One of the weirdest challenges in my English Rakugo career is finding a zabuton (Japanese traditional cushion) to perform on. Buying a decent one in New Zealand is so much harder than you think.
Last week during a performance, my zabuton finally gave in and ripped without any warning whatsoever.
Perhaps, I do move around a bit too much. Sometimes enough to reveal my legs (or even more… undies?). My rakugo master always tells me to minimize movements to let my words elaborate stories more.
This baby has been with me since my first NZ performance in 2009.
It was a gift from a Japanese friend. It’d already been at least 10 years old so must be over 20 years old now. I am very much attached to it after spending hours and hours, practicing and performing on it.
By the way, this zabuton looks like this if you flip it over. This fix was done by my lovely neighbor. It added about one extra year to it.
I started hunting for a new one about a year ago.
Initially, I tried to buy it online from Japan, but I gave up as the cheapest one would have cost $280 including postage…
No zabuton made in NZ was good enough for me. They were either too rectangular, thin, or small… and often looked too western.
Then, I bumped into Auckland Zen Centre’s website the other day. They sell zen cushions!
I quite liked the idea of using a zen cushion for my rakugo, which sort of reflects my stoic approach to the art. Spending thousands of hours on zabuton, perfecting the skills, is quite zen.
Also, as a rakugo performer permanently based in NZ, it is quite symbolic to use one from here. I am trying to create something Kiwi inspired by the Japanese art after all.
I called the zen centre, and it was out of stock…
But they said they could make one for me!!!
So I ordered it on the last day of Heisei Era. Again, it was symbolic. I am not superstitious but enjoy ‘symbols’ as they make life events even more special.
Then, I finally received this one a few days ago.
I preferred a purple one and it doesn’t have tassels like Japanese ones do, but I am very happy to finally have a new one. This one is so sturdy that it would probably last a few decades!
A few days ago, I came up with a brilliant idea to save the old cushion. It was to only buy a zabuton cover from Japan, which was $40 including the shipping cost.
According to the EMS tracking, I’m supposed to receive it today!!!
Photos to follow!