Sorori Shinzaemon (曽呂利新左衛門)

Shinzaemon SORORI is the professional name of rakugo storyteller. After the death of the second, no one succeed to the professional name.

The first (previous) is a person who was said to serve Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI as otogishu (story tellers). He was also said to be the originator of rakugo storyteller and had many anecdotes. Originally he has made sheaths for swords in Sakai City and the swords fitted smoothly (sorori) to his sheaths and thus he was given this name.

Legend has it that he was a fictitious person, or he was a real person but his anecdotes were created in later years.

Shinzaemon SORORI Nise (the second) (November 17, 1842 - July 2, 1923) was Kamigata hanashika (professional storyteller in Kyoto and Osaka area) born in Osaka. His real name was Shigejiro INOSATO. He died at the age of 81.

He was born in a yuzen dyer in Shin-machi, Osaka. He joined Tenguren (amateur storytellers) from childhood and called himself Nekomaru KATSURA, Yumemaru KATSURA, Kashiku FUMINOYA and so on. However, because of this he was disowned by his father, then he was forced to become a professional jester and he called himself 千九八 in Kyoto and Kanpachi in Horie, Osaka.

In 1865 he became disciple of Shokaku SHOFUKUTEI the first, then he performed on the stage of Shofukutei in Kyoto and became Shochiku SHOFUKUTEI the second. Later he returned to Osaka and called himself Baika SHOFUKUTEI, but because his master Shokaku died he changed his name to Baika SHOCHIKUTEI in Shinmachi Kuken Suehirotei. In October 1869, he became the leader of a troupe and changed his name back to the old name Baika SHOFUKUTEI. In March 1873 he became disciple of Bunshi KATSURA the first and called himself Bunnosuke KATSURA the first. He was praised as one of 'the big four' as well as his fellow disciples Bunza KATSURA the first (Bunshi KATSURA the second), Bunto KATSURA the second (Bunto TSUKITEI) and Bundanzi KATSURA the first.

In 1886 he succeeded to Shinzaemon SORORI the second on the advice of his painting master Beisen KUBOTA and others. However, he chose to call himself Shinzaemon SORORI Nise using the Japanese kanji "二世" (meaning "the second") for 'nise' as a play on the word '偽' (also pronounced 'nise' but meaning "fake").

Later he served as the chairman of Sanyu school (of Rakugo) and in 1910 he retired at the age of 68. He spent the rest of his life being absorbed in furyu (taste).

He was sort of a man of talent who showed himself at his best in a funny short story or a party trick and so on rather than a big story. He was believed to be the first Hanashika (professional Rakugo storyteller) who performed without using hizakakushi (a small screen to hide the knees of a storyteller) and kendai (a bookrest) in Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area). In addition, he also mastered many new and revised comic stories and put them into print in his elegant handwriting.

He was also known for a lot of eccentricities and in June 1914 he held a funeral for himself referring it to as 'condolence money preservation association' though he was still alive. In the formal funeral held after he actually died, the whole temple was decorated with artificial cherry blossoms and he had his own skull put into a glass box to show to people who attend the funeral because his nickname during his lifetime was 'half-roasted bone'.

His tomb is in Ryusen-ji Temple in Tennoji Ward, Osaka City. His homyo (a posthumous Buddhist name) was Tenyo horin gyosen koji.

His disciples include Bunnosuke KATSURA the second, Baika KATSURA the third, Tobe KATSURA the third (Denkichi MOTOKAWA), Marumaru UKIYOTEI (later Otojiro KAWAKAMI), Edataro KATSURA the first, Nekomaru KATSURA the second, Ryushi KATSURA and others.

There are several SP records (78rpm records) left such as "kami-tegami (illustrated postcard)" and "uma-beya (horse room)", which were the oldest recordings of Kamigata rakugo (traditional Japanese comic storytelling as performed in the Kyoto-Osaka region) allowing us to recall the style of his performance in the past.

[Original Japanese]