Looking at Kagurazaka from Shinnai Alley (31)
Thoughts about the “I-Ro-Ha” (ABCs) of Shinnai: 2
Translator’s Note: This essay is a continuation of the series started in #30 (in this blog, February-March 2018 issue of the Kagurazaka Community Magazine), in which Wakasanojo uses “I-Ro-Ha” and so on to label the items. As was done in #30, the translation of this and the remaining three essays in this series gives the original Japanese heading in English letters (romaji) for each item, followed by the translated heading. For a fuller explanation, see essay #30.
He: Heta to omotte ireba jotatsu suru
(6) You can improve your performance so long as you evaluate your skill as needing improvement
As people say, boasting and arrogance halt progress. Of course, it is natural to express some degree of confidence in one’s own performance. If you continue practicing hard and spend much time on it, your performance will reach a level suitable for performing in front of an audience. However, that is one step in the process of improving one’s performance. Recognize the limits of your ability, and, at the same time, aim for the highest level throughout your life. Self-confidence and pride are completely different.
To: Tokiwazu wa okusan, kiyomoto wa geisha, shinnai wa oiran no iroke
(7) Tokiwazu is about wives, kiyomoto is about geisha, and shinnai is about sexy courtesans
From long ago, typical features of the eroticism in the works of three of the schools of bungo’bushi have been compared like that. These descriptions are absolutely perfect. Even though, when viewed from a present-day perspective, the music of each of these schools can be seen to have changed somewhat, this old description of the erotic atmosphere of each style is still mostly correct, in my opinion.
Chi: Chiisai gei niwa hana ga nai
(8) “Small” art is not charming or colorful
People often evaluate a performance by describing it as “small” or “large”. “Small” performances use superficial techniques. Although the works may be beautifully sung, they do not have appealing power, rich expression, or variety. Joururi, which is a narrative art form, tells stories about emotional situations in the lives of people who are men and women, young and old. “Large” performances use bold and yet delicate, relaxing, and precise techniques. These convey the beauty and charm of the work.
Ri: Ryoyaku wa mimi ni itashi
(9) Good medicine is painful to hear
It can be said that flattery is false words, and that true words are not beautiful. If the people around you praise and flatter you and are “yes-men”, you will feel comfortable, but you cannot improve. People who give you candid advice are doing you a real favor. Their advice is good medicine.
・ぬ 盗む芸 盗めぬ芸
Nu: Nusumu gei nusumenu gei
(10) Stolen artistic skill, artistic skill that you cannot steal
Your teacher gives you lessons. The classical Japanese arts are transmitted through an oral tradition. These days, students record their teacher’s performance for later study at home. This custom has many, many problems. In order to memorize their teacher’s performance, students imitate it. After students’ skill progresses and they become professionals, they’re no longer being taught, and they have to steal skills from themselves. To do that, they have to grasp those things that a teacher cannot teach. However, there is something that cannot be stolen from your teacher, no matter how hard you try. That is the character of the teacher’s personality. If students have talent and make an effort, they may become able to perform even better than their teacher.
Ru: Ruri mo gei mo migakeba hikaru (teraseba hikaru)
(11) Both lapis lazuli and performance skills will sparkle if you polish them (if you illuminate them, they will sparkle)
Natural aptitude and talent shine only if polished. Even if you have an abundance of excellent talent, it will not develop unless you train hard. Superficial skill does not generate real art; also, it is crucial to make an effort while young. As people say, “Strike while the iron is hot…”. However, training when you have become elderly is ideal for preventing senility. As I’ve been getting older, my head has become shinier.
Wo: Oite wa ko ni shitagai
(12) When people get old, they follow the old ways
Translator’s Note: This is a modification of a traditional saying; the original, with a different kanji for ko means “When you get old, obey your children.”
An old proverb says, “To discover new things, study the past”. When you become old, return to your original mindset. Study the profundity of the classics, and follow exactly what your predecessors taught. Do not get stuck in superficial techniques and shallow ambitions, but rather progress in the arts by calmly following the basics. Don’t rely on the traditional sound and melodies when you are performing, and don’t try to attract people’s attention, but rather keep an open mind and try to develop a new world of art.
・わ 若い芸より 若々しい芸 枯れた芸は駄目
Wa: Wakai gei yori waka wakashii gei kareta gei wa dame
(13) Youthful artistry is better than young artistry; lifeless art is no good
Young artistry is immature. However, young artistry is also promising, with unlimited possibilities. It is created from physical strength and sustained vocal power that doesn’t know fatigue. Fresh attractiveness is a result of tackling the arts with spirit, irrespective of the level of skill. That is youthful artistry. If your performance is lifeless, it’s time for you to retire.
Ka: Kato kamishimo・gaiki hakama・handa haori ni ・gida momoshiki ・bungo kawaiya maruhadaka
(14) Translator’s Note: This heading is a string of untranslatable puns that make fun of some Edo Period schools of joururi.
These were expressions popular in the Edo Period, which ridiculed various traditional schools of joururi, including kato’bushi, gaiki’bushi, handayu’bushi, gidayu, and bungo’bushi. Modern Japanese people can understand these jokes almost without explanation. Of these five styles, gaiki’bushi and handayu’bushi no longer exist, but bits of these styles have been absorbed by modern joururi. Bungo’bushi (bungo-style joururi) was the origin of tokiwazu, shinnai, and kiyomoto.
Yo: Yoshiwara (yukaku) ga shinnai no furusato
(15) The hometown of shinnai was the Yoshiwara district (in the Edo Period, the pleasure quarters in the city of Edo, which is now Tokyo)
This does not mean that shinnai was born in the Yoshiwara district, but rather that the Yoshiwara district seems as if it were shinnai’s hometown because three classic works composed by Tsuruga Wakasanojo I were set in the Yoshiwara district, and these sad and romantic shinnai works were beloved there.
(From Kagurazaka Community Magazine, April – May 2018, issue #97)