Ninjo-banashi (Sentimental Story) (人情噺)

Ninjo-banashi is a category of rakugo program (traditional comic storytelling).


Rakugo is narrowly regarded as "Otoshi-banashi (a story with comic endings)" (Kokkei-banashi (comic story)), but actually programs include Ninjo-banashi and Kaidan-banashi (ghost story telling). There are narrow and broad definitions of Ninjo-banashi itself.

It is said to be Muraku ASANEBO who first performed Ninjo-banashi. Beicho KATSURA the third, in his book "Rakugo and Me", defined Ninjo-banashi quite narrowly. According to him, Ninjo-banashi is kodan storytelling of Sewamono (a category which features the world of townspeople in contrast with "Jidaimono" which features samurai family) emotionally (identifying oneself with the characters), not explanatorily as usual kodan storytelling. Many of Ninjo-banashi are long and cannot be performed at once, and do not have sage (the point) as he distinguish it from Otoshi-banashi which has the point.

In a broader definition, Ninjo-banashi is composed of a prelude, the main topic, and the point as Otoshi-banashi, and some are performed in one time. (According to Beicho's opinion,) similarly as narrowly defined Ninjo-banashi, their stage is in the world of townspeople, and features love between parents and children, love among a couple, humanity of a typical person from Edo or Naniwa, tragic love between different classes, and other sentimental things. The development of the story is not only humorous but also moving. It makes the audience laugh by kusuguri (making the audience or the readers to laugh with the entertainment and writings on purpose) or by the point, but as a whole it is a touching story.

In the Meiji period, Enba SANYUTEI the second who moved from Tokyo to Osaka and Sanba OKINAYA the fifth performed Ninjo-banashi in Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area).

Foremost Classical Stories

Foremost classical stories include the following: among those without point are long continuous stories such as "Botan Doro (A Tale of the Peony Lamp" (this is usually regarded as Kaidan-banashi), "The Story of Tasuke SHIOBARA", "The Spine-Chiller in Kasanegafuchi", "The Story of Soza ANNAKA", "Futatsu Chocho (literally, two butterflies): Chobe and Chokichi", "Chikiri Iseya", "Bunji NARIHARA", "The Vendetta under a Nursing Hackberry Tree", "Otomi Yosaburo"; short stories such as "Bunshichi's Motoyui Shop", "Mitsui's Daikoku"; stories with points include "Dream of a Leather Wallet", "Parting with Son" (and "Children Hold a Marriage Together" is the latter part), "A Dyer and Courtesan Takao", "The Pumpkin Vendor", "Onaoshi (Extension Surcharge", "Rat Hole", "Kyuzo's Lottery", "Kaji Musuko (My Son is a Firefighter)", "Kakunoshin YANAGIDA", "Kajikazawa Precipice", "Dying Incense".

Although originally there were not story tellers of Ninjo-banashi in Kamigata Rakugo, they have Ninjo-banashi such as "Abura (Oil)", "Oniazami Gangster", "Parting with Son", "Grain Broker Zakohachi", "Shijimi Clam Vendor", "Long Live the Earthen Bridge!", and Kamigata Rakugo storytellers are actively transferring Ninjo-banashi of Tokyo recently.

Modern Stories

In Showa period, new Ninjo-banashi stories were created such as Tsutomu ARISAKI (Kingoro YANAGIYA)'s "Ramen Shop", Beicho KATSURA the third's "Little Flute", and Yumie HIRAIWA's "A Straw Hat and A Red Windmill". This continues to Heisei period by Enjo SANYUTEI and others.

Recently Encho SANYUTEI the sixth, Shinsho KOKONTEI the fifth, and Hikoroku HAYASHIYA were regarded as master storytellers of Ninjo-banashi. Imasuke KOKONTEI the fifth was regarded as a storyteller of new rakugo, but he was performing Ninjo-banashi excellently. Today Utamaru KATSURA, Danshi TATEKAWA, and Enraku SANYUTEI the fifth are good at Ninjo-banashi.

[Original Japanese]