Seisuisho (Laughter to Wake Readers from Their Sleep) (醒睡笑)
Seisuisho is a collection of comical stories which widely circulated among the common people. The author was Anrakuan Sakuden, who was a priest in the capital (Kyoto) and was also known as a tea master and a cultured person. It consists of eight volumes and contains 1039 stories.
The book was named "Seisuisho," which means 'waking people up and laughing.'
Some material says that it was completed in 1623 when the title of the book was decided, while other material says that it came into existence in 1628, when it was dedicated to Shigemune ITAKURA, who will be mentioned later, and an afterward to the book was written. There is a variant title of 'Seisuisho' which was written with Chinese characters "醒酔笑," but it's not authentic.
In an introduction by Sakuden he says, 'I wrote down on wastepaper the funny stories I have heard since I was little,' explaining how the stories came to be collected. Of the collected stories, some derived from "Mumyosho" (The Nameless Treatise) and "Ujishui Monogatari" (A Collection of Tales from Uji), and some are the same stories as the ones collected in "Zagenyokishu" (A Collection of Jokes Which Cheer You Up) and "Yesterday Is Today's Story" which were published in the same period. It is unknown whether Sakuden quoted those stories or just chose them from the ones widely known among the people.
It is said that Sakuden came to write "Seisuisho" around 1615 when Shigemune ITAKURA recommended him compiling those stories into a book because Shigemune found Sakuden's stories interesting. When Sakuden completed Seisuisho and brought it to Shigemune (on April 21, 1628), the book was presented to Shigemune's son, Shigesato ITAKURA (chamberlain Itakura) (Although in in fact it was presented to Shigemune). This was written by Shigemune in the afterward of the book.
"Seisuisho" had an influence on the later hanashibon (humorous stories) and rakugo (comic storytelling). For example, of 88 stories written in "Comic Storytelling of Tsuyu" (1691) by TSUYU no Gorobe I, 28 stories were based on Seisuisho. That is why Sakuden is said to be a founder of the early modern rakugo. Even today some stories with comic endings based on "Seisuisho" like A Flattered Baby are performed. As mentioned in the articles about Kohechi and Ohechi (old roads to Kumano), it is used as an important historical material today.
The structure of the original text
An origin of the response (a far-fetched story shamelessly told)
A lampoon (a contribution (or a lampoon) with a satire by an anonym)
Fuwa to noru (meaning softly riding, a story of yielding to flattery)
A stupid officiating priest (a story of a slow-witted priest who is in charge of money and grain)
An ignorant monk (a story of a monk who can't read a sutra well)
It is strange to celebrate too much (a story of failure by believing too strongly in omens)
A master of naming (a godparent who gave the child a strange name)
Behavior of a noble (a funny episode of a noble)
Emptiness (a funny story of an idiot)
A miser (a funny story of a miser)
To behave clever (a silly story of a man who pretends to be clever)
A face of knowing letters (a silly story of a know-it-all)
No letters (a funny story of an illiterate who pretends not to know he is illiterate.)
Various sentences (many letters full of lively wit)
Self-indulgence (a story of failure made by a lecher)
A high-minded monk (a story of a monk who never commits the sin of having a sexual relationship with a woman)
A heard criticism (a witty trial)
Bitter criticism (an irrational trial)
Sodenai gaten (a wrong guess, or a hasty conclusion)
Tada ari (a tasteful story)
Charity heart (kind graceful heart)
A drinker (the funny and strange story of a drinker and his failures)
The rumors told by an infant (a secret story heard from an infant)
Being ignorant of male homosexuality (the funny story of a homosexual)
A love road (laughter between a couple)
Jealousy (a story of jealousy)
A trifling secret (a story of a trifling secret)
A wrong guess (a story of a man being disappointed by his wrong guess)
A liar (a fishy story)
Telling the truth to others (a funny story of a man who can't help revealing what's on his mind)
You can't stop a slip of the tongue (a funny story of a man who tries to retract his inappropriate statements)
A hope suitable to his position (a story of a sunken high hope)
Being upset (a story of being upset due to failure or forgetting)
Utai (chanting of a Noh drama text) (a funny story based on a phrase from a Noh song)
Mai (dancing) (a story of an ignorant man who heard a libretto of mai)
An improvised story (an improvised witty story)
The Taira family (a humorous story about a biwa (Japanese lute) player who recites the Tale of the Heike)
Kasuri (puns and feeble jokes)
Excellent verse (word play based on excellent poems)
The tea ceremony (a story of failure caused by ignorance of the tea ceremony)
Celebrated (a story with a happy ending)