Hayashiya Kikuou, a rakugo storyteller, was born in 1937, Tokyo. Kikuzou first studied under Katsura Mikisuke III, an established rakugo storyteller. However, when Mikisuke passed away in 1961, Kikuzou went on to become a pupil of Hayashiya Shouzou X III and named himself Hayashiya Kikuzou. In 1972, he was promoted to become “shin’uchi” and made his official debut as an independent storytelling performer. In 1965, he became a regular star on “Shouten”, a popular television program. He is also the chairman of the National Ramen Noodle Party and a member of trustees of the Rakugo Association. In 2007, he handed his name to his eldest son and gave himself a different name, Kikuou.
Hayashiya Kikuzou was born in 1975, Tokyo. He graduated from the Department of Performing Arts at Tamagawa University. He studied under his father, Hayashiya Kikuzou. In 1996, he became “zenza”, meaning he was allowed to perform on the stage for the first time, and named himself Hayashiya Kikuo. In 2007, he was promoted to “shin’uchi” and became Hayashiya Kikuzou II.
Together Hayashiya Kikuou and Kikuzou launched a performing tour to celebrate their double name-taking ceremony starting at Suzuki Performing Center at Ueno, Tokyo, in 2007. It was an unprecedented occurrence for a pupil to take on his master’s name while the master was still alive.
“Even for rakugo which is a rather gentle performing art, it is essential to be assertive and think outside of the box, and not just maintain the tradition”, says both Hayashi. It is evident that they thrive on developing rakugo, finding new ways of working while keeping its tradition alive.
Shoin Shrine was founded in 1890 to enshrine Yoshida Shoin, who had devoted to developing many Sonno Shishi warriors until he was executed at age 29. His discoples include Takasugi Shinsaku, Kusaka Genzui, Maebara Issei, Yamagata Aritomo and Ito Hirofumi, who respectively made an outstanding contribution to the Meiji Restoration.
In 1955, the shrine was removed to the present location, where the shrine building was newly constructed. The old shrine building also exists in the north of the precinct as an attached shrine Shomon Shrine, where Shoin’s disciples are enshrined.
There area many historic ruins remaining in the precinct, which include the old house where Shoin was sentenced to house arrest and ran Shokasonjuku Academy to teach the youth. It is now open to the public.
As the deity of study, Shoin Shrine is the most respected shrine in the city of Hagi and visited by a lot of people especially on New Year’s Day.
Souun Takeda, a calligrapher, was born in 1975 in Kumamoto. He started calligraphy when he was three years old, studying with his mother, Souyou Takeda, also a calligrapher.
After graduating from Tokyo University of Science majoring in Science and Technology, he worked at NTT for three years before he became a calligrapher. Since then, he has established himself through a series of unique and original pieces, often collaborating with other artists in various fields including Noh and Kyougen actors, sculptors and musicians, and unconventional one-man exhibitions. He also runs a calligraphy school where many of his students study. “Calligraphy is the same as a conversation. I just use calligraphy to communicate with people”, says the gentle but passionate Mr. Takeda, who is hailed as the new generation of calligraphy.
In 2003, Mr. Takeda received the Longhuacui Art Award from Shanghai Art Museum in China and the Constanza de Medici Award in Firenze, Italy. His work includes title letterings for many movies such as Spring Snow and Year One in the North. He also published three books; Tanoshika, Shoyudou and Sho o kaku tanoshimi.
Shokasonjuku Academy is where Yoshida Shoin, a distinguished intellectual in the Choshu domain, ran a private academy in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is designated as a National Historic Site.
It is a one-storied small wooden house with an area of only 50 sq m. Originally, it only had an 8-mat lecture room. With the increase in the number of disciples, a 4.4-mat room, two 3-mat rooms, the doma (earth-floored space) and a mezzanine floor were added by the hands of Shoin and his disciples.
In 1842, Bunnoshin Tamaki, Shoin’s uncle, founded a small academy in his house. Later it was discontinued for a while but Gorozaemon Kubo, Shoin’s another uncle, repaired the barn into a lecture room and resumed the academy. Then in 1857, Shoin took it over and developed many youths.
