Eishi’s New Year’s Resolutions 2022!

My resolutions this year will be a bit different from usual, but bear with me for the next 500 words or so.

As of today, I am unemployed.

See? It’s already a bit different 😁

Anyway…

All performers in the world work on a project basis. Unless you are a Hollywood powerhouse actor, most of us often write, rehearse, and perform without a guarantee of income or recognition, scraping through barely making ends meet.

I am used to this roller-coaster lifestyle, but the difference this year, thanks to Mr. Delta and Mrs. Omicron, is that I have literally no income-generating project lined up as of today.

Now… I find this situation quite intriguing!

The silver lining is that I can truly empathise and walk along with people who have lost their jobs and businesses due to the grumpy spiky couple aka Mr. D and Mrs. O.

Sure, I may have to take up a day job or moonlight, but I have this rootless sense of hope that from here onward it will be up and up! 😁

With this in mind, here are my goals for this year:

1. Treat my own life as a big joke and document my journey

Good rakugo performers and comedians know that their own lives are the best sources of comedy. They know how to make people laugh at the expense of their own tragedies, so why not?

I’ll be open about my temporary joblessness and document how I eventually get out of this situation so that I can hopefully walk along with and give courage to people in a similar situation as mine.

2. Write as many original rakugo stories as possible

With the recent passing of Sanyutei Enjo III (三代目 三遊亭 圓丈), the godfather of Shinsaku Rakugo* (新作落語) on 30 November 2021, I was inspired to start producing more original stories.

As some of you may remember from my last year’s resolutions, I have already written some stories based on Edogawa Ranpo‘s mystery novels and fairytales by the Brothers Grimm, but I am still trying to figure out how to present them- the mystery rakugo being too long while the fairytale rakugo being too short for stage…

Meanwhile, I have finished translating a rakugo story into Māori (Jugemu). Once I completed 2 or 3 more stories, I will find a cultural adviser and a Māori translator so that I can work with them to create something that is respectful to te ao Māori (the Māori world/ worldview). Hopefully, I will make some progress in this area this year, too.

* New/ original rakugo as opposed to classical rakugo (古典落語). Shinsaku rakugo literally means “newly written rakugo”.

3. Become a Laughter Yoga Leader

As some of you may know, I am a Laughter Yoga enthusiast. It has helped my family stay happy and healthy through this pandemic, and I would like to be certified as a Laughter Yoga leader this year!

I will definitely be talking more about the benefits of laughter here!

Laughter Yoga, by the way, is a health exercise and NOT affiliated with any religion.

4. Continue with my Māori Full-Immersion Journey

Last year, I completed my first year of Te Ataarangi (Māori Full-Immersion) programme. Oh boy, it was super challenging and I thought of discontinuing my journey so many times last year, but I have decided to continue on to the advanced level this year.

These are my goals for now.

I don’t know when I can get back to stage yet. Being a one-person gig without a regular producer, it is still too risky for me to produce shows. Schools and other organisations haven’t invited me back yet.

So everything is unclear and unwritten at this stage.

Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten would be a great BGM for me right now.

Oh, so much freedom, and I feel alive!!!

To life!!! 🥂

Eishi’s Year 2021 Wrap-Up

What a roller-coaster of a year!

The year 2021 began peacefully, almost too peacefully, here in New Zealand as if we were completely intact from the you-know-what.

Then, we (mainly us Jafa‘s) rejoined the rest of the world .

Sure, it absolutely sucked to home-school my children for 1/3 of the year, but this year also turned out one of the most glorious years in my English Rakugo journey!

