The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Yama Visitors

Performers Who Visited Pits (Yama) in the Meiji Era (1868-1912): The Reciter of a Mock Buddhist Sutra Ahodarakyo and the Blind Biwa Playing Minstrel
October 1965

Meiji Chuki Yama o Otozureshi Geinin: Ahodarakyo, Biwa no Zato
[Performers Who Visited Pits (Yama) in the Meiji Era (1868-1912): The Reciter of a Mock Buddhist Sutra Ahodarakyo and the Blind Biwa Playing Minstrel]
38.0 x 53.8 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

(1) The reciter of a mock Buddhist sutra Ahodarakyo visited each row house in the pit and sat on its entry step. He held a three-piece set of wooden gongs composed of a large, middle, and small-sized one between the fingers of his left hand, clasping them firmly together. He hit the large one with a piece of wood and the gongs produced a steady clip-clop rhythm.

Hatake ni hamaguri hotte mo nai.
Bozu no hachimaki shimari ga nai.
Suna ni shoben tamari ga nai.
Rengi wa yoji nya tsukaware nai.
Shakushi wa mimi niya haira nai.
Chaka-poko! Chaka-poko!

If you go clamming in the fields, you won't find any clams.
If a priest wears a headband, it won't be tightly tied.
If you urinate on the sand, it will be quickly absorbed.
A wooden pestle can't be used in place of a toothpick.
A ladle can't be inserted into your ear.
Chaka-poko (Clip-clop)! Chaka-poko!
(Onomatopoeia of the sound of wooden gongs)

The above was the introduction to his performance of an imitation rokyoku (story reciting also called naniwabushi recited to a shamisen accompaniment).

(2) It was said that people who met a blind biwa (Japanese lute) playing minstrel called a zato going down to villages would be caught in a shower. It was also said that the zato who was given a lot of rice was a truly clever one though he was not good at singing songs. At any rate, they were quick-witted.

Kyo no Gojo no hashi no ue,
Ushiwakamaru ga kikakaru to,
Musashibo Benkei arawarete,
"Omae no katana o ore ni kure.
Chodo sen bon tsugo ga yoi."
"Ore no katana wa choto yaren."
"Korya, korya. Kono naginata ga mienai ka."
Somo Benkei no nah naginata wa,
e ga hasshaku de mi ga hasshaku.
Kireru haba nara toita no gotoshi.
"Soreja, zato-san, muko ga miemai?"
Tokoro dokoro ni mado ga aru.
Bing! Bing!

When Ushiwakamaru was crossing
the bridge of Gojo in the capital,
Musashibo Benkei stood in his way and said,
"Give me your sword. It'll auspiciously be my thousandth one."
"You can't have my sword."
"Hey! You! Can't you see this naginata?"
Both the pole and blade of Benkei's naginata were 8 feet long.
And the blade was as wide as a door.
"Then, zato-san, he couldn't see his opponent, could he?"
The blade of his naginata had some windows here and there.
Plunk! Plunk! (Onomatopoeia of the sound of a biwa)

The blind biwa playing minstrel also sang "Ishidomaru" or "Kiteki Issei" and other famous parts of ballad dramas. He requested each listener at that time to give him a 5-rin (0.005 yen) or 1-sen (0.01 yen) mine token. However, most miners gave him a plate of rice.
There were several kinds of biwas, such as the Gaku-biwa, Heike-biwa, Satsuma-biwa, Chikuzen-biwa, etc.

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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