He treated his disciples equally regardless of the social status. Most of his disciples were sons of low-ranked warriors. Though he taught at the academy for less than three years, his disciples absorbed his ideas and played key roles in bringing about the Meiji Restoration. His disciples include Takasugi Shinsaku, Kusaka Genzui, Yamagata Aritomo, Ito Hirofumi and Shinagawa Yajiro.
Sokken Yasui’s residence located in Kiyotake-cho, Miyazaki-gun, Miyazaki Pref. is a designated National Cultural Asset. Sokken Yasui, a great Confucian scholar of the late Edo period, was born in the town of Kiyotake in 1799. Since his childhood, he was fascinated by learning. His accomplishment was highly evaluated as the comprehensive study of Confucianism in the Edo period, which served as the foundation for the near modern study of Chinese classics. He also fostered as many as 200 excellent figures including Kanjo Tani and Munemitsu Mutsu, base don the idea of “One should begin planning for the day in the morning. One should begin planning for the year in the spring. One should begin planning for their life in their youth.”
On the grounds stands a stone monument with the verse written by Ietatsu Tokugawa. The plum tree planted by Sokken himself still remains in the garden. Visitors can sense the atmosphere that produced a great thinker, who had a large influence in the world of thought at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Designated a National Natural Treasure, the Beni-shidare-jizo is a weeping cherry tree estimated to be approximately 400 years old, and said to be the daughter of the 1000-year-old Miharu Waterfall cherry tree.
The Beni-shidare-jizo tree has a base circumference of 6.3m, a trunk circumference of 4.1m at a point 1.3m above ground, and a height of up to 16m. A giant branch spreads 14m to the west from a point 2.5m above the ground. Some 2m above, 11 more large branches spread out in all directions for 18m.
Many descendants of the Waterfall cherry tree have been comfirmed, but no tree can exceed the Jizo tree due to the exceptional beauty of its branches spreading across the sky like wings.
A Jizo-do is built at the foot of the tree where, in the past, and even now, people come to pray for good health for newborn children and protection from premature mortality.
The blossoms are said to bloom annually from mid through late April. The distinct way the lightly colored blossoms of the Beni-shidare-jizo tree flourish in every which way is definitely a sight to see.
Nihonmatsu Shonen-tai Kensho-sai
Nihonmatsu Shonen-tai Kensho-sai is a festival held in Minami Soma City, Fukushima Pref. In the battles to offend and defend Shirakawa Castle during the Boshin War just before the Meiji Restoration, the main forces of Nihonmatsu clan, which fought for the Tokugawa Shogunate, had to retreat further day by day and their camps were occupied one after another by the New Government forces, until at last their return route was blocked off. To supplement the absence of the main forces, the boys over 13 years old were sent to the battle field as an exception. Among them, those under the age of seventeen were referred to as “Nihonmatsu Shonen-tai (Boy Corps).” Kensho-sai Festival is annually held in Sennindamari Square under Minowa Gate of Kasumigajo Castle. “Gin (canting of a Japanese poem),” “Tsurugi-mai (sward dance),” and “Shimai (dancing to a poem)” are performed by local boys. The festival imparts the pure spirit of the boys, who were willing to die to protect their homeland.
Tekijuku was a private school founded by Ogata Koan , a doctor and scholar of Dutch studies (Rangaku) in Senba Osaka, in 1838 during the Tenpo era of the late Edo period. The school produced a lot of notable alumni includeFukuzawa Yukichi , Omura Masujiro and Takamatsu Ryoun, who pioneered Japan’s modern era from the end of Edo Period through Meiji Restoration. Tezuka Ryosen, a grand-grand father of Japan’s famous cartoonist, Tezuka Osamu, was also a student of this school. After Meiji Restoration, when Osaka Medical School was opened, the professors and the students transferred to the new school and Tekijuku endedits long history. As Faculty of Medicine at Osaka University, it stillconveys the tradition of Japan’s oldest medical school. The building ofTekijuku still has been preserved by Osaka University Steering Committee forTekijuku Conservation. Next to the building on the right is the bronze statue of Ogata Koan. Upstairs are students’ rooms, where you can seenumerous sword cuts on the surface of the pillars. These sword cuts are said to have been made during excited debates among the students, from which you can infer what people and the social background were like in those days. The building was designated as Important Intangible Cultural Heritage in 1964.