai Alley (26)

First Attendance by The Imperial Couple at an Individual’s Recital of Traditional Music: Report, Part 1

From a single word, like a seed, grew a bud and then fruit.
On September 10, 2005, at the Small Hall at Kioi Hall, I was honored to hold the “Tsuruga Wakasanojo Recital” in the presence of Their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress. This was the first time in the Japanese traditional music world that Their Imperial Majesties had been in attendance at an individual’s concert.
In 2001, I was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure). That year’s honorees were invited to the Imperial Palace after the formal accreditation ceremony in which we received our awards. It was a terribly hot July day. After being graced by comments from the Emperor, we honorees were invited to take tea with The Imperial Couple. I was lucky in where I happened to be seated.
In conversation with Their Imperial Majesties, I explained what shinnai is and told them about the present situation of the shinnai world. I had been seated next to the Empress. Near the end of our conversation, I said to Her Majesty, “Please come some day to hear shinnai.” The Empress replied, “I would like to have such an opportunity.” Then Her Majesty moved away to talk with another honoree.
With my words, I had sowed a seed. I was delighted. I will never forget what the Empress said to me. Absolutely, I will never forget her words. I was sure that my dream would come true some day. Hope filled my heart.
At that time, one of my friends was the Secretary General of the Alumni Association of Gakushuin, a group called “Ouyuukai” in Japanese. He was close to The Imperial Couple, and met with them often. Every time I saw him, I told him about my dream: “When you have the opportunity to see the Empress, please talk with her about me. I’m certain that Her Imperial Majesty remembers that my invitation to attend a shinnai performance.” After few months had passed, I received wonderful news. The Empress had said, “I would like to hear some shinnai.”
The Emperor had directed my friend, “Speak to the Chamberlain about this”. At first, I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening.
But later, when I received a confidential request asking, “Please tell us the date of your recital next year,” I realized that this might really happen.
Around the middle of June, I received a call from Mr. Makoto Watanabe, the Grand Chamberlain, inviting me to his office so that I could answer various questions that he had about the shinnai event. I entered the grounds of the Imperial Palace through the Sakashita-mon Gate and, for the first time ever, entered the building of the Imperial Household Agency, bringing with me various documents, including a draft flyer for the recital. Meeting the Grand Chamberlain, I had a positive impression of him as a gracious, clean-cut individual. After our meeting, I returned to the real world.
July 1 was a day that I will never forget. On that day, I received notification from the Imperial Household Agency: “Their Majesties will be in attendance at your recital on September 10th.”
First, I nervously replied, “What? Really…? Thank you very much.” But actually, I wondered if The Imperial Couple would really be attending the concert…Maybe someone was pulling my leg…And so on. I still couldn’t believe it. I continued to worry about that until the day of the recital.
Well, ahead of me were many difficult tasks and many meetings for dealing with the precise arrangements that had to be made. The most important matter was security. I communicated by telephone and e-mail with the Imperial Household Agency about checking Kioi Hall; confirming the name, address, and occupation of the other members of the audience; preparing a notice to be sent to the members of the audience with instructions (bring one small bag only, men should wear ties, only the invited people can come, substitutes are not allowed, and so on). The seat allocated to each member of the audience had to be decided. And there was a mountain of other preparations, including things that had to be done at the concert, the rehearsal, and so on. All these details had to be taken care of very carefully.
The historic day, Saturday, September 10, 2005, arrived
Weather – sunny Lingering summer heat My condition – good World peaceful
On my side of the event, all of us were very busy, careful about each detail. Everything was scheduled to the minute.
As soon as I had started the preparations, I had known without a doubt which two shinnai works I would perform. Rancho is a famous shinnai work. It is eloquent, perfectly conveying the essence of shinnai. No other work could be substituted for that. Ichinotani Futaba Gunki is another famous shinnai work. In this piece, the joururi portrays high values, unlike many shinnai pieces, which have an erotic mood. I especially hoped that The Imperial Couple would have the opportunity to experience both hamono (works like Rancho that were originally written for the shinnai genre) and danmono (works adapted for shinnai from other genres, such as gidayu, as Ichinotani Futaba Gunki had been).
Although I’d thought that it would be impossible to perform both works within one hour, I was able to obtain permission from the Grand Chamberlain to do them both after I cut them somewhat so that the two works could fit into the allotted time. I was certain that the contrast between the two works would be interesting, and that my honored guests would not become bored.
And then …… (to be continued)

(From Kagurazaka Community Magazine, June-July 2017, issue #92)

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