Senshuraku (the last day of a performance) (千秋楽)
千秋楽 (senshuraku) is also written as 千穐楽 or 千龝楽, and, being an industrial term, indicates the last day, when plays on the same program are performed repeatedly every day for two or more days. The term "rakubi" (or the shorter "raku") is also used for the same meaning. Originally, this term and custom was used in kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) and grand sumo (Japanese-style wrestling) tournaments. Today, however, it is used widely in the fields of entertainment in general, including theatrical performances.
Related to this term, the day before senshuraku or the play performed before the last one is called maeraku (the day before rakubi). Additionally, when a play on the same program is performed in various places on a tour, the play that is performed at the site visited last is sometimes called osenshuraku or oraku in particular.
The expressions using different characters, such as 千穐楽, are employed because the 火 (fire) included in character 秋 is observed a taboo. This is because kabuki huts were often burned down by catching fires during the Edo period.
The origin of the term
There are many theories about the origin of the term of senshuraku, but the following are the most popular ones:
It came from the ancient custom that, when gagaku (traditional court music) was played, "senshuraku," which suggested congratulations, was played as the last number of the day. Or in Tsukeshugen (a short celebratory Noh play) of a Noh play, "Stroking people in general in Senshuraku" and the following part at the end of "Takasago (a Noh play)" was often sung. At any rate, either of them is a pun and is not related directly to the programs of gagaku or Noh.
When plays on the same program are performed for days, the three days of shonichi (the first day), nakabi (the middle day) and senshuraku (the final day) are considered to be the most important ones, and it is customary that the performers visit each other at their respective backstage rooms and pay their compliments to each other. Although these formalities especially nakabi's compliment have been simplified these days, importance is still placed on shonichi and senshuraku.
When the head performer or a star performer is fixed as in kabuki and commercial theatrical performances, it is also customary that the performer entertains the lower-ranked performers on the senshuraku day. Senshuraku has the special meaning as the day when a sense of unity should be confirmed among the performers, and they all take delight in having achieved a play together. A party celebrating that a run of performances has completed is often held on the senshuraku day, even when the performances aren't commercial ones.
In kabuki, there was an unwritten rule that performers can banter and joke with one another onstage on the senshuraku day, and they sometimes mock other performers by preparing puns and mischief in advance, but only to the extent that it won't hinder the flow of the play. This is called sosori.
To excite audiences, something not included in the script is said, the planned flow of the play is changed, ad-lib words are said, and/or an unexpected guest will appear onstage. Occasionally, an actor will express thanks to the audiences in response to a curtain call. Therefore, performances on the senshuraku day are favored, and advance tickets are sometimes sold out before those for the other days. Moreover, sometimes it happens that tickets for favored performances on the day are sold at premium prices.
Grand sumo tournaments
In the grand sumo tournaments before 1909, when Ryogoku Kokugikan (National Sumo Stadium) opened, it was customary that no wrestler in the elite Maku-uchi division would appear in the sumo ring on the senshuraku day. On this day alone, there was a custom that females were allowed to watch sumo-wrestling matches in public. However, during the Edo period, matches between Kanban Ozeki ("guest Ozeki," big strong-looking local lads who were only brought in to draw local crowds) sumo wrestlers were sometimes scheduled on the senshuraku day alone.
Koreyori Sanyaku (concerning bouts on the senshuraku day)
The final three bouts on the senshuraku day are named lika that. The three sumo wrestlers for these three bouts on the east and the west sides would appear, corresponding to the announcement of their wrestler names, in the sumo ring at the same time, clap their hands and stamp in unison in a ceremonious way. These ceremonious actions of the wrestlers were called "Sanyaku Soroibumi."
An arrow is given to the winner of the first bout, a string to the winner of the second bout and a bow to the winner of the last bout. Today's bow-twirling ceremony is the everyday version of the above-described ceremony.
The announcement of the winner by the sumo referee takes the form of "Yakuzumo ni kanau XX (the name of the winner of the bout)"
When a sumo wrestler is absent and the bout is not fought, whereby a win is given to the opponent, the order of the bouts is changed so that three wrestlers are always available for soroibumi.
The maximum number of appearances in "Koreyori Sanyaku" is 58 by Koyo MUSASHIMARU, the maximum number of wins in it is 40 by Koki TAIHO, and the maximum number of losses in it is 34 by Ryuji CHIYOTAIKAI. Takaya KOTOFUJI had only one opportunity to participate in soroibumi in the September sumo tournament of 1991, but he failed to do so because he was injured in a bout on the fourteenth day and lost the bout on the next day by default.