Shigin (reciting Chinese poems) (詩吟)

Shigin is one of Japan's traditional performing arts. It involves the reciting (or singing) of Chinese poetry, waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables) and so on with a distinctive Fushimawashi (intonation). Shigin is also called ginei (recitaion or chanting a poem) or gindo (recitaion or chanting a poem).

In shigin, prose and poetry are not sung with the rhythm and melody of a song, but are instead expressed more effectively through the addition of a unique melody after the prose and poetry have been read aloud, basically without any attention being paid to the meaning.

To be more precise, the first line of the poem Kojyono Tsuki (Moon Over the Castle Ruins) would be recited not as 'haaa ruuu kooo ooo jooo ooo nooo, haaa naaa nooo eee nnn,' but as 'haruuu (melody) kooo jooo nooo (melody), hananooo (melody) ennn (melody),' with the vowel ending of a word extended to provide the melody.

Because of the historical reason (see below) the object on which shigin recites is chiefly Chinese poetry, but waka, haiku and new-style poetry are often recited. However, the one which is too long is not preferred and in the reciting of Chinese poetry, shichigon zekku (a Chinese poem of four lines, each of seven characters) is common.

During the late Edo period, when reading Chinese poetry without comprehending, they uniquely melodized it in some of the private schools in house or the hanko (a domain school), which is the direct origin of the present-day shigin. The melodizing especially in Kangien in Hita or Shoheiko in Edo was spread across Japan by many disciples.

The patriots during the end of Edo period is said to have liked to recite the poetry for the purpose of expressing the indignant lamentation over the evils of the times.

From the Taisho to the early Showa period, the ginei masters such as Gakufu KIMURA and Katsuyoshi YAMADA were active and they became the originators of several present-day schools.

During the war shigin was encouraged because of enhancing national prestige, but after the war they came to appreciate the good poetry of all time and emphasize the artistic aspects pursuing the expression by beautiful Japanese.

For this reason, shigin which started from reading without comprehending has now come to emphasize the accent or melody as well as spiritual aspect.

Also for the health-conscious reason, vocalization by abdominal respiration is sometimes taken up.

Performance of shigin
Shigin is originally performed by dokugin (vocal solo), but other gineis such as rengin (duet) where several reciters recite in turn and gogin (group reciting) where many reciters recite in chorus are often performed as well.

Ginei is sometimes accompanied by a sword dance or shimai (Noh dance).

Also, ginei is basically unaccompanied, but is sometimes accompanied by koto (a long Japanese zither with thirteen strings) or shakuhachi bamboo flute and during the early 21st century the accompaniment by the recorded compact disc was also widely used.

In some scale of performance, kikakukoseigin (reciting which is planned and framed, also simply called koseigin) is also performed. It is a comprehensive theatrical art where several repertoires are combined under the specific theme and the renditions such as narration, background music and stage lighting are also elaborated.

Schools of shigin
Shigin has a large number of schools which are said to be hundreds. As many high-ranked disciples became independent, declared themselves to be headmasters and established a school, some have a nation-wide organization and others are very small-scale schools.

And as a nation-wide organization concerning the promotion of shigin, Nippon Ginkenshibu Foundation exists and under that Ginkenshibudo Sorenmei exists in each prefecture.

Gakuseigin (reciting by students)
As many people start shigin as a hobby when old, those who do shigin do not have youthful image. However, even among young people shigin is not unpopular and many universities across Japan have a traditional shigin club.

Waseda University Togin Kai, Meiji University Shigin Kenkyu Club, Kansai University Shigin Club and Okayama University Shigin Club respectively have over 50 years of history. As the other famous universities, there exist Tokyo University Shigin Kenkyu Kai, Keiogijuku University Keigin Kai, Tokyo University of Agriculture Noyu Kai Shigin Club, Yamaguchi University Ginei Club, Kinki University Shigin Club and so on.

National Student Shigin League is the organization which controls these universities' shigin clubs, but is managed mainly by the universities such as Meiji University or the universities in the west Japan like Kansai University and all the shigin clubs do not belong to the league.

As characteristics of gakuseigin, very strong uchikomi (the Scooping Point) or very high number of times are raised. The school varies from one university to another and some universities do not belong to a specific school. Also, many universities formerly belonged to a specific school, but now have parted from it.

Waseda University Togin Kai performs ginei incorporating kensenbu (dancing with sword, folding fan or both of them) or tate (sword battle), which is uncommon in gakuseigin. The club is learning shigin under a specific teacher of suifu ryu (suifu style), which is also uncommon in gakuseigin. Also, the characteristics of shigin clubs vary from one university to another, for example, Tokyo University Shigin Kenkyu Kai actively researches Chinese poetry and Meiji University Shigin Kenkyu Club has frequent interactions with National Student Shigin League or shigin organizations in Kansai region and so on.

Shigin and entertainers
Shigin is one of many 'classical performing arts,' but many of so-called 'geinojin' (entertainer) in present-day engage in shigin.

The most famous entertainer who engages in shigin is Takuhiro KIMURA in manzai konbi (comic duo) 'Tenshin,' and he is an assistant instructor of one school (when KIMURA was comically talking about shigin, his father watched it and told KIMURA not to reveal the school name at any cost and so the name is hidden). And he shows the material called 'ero shigin' (in early times it was called 'sex aruaru shigin').

The family of Tomoko NAKAJIMA in comic duo Osero opens shigin class and she openly says that she has a knack for shigin. She often performs shigin on TV.

Tomoyuki ISHIZAWA in comic duo Tetsu and Tomo is also good at shigin. The performance of Tetsu and Tomo is the form where they show the material with singing and their singing ability which seems to have been developed by shigin is highly evaluated.

The entertainer Aki UEMURA currently attending Ritsumeikan University is also good at shigin.

[Original Japanese]