Here’s the timeline of the GREAT things that happened this year:

January 2021

I FINALLY completed my Creative NZ-funded project after requesting for an extension

March 2021

English Rakugo Association had its launch at Edo-Tokyo Museum

Fiona Amundsen and I produced an Asia NZ Foundation-funded video project Half-Life, which became the prototype for our later project An Ordinary Life (commissioned by Christchurch Art Gallery)

May 2021

Rakugo Association of America was born

June 2021

Talking About Rakugo : The Japanese Art of Storytelling by Kristine Ohkubo was published

July 2021

I had my first Wellington performance at NZALT conference

An Ordinary Life was exhibited at Christchurch Art Gallery (until November)

August 2021

I was accepted as a Special Member of the English Rakugo Association

December 2021

I completed a full-immersion Māori programme (Te Ataarangi through Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi; continuing on to the advanced level, Te Kaupae 5& 6, next year!)

Note: One of my dreams is to perform rakugo in Māori someday so that I can give my taonga to this beautiful Aotearoa!

As you can see, this year indeed was a very crucial year in my rakugo journey regardless of all the lockdowns and my current status as an unemployed performer. All this was possible especially thanks to all the people like you… who are still reading this article all the way down here 😁

We never live alone.

Thank you so very much for being a part of my life!

May 2022 be a year of unity, empathy, and some good stories and uproarious jokes!

Here’s my special thank you to:

Asia New Zealand Foundation, Creative New Zealand, Auckland Council, Christchurch Art Gallery, University of Auckland, Embassy of Japan, Auckland Council Libraries, Onehunga Community Centre, NZ Japan Society, Paul, Echo, & “Kazuma” Janman, Yasheeka Bertram, Kirsty Sharp, Bevan Chuang, Athena Dennis, Kristine Ohkubo, Miki, Alex, Fiona Amundsen, Dr Valance Smith, Kanariya Eiraku Shisho, Kanariya Jincho, Kanariya Aimu, Kumiko Imai, English Rakugo Association, Aoteya Rakugo Club (Pukeko, Raki, Sakura, Ichigo), Fookes Family, Yee Yang ‘Square’ Lee, X, M, & M, and my supportive family members!

* This list is in a random order and not conclusive. I hope I didn’t miss out anyone…

Japanese Street Wisdom Podcast Episode 5 [Listen to Your Inner Voice 自分の心の声でやんなさいよ。]

In this episode of the Japanese Street Wisdom Podcast, I will talk about a quote by Yanagiya Kosanji X (十代目 柳家小三治) who just passed away last month on 7 October 2021. He was one of the three rakugo performers to have ever been awarded the status of the Living National Treasure of Japan (人間国宝).

I was inspired to talk about the wisdom of this legendary performer after listening to an interview between him and Hayashiya Shozo IX (九代目 林家正蔵). As my diction of the Japanese quote was horrible (I’ve been away from Japan too long!), here is the actual quote:

上手くなろうと思わないことですよ。もっと下手でいいの。普通の声でやんなさい。自分の心の声でやんなさいよ。Don’t try to improve. It’s OK to be ordinary. Use your own voice. Listen to your inner voice, and let it out.

As you can see, this episode was recorded 11 days after his departure, and I found it interesting to listen to the recording now as my English translation reflected my interpretation of his message back then.

If I’m to translate it again today, I would probably say “listen to your inner voice, and let your heart speak”. I guess I understand what he meant better now.

This episode has some extra rambling and turned out like Japanese Theatre 101, but hey it’s me, my brain is pretty chaotic inside!

Thank you again, Curtis, for reminding and encouraging me to record another episode!

I am always looking for topics for the podcast, so please do comment below if you have anything you want me to talk about.

Finally, if you know where the high-fiving idea came from, please let me know also!

You can also listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube.

See you in the next episode!

Is This a Miracle? Superstitious Japanese!

We Japanese are superstitious people.

Regardless of our everyday high tech life, many of us still follow our traditional ways and beliefs, which I guess is one of the reasons why many people are still drawn to my country of birth.

One of the superstitions that we have is that it is good luck when a tea stem stands up in your green tea.

Deep down, we know that it is not scientifically sound to assume that a piece of stem would affect our future, but many do get overly excited whenever this phenomenon occurs to us.

If you live in Japan long enough, you will eventually hear the following phrase:

見てみて!茶柱が立ってる!(みてみて!ちゃばしらがたってる!)

