Chairman of Toyo Kogyo (Asakusa French-za Engeijo Toyokan) Hisayuki Matsukura’s Asakusa Rokku Geinoden (Fifth episode) ‘Shinsuke Minami’
This is the fifth time this series has been published. So far, I have mainly introduced the comedians who were active at Asakusa French-za from the late Showa 20’s to the early 30’s. During the peak period of the demonstration theater, Toyo Kogyo opened French-za in Shinjuku and Ikebukuro one after another, and the huts which matched the colors of each town became as popular as Asakusa. In particular, the vigor of Shinjuku Franco-za, which had young performers and customers and was vibrant, was remarkable, and excellent entertainers full of individuality were born one after another.
This time, I would like to change the focus a little bit and talk about the comedians who were active at Shinjuku Franco-za, the relationship with the “other workplace” cabaret which was indispensable for them in their days of infancy, and the historical background at that time. Before the dawn of the real TV era, please feel the glamour of the youth of the performers on the demonstration stage …!
In the mid Showa 20s, the area around Shinjuku Station still retains traces of the war and was filled with many street stalls known as black markets. In 1949, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government received an order from GHQ to withdraw its stalls, and after much deliberation, built a building called the Shinjuku Service Center on the site of the former Toden Garage (next to the current Isetan Main Building) and instructed stalls to move into the building. However, the shop was only on the first floor and the second floor was empty. In 1952, with the idea of renting this space and creating a new theater that could be used to revitalize the town, Shinjuku Franco-za (1957: It was renamed Shinjuku Music Hall.) was established.
Shoji Abe, the first chairman of the Shinjuku French-za Theater, made a great contribution in coaching younger performers. Many attractive comedians such as Hitoshi Ishii, who was also active on TV, and Eiji Ishida, who was popular for his tasteful performance style, were on the roster, but most of all, what is familiar to everyone is “Tenpuku Trio” led by Shinsuke Minami, who was loved for his friendly characters.
◆Surprise personnel of the god of laughter!? Tenpuku Trio: Fateful encounter at Shinjuku French Theater
The leader, Sanba Shinsuke, was born in Tokyo in 1930. After dropping out of the College of Art, Nihon University, he trained in several theatrical companies including Mitsuyo Asaka and came to Toyo Kogyo in 1957. I wanted to perform at the Asakusa French-za Theater, but I was assigned to the Shinjuku French-za Theater because I had a part of acting style with Kiyoshi Atsumi who came back from illness and was in the limelight again. However, it seems that this was exactly the “surprise personnel” of the god of laughter. If I had been assigned to Asakusa as I wanted, the Tenpuku Trio would not have been born!
Mutsuo Totsuka (Born in Tokyo in 1931.), who used to be a colleague of Mitsuyo Asaka’s at the Shinjuku Franco-za, was on the roster, and they enjoyed the unexpected reunion. And the encounter with another person, Shiro Ito, is also fate, and it is a very interesting episode.
Teruo Ito who was barely 20 years old at the time, and later Shiro Ito (Born in Tokyo in 1937.), was originally a regular customer of both Asakusa and Shinjuku Franco-za. He was more into plays than strips (Maybe. Laugh) and seemed to be busily commuting. They were so enthusiastic that the performers remembered their faces and said, “Oh, he’s here again.” and they became famous customers.
One of the performers said to him, “Hey, have fun.”. Ito, who is honest and loved by everyone, has since become a frequent visitor to the dressing room, and has become more of a relative than a single customer. Before long, however, I was forced to work as a “Shokunai” at a cabaret and started to help Sanba and Totsuka ….
◆The existence of a cabaret who raised entertainers by raising himself, polishing his skills and cultivating his spirit…
“Shokunai” in cabaret? … It’s an unfamiliar word. Here, I would like to briefly explain the relationship between cabarets, who were inseparable from the lives of the entertainers at that time, and them.
Like Asakusa, the shows at the Shinjuku French Theater consist of two parts: one is a strip and one is a play. The play was popular, but the main one is the gorgeous strip. Of course, there was a considerable income gap between dancers and entertainers. The comedians can barely make ends meet even in the class of the leader, and even in the lower classes, they sleep in the dressing rooms, barely surviving with the help of their seniors (laughs), and they cannot live on their salary alone.
Their life was supported by side jobs in cabarets. Cabaret bars, which were extremely popular as a popular bar with a high level of entertainment in the 30s of the Showa era, held floor shows of various genres and the comedians were in great demand too. Toyo Kogyo does not have an exclusive contract system, so you can have side jobs freely. Most of the comedians went to cabarets as they were asked to, and they did five or six jobs a night at most. This side job (Naishoku) was turned upside down and called “Shokunai.”.
What the comedians have gained from the shokunai is more than just food for life.
Even in cabarets, the star of the floor show was dancers, so it is very difficult for drunken customers who are looking forward to their turn to see their performances. If I were to say something as trivial as possible, I would say, “I didn’t come to watch you, man, back out!” and “Hurry to send the pretty sisters ~!” This is a hectic storm. (Laugh). You should also improve your performance. In this way, they have unknowingly laid the groundwork for their long-term success as first-class entertainers, and this is also their holy land and a valuable place for ascetic practices. The power cultivated in cabaret was the best reward than Nissen.
The training at Shokunai was also successful, and the three of Sanba, Totsuka and Ito deepened their bonds every day and made their mark. They had a good personality and were gentle, and they had something in common in terms of personality, so I think they were compatible as human beings. We had a lot of things along the way, but we helped each other, filled holes and overcame difficult times.
It was a difficult time, but there was a glaring light. They looked as if they were three different ages and circumstances, glittering as if they were young boys in the midst of youth.
Sanba, who had taken a step or two in the field of entertainment, entered the television industry first, selling the tenpuku trio enthusiastically, and then grabbed the opportunity to become a big hit. As you know, Sanba alone has been active in many popular programs such as “Shoten”, “NHK Comedy On Stage”, “Deduction Papa”, and “Night Hit Studio”, and has been promoted to a TV star representing the Showa era. Ito, who started out as a customer of the Franco-za, has also been active as a great actor who can play a wide range of roles from comedy to serious and is admired by his personality. I’m really sorry about Totsuka who died at a young age, but the best memorial service is the performance of his partners.
Still, I think it is very strange to meet someone. Some bloom on a single encounter, while others end in misfortune on the wrong button. Like a tenpuku trio, one power swells to ten or a hundred and can make a big leap …. The path to a bright future will be paved not only by efforts and abilities, but also by valuing the bonds between people, the greatest asset.
From next time, we will return to Asakusa and continue the story. What is the deep bond between Tomohachiro and Kinichi Hagimoto, two ace players of Asakusa Franco-za …? Please look forward to it!