Greeting and Program Notes
11th Iemoto of the Tsuruga School of Shinnai (Sponsor)
From the Edo Period to the present, much traditional Japanese entertainment has been based on the theme of the life of those associated with the Edo Period brothels. Rakugo has many such tales, and so, especially, do the shamisen genres of musical storytelling. This thematic focus probably had its origin in the wide popularity of the joruri tales by the famous dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon, many of which, adapted for the kabuki theater, became well known.
The three most famous shinnai works, Rancho, Akegarasu, and Itahachi, are set in the Yoshiwara district (“pleasure quarter”) of Edo, that is, the world of prostitutes and their customers.
Yujo, joro, and oiran are the old Japanese words for some of the ranks of women who worked in brothels and inns providing sexual services to men. Of those, the highest class were the oiran, or courtesans.
The young women who were trafficked to the brothels did not choose to become prostitutes, but rather were sold to the brothels to pay their family’s debts. They had to endure a hellish life of indentured servitude in order to pay off those huge debts.
The women had no freedom and no hope for love. However, sometimes they became attracted to men whom they’d met, and the pair would fall in love. The rigid rules that the women of the brothels had to obey made it impossible for the couple to fulfill their love. The only way that they could achieve their love was to die and be together in the afterlife, or, at great risk, for the woman to flee the brothel.
This evening’s concert presents four sad and violent stories set in the pleasure quarters of Yoshiwara in Edo and Shinmachi in Osaka, about love between prostitutes and their customers. These tales are especially suitable for the aesthetics of the shinnai genre, which is known for many works about lovers’ double suicides.
Thank you for taking the time to come here this evening. I hope that you will enjoy the performance.
(From the printed program, Tsuruga Wakasanojo Shinnai Concert, Kioi Hall, Tokyo, November 25, 2021)
Note added after the performance:
Videos of the concert can be found at: