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Katarimono and Manzai

Katarimono are songs with stories, for which lyrics are more important than melodies. Usually played at a fast tempo, the style of Katarimono is more adapted to convey fictional or real stories than emotion to the audience. A variety of performance arts such Heikyoku, Yōkyoku, Sekkyō-bushi, Chikuzen-Biwa, Satsuma-Biwa, Rōkyoku, Gidayū-bushi, and Shinnai-bushi can be classified in the category of Katarimono. Katarimono were rare in Akita Prefecture, only having a few Sekkyō-bushi or Saimon in the past, which have disappeared by now.

Manzai is performed on the New Year’s days at the entrance of people’s houses as the performers go around the community and make celebratory remarks or humorous duo comedies in a dialogue style. It is one type of Shukufuku-Gei, or traditional celebratory performances of New Year days, which is also called Senzu-Manzai. We believe that either Mikawa-Manzai (one performed in present-day Aichi Prefecture) or Edo-Manzai (one in Tokyo) was passed on and brought to Akita, but uncertainty remains. In Akita, usually two performers, called Tayū and Saizō, form a pair; Tayū wears Suō (a type of Japanese male clothing worn semi-formally or casually) and Eboshi (a male hat worn in formal occasions) and has a fan in his hands, while Saizō, especially for the occasions of Kadozuke, wears Tattsuke-Bakama (a type of Hakama, or Japanese clothing, especially suitable for activities) and Zukin (hood), holding a small drum called Tsuzumi in his hands. They perform in a dialogue style, pronouncing celebratory words, generally called Yogoto, in a manner unique to Manzai, with a light tone and brisk gestures. It is usually followed by an extra and more relaxed session of Manzai. It is notable that in Akita, there are quite a few ceremonial scripts (Shishō), such as Okuni-Manzai and Yatate-Manzai. Even though they are both called Akita-Manzai, the Akita-Manzai of Akita City and that of Yokote City are quite different. It should also be noted here that Akita-Manzai is sometimes performed with the Sasara Three-Lion Dance and/or Horse Dance. In Kazuno City, it is also combined with Dai-Kagura or performance arts of the Furyū category.

Akita Manzai