“Look, look! A tea stem is standing up! (literally means “a pillar of tea is standing up”)

With this in mind, I just witnessed a miracle.

I like to burn incense when I work to get into the zone, and, lo and behold, the following sight interrupted my work!

I screamed with joy.

うおっ!線香立ってる!(せんこうたってる!)

OMG, incense is standing up!

This, my wise readers, is a phrase that you will probably never hear or use for the rest of your life.

This is not a well-timed picture. It kept standing up like this for good few minutes!

A miraculous day is waiting for me and hopefully for you, too!

My Love Letter to Te Ao Māori

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It is 12:00PM on 14 September 2021. It is the Māori Language Moment!

I will try some whīwhiwhi (tongue twisters) with my tamariki later, but I have decided to celebrate this occasion by writing a love letter to te ao Māori.

Now… writing a love letter is always awkward.

I don’t even know if anyone still writes love letters.

But I grew up in a generation where love letter writing was still the thing, so I will take this opportunity to write one.

Dear te ao Māori,

I literally had no idea how deeply in love I would be with you when I first met you at Te Ara Poutama (AUT) in 2007.

I was still fresh off the boat, and my wise Kiwi wife told me that the most important thing to really understand Aotearoa was to learn at least the basic of te reo Māori me ōna tīkanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

But, the moment the kaikaranga called the manuhiri at my very first pōwhiri, I fell in love with you.

I had not known anything about you, but the sound of karanga was charged with wairua that it brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of the Shintoist chant back home in Japan that is deeply rooted in Nature, and I finally felt at home in this foreign land.

Your respect for elders and ancestors resonated in my Japanese heart, and whakawhanaungatanga helped me feel less homesick.

Your manaakitanga really humbled me and made me want to reciprocate when you visit my whenua.

Thank you also for helping our indigenous people, Ainu, regain their mana.

And your hākari! You pour so much love into cooking hangi! It is just so divine!

Finally, your kaitiakitanga like the concept of rāhui. You have always known the solution for the global warming! I really believe that following your way is the only way for human survival.

All my kaiako have generously imparted me with their knowledge, wisdom, and passion for te reo, and I am eternally thankful to them.

I am also thankful to my classmates who have taught me so much about te ao Māori.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I feel immensely privileged to be allowed to take Māori classes, but at the same time I am fully aware that I am also taking away a chance for one Māori person to learn his/ her own language. I always keep this in mind and never take this opportunity for granted.

My journey has just begun, but someday I would like to give back to te ao Māori by promoting te reo Māori me ōna tīkanga among our migrant communities particularly among the Asian communities in Aotearoa.

My progress might be slow, but I am committed to you!

I was wondering if you are free this Thursday night?*

Warm regards,

Eishi

* My Te Ataarangi class is held on Thursdays 😁

Old-Time Radio (OTR) and Rakugo

As some of you may know, New Zealand has just gone into another lockdown as of today.

As I was searching for something to do during this time of isolation, I remembered about the Old-Time Radio (OTR) that my friend and author, Kristine Ohkubo, had introduced me to a while ago.

One of her recommendations was The Great Gildersleeve, a radio sitcom that was originally broadcast from 1941 to 1958.

The entire series is available for free on Spotify, and I am currently listening to one of the episodes as I write this.

It is amazing how this series reminds me of rakugo so much.

Its humour is derived from the dialogues and situations as opposed to stand-up comedy that is often a compilation of random jokes.

Rather stereotypical and caricature-like, wholesome characters.

The same nostalgic place where your dreamy self can belong and go back to.

I can relate to the OTR almost exactly in the same way as I connect with rakugo.

By the way, Ohkubo is an Old-Time Radio enthusiast who turned a rakugo enthusiast herself.

She even went so far as publishing a book about rakugo and becoming a fellow member of the English Rakugo Association.

As I listen to Gildersleeve giggle, I can now clearly see why she became so passionate about rakugo.

Are you an OTR enthusiast? Please give me more recommendations in the comment section below!