Chairperson of Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. (Asakusa-France-za Engei Hall, Toyo-kan) Hisayuki Matsukura’s Asakusa-Rokku Geinoden (11) “Takeshi Kitano (Kitano) part 1”
Takeshi Kitano was born in Tokyo in 1947. I grew up in Shimane, Adachi Ward, which has a downtown atmosphere, as the youngest of four children under the typical artisan father and strict mother. He was a bright child from an early age, and due in part to his mother, who was an avid educator, he excelled in elementary, junior high and high school grades, and he was accepted to Meiji University’s Faculty of Engineering while still in college.
However, the student movement was coming to an end in the mid-1970s. Like many students who were lost in the times and lost their way, he also lost his way, left the university, and led an aimless life in the throes of helplessness.
“What the hell am I doing …”
After suffering through it, he suddenly had a wild idea in his head one day.
“Yes, let’s go to Asakusa. Let’s be entertainers in that town!”
I don’t know how he came up with such an idea, he said later, but the intuition of a man pushed to the limit may be unexpectedly correct.
Because if I hadn’t followed that intuition, I wouldn’t have come to Asakusa France-za, nor would I have become Fukami’s favorite pupil and developed his abundant talent ….
In the summer of 1972, 25 year-old Takeshi comes to Asakusa and knocks on the gate of the Franciscan. Unfortunately, however, the entertainer and the staff were on time, and when I was about to be turned away at the door … a sorry old lady at the ticket office helped me, and I managed to slip in as an elevator boy. Greatest benefactor, Auntie!
And the first meeting.
The dignified 1000 Saburo FUKAMI is unapproachable for Takeshi, and Fukami also seems to have no interest in the new elevator boy. For a while it was all he could do to say hello, but one day he begged for his will.
“Master Fukami, I want to be a comedian. Please make me a disciple!”
“… Then you should try to remember this.”
With that, Fukami suddenly began tap-dancing steps. I guess Fukami, who has been watching young people who become disciples and then quit, thought so.
But Takeshi was different. I took Fukami’s words to heart and practiced hard, and I made a complicated step into a thing. And if you teach them the next step, they’ll remember this perfectly, too. Next time, next time. Fukami, astonished by his quick swallowing and earnestness, must have thought there was something to see, and one day he called out to Takeshi to take the stage as a stand-in for an entertainer who had suddenly fallen ill.
Since I came to Franceza, I had been secretly peeking through the door at the stage of my adored Master Fukami during my spare time at work and hammering the performance into my head, but today, when I am suddenly asked to go on the stage, I am happy or horrified! But this opportunity that has finally come around, you have to show your good side and be recognized at all costs.
He played the role of an okama. She did her own stage makeup without knowing what was right or left. One glance at the jolly, flamboyant makeup and the master’s roar flew.
“Stupid! The stage is to be charmed by the power of art, not by such small tricks as fancy makeup and costumes. Remember!”
This is the first performance in which he performed to the best of his ability while being preached in such a salute. Fukami seems to have been convinced of his talent at this time. It was not long after that that he asked me to take Takeshi Kitano officially as an apprentice entertainer.
Before you know it, the season is already winter. It had been almost half a year since Takeshi came to Asakusa.
People always talk about his talent, but the truth is he’s also an unparalleled hard worker. Because of his shyness, he never reveals his efforts, but Fukami must have seen those things through. It took a while to get recognized, but from there, it was fast. As if he were putting everything he had into it, Fukami passed on his tricks one after another.
As if I finally met my successor who continues to light the lights of the disappearing Asakusa comedy ….
In their personal lives, the two grow closer. Takeshi, who had been sleeping in a dressing room at the Franciscan theater, started living downstairs in the same apartment as his master, and it became a routine for him to take his master out for public baths and meals. If you go to a sushi restaurant, for example, Fukami will only touch a few things and let Takeshi eat only high-class ingredients. As usual, he poisoned himself, “Bakayarou, eat more! Konoyaro, don’t hold back!” and looked very happy (laughs). They were no longer just teachers and students, but real parents and children.
He has a genius and is a craftsman, clumsy but heartfelt. Two people who are really similar in temperament and personality. I think Takeshi absorbed everything about his master during this period when he spent time in public and private. As an entertainer, as a man, as a person. All who know deep insight in life speak alike.
“Takeshi looks exactly like his master.” he said.
Takeshi rose to prominence, to the point where the audience burst into laughter. At a time when the strip itself was in decline, the audience was far more lonely than it was in its heyday, but there were still more than a few fans who came to see the skit.
It’s only natural, then, that a brilliant young comedian would want to get better. Takeshi also developed a desire to leave the Franciscan theater and test his skills in the outside world, and his passion grew bigger and bigger day by day.
However, I am most concerned about Master Fukami, who is almost like a father. For a master who has had countless disciples and is sending them out into the world, he probably assumes that one day they will part ways. But he is painfully aware that he is incomparably adored and expected of his fellow disciples. How much would the master be hurt if he failed to live up to his expectations ….
But no matter how much he thought of his master, he could no longer suppress the passion he had once embraced.
It was a colleague, Kenko Jiro (later known as Beat Kiyoshi), who invited Takeshi to try a manzai with him. Born in Yamagata Prefecture, he was two years older than Takeshi as an entertainer. He was a man with a lot of guts who had been trained under Fukami since his days as a Rock. It has been several years since he declared that “I never go home until I’m on TV.” and moved to Tokyo. He, too, was eager to get out of here and get out there as soon as possible.
At first, Takeshi was not at all enthusiastic about Kaneko’s invitation. It was because Fukami always said, with a sour mouth, “I don’t accept stand-up comedy as an art.”
If I’m going to leave here hurting my master anyway, I want to at least make my way into the world with the art I inherited from him. He said he had to improve his skills more and more and compete in a skit.
With that in mind, Takeshi set up a junior with whom he could get along, and as the stage bounced, he stood on the roof of the French theater, devoting himself to practice his skit day in and day out. But what a twist of fate, my dear partner had fallen so seriously ill that he could not make a comeback …!