Slipped Disc, Middle Age, and Upcoming Shows!

Ohisashiburidesu!  Long time no see!

As some of you are aware, I injured my back a few weeks ago while mowing the lawn… therefore joining the league of extraordinary middle aged men.  I am very much proud of my accomplishment.

It was not just a sprained back but a full-blown slipped disc, and I was incapacitated for a while and even ended up cancelling a performance 😦

But my rehab is going really well, thanks to my amazing physiotherapist, and I can even sit in seiza position now!

So I’m finally back to performing Rakugo!

The bright yellow poster at the top is for my last performance of the year.

The show will held 7:30 PM, Tuesday 4 December 2018 at “The Spreading Tree” in Eden Terrace, Auckland.

As a lead-up to this, I am doing another show at Onehunga Library on Wednesday 28 November.  It starts at 10:00 AM.

I will do the same stories for both of these shows, so it would be cool if you could join one of these two.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

Some Exciting News and My Schedule!

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お久しぶりです!Long time no see!

It’s about time for an update, and I hope you are ready for more of my Rakugo.

Guess what?

For the last few months, I have been working on a book about Rakugo in English, and about 1/3 of the book has been written so far.

I will probably publish it either as an e-book or a self-published book unless of course a really reckless, risk-taking publisher approaches me 🙂

It could be you.

I am planning to finish the final draft by the end of the year and look into publication early next year.

Keep an eye out for an update here!

In terms of Rakugo performance, the biggest development is that I have just established an agreement to perform Rakugo regularly at “Tsudoi”, a bimonthly Japanese/ English conversation group run by the New Zealand Japan Society of Auckland.

I will probably start performing in November and then decide how frequently I should do Rakugo there.  I was told that I can perform as often as I want to… how awesome is that?

It will be casual sessions, and I am likely to try out new stories and some experimental Rakugo… possibly even Sandai Banashi (三題噺), an improvised Rakugo?

There are some other shows that are getting confirmed:

    1. Update 14.10.18: Due to an injury, this show now has been cancelled 😦 Selwyn Village (43 Target St, Point Chevalier): Thursday 18 October 10:30 AM * This show is mainly for the residents but open to the public.  Make sure to park outside the gate to avoid towing!!!
    2. Onehunga Library (85 Church Street, Onehunga): Date to be confirmed but it will be mid-late November
    3. Retirement home in Royal Oak: I am not too sure if this one is open to public, but if so, I will let you know here or on my Twitter.  It should be sometime in October or November.  My second visit there.
    4. The Spreading Tree (37 Mount Eden Road, Grafton): This is my main show and the last one this year funded by the Creative Communities Scheme.  It will be either late November or early December.

Hope to see you there!

 

Female Shinuchi is Born!

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Exciting news!

Five new Shinuchi (真打)will be born this month!

“Shinuchi” (pronounced “Shin uchi”) is the master status in the Rakugo world i.e. the highest rank that a Rakugo performer can ever achieve.  Only by achieving this status, you are allowed to perform as the headliner in a line-up show and take your own apprentice to preserve the Rakugo tradition.

It normally takes roughly 15 years of full time training to reach this status.

What makes this news even more exciting is that one of the five new Shinuchi this time round is a woman!

Rakugo was traditionally developed by men, and it wasn’t until 1993 that female Shinuchi were born.  I used the plural form because in fact two female Shinuchi, Kokontei Kikuchiyo (古今亭菊千代) and Sanyutei Karuta (三遊亭 歌る多), were born in the same year!

And this month Kokontei Kikuchiyo’s apprentice Kokontei Komako (古今亭駒子) will become a Shinuchi, therefore becoming the first time ever female master-disciple both reaching the Shinuchi status in history.

Rakugo is evolving.

Incorporating more feminine elements into Rakugo will definitely transform this art form.

Exciting time we live in!

If you read Japanese, you can find more information on this page.

My Voice Recording of “The Snow Bride” No.1

I have recently started recording some Japanese stories to improve my voice acting skills and to share non-Rakugo traditional tales with the world.

Thanks to the fantastic The Project Gutenberg, I have found a few scripts that are in the public domain.

My first project is “The Snow Bride” or “Yuki-Onna” (雪女).

It is one of the best known ghost stories that literary everybody in Japan knows.

You can access the full text from here.

As it is a public domain work, I will copy the texts below as well:

Mosaku and his apprentice Minokichi journeyed to a forest, some little distance from their village. It was a bitterly cold night when they neared their destination, and saw in front of them a cold sweep of water. They desired to cross this river, but the ferryman had gone away, leaving his boat on the other side of the water, and as the weather was too inclement to admit of swimming across the river they were glad to take shelter in the ferryman’s little hut.

Mosaku fell asleep almost immediately he entered this humble but welcome shelter. Minokichi, however, lay awake for a long time listening to the cry of the wind and the hiss of the snow as it was blown against the door.

Minokichi at last fell asleep, to be soon awakened by a shower of snow falling across his face. He found that the door had been blown open, and that standing in the room was a fair woman in dazzlingly white garments. For a moment she stood thus; then she bent over Mosaku, her breath coming forth like white smoke. After bending thus over the old man for a minute or two she turned to Minokichi and hovered over him. He tried to cry out, for the breath of this woman was like a freezing blast of wind. She told him that she had intended to treat him as she had done the old man at his side, but forbore on account of his youth and beauty. Threatening Minokichi with instant death if he dared to mention to any one what he had seen, she suddenly vanished.

Then Minokichi called out to his beloved master: “Mosaku, Mosaku, wake! Something very terrible has happened!” But there was no reply. He touched the hand of his master in the dark, and found it was like a piece of ice. Mosaku was dead!

To be continued.

Rakugo is Simply an Excuse to Learn

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“I see reality in another way with a camera. Looking through the lens, I peer into another world… For me, the camera is simply an excuse to learn.”

“Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide” by Isabel Quintero

I know I should really be writing about the “Rakugo& Tsugaru Shamisen” performance and my recent visit to a retirement home where I performed Rakugo for 90 year-old plus audience.

But I wanted to record this thought before I lose it.

The other day when I was browsing through a graphic novel about Graciela Iturbide, I stumbled upon the quote above.

I am not sure if it was an exact utterance by Iturbide, but it really explained why I have been pursuing Rakugo, very much a minority art, alone in New Zealand.

Allow me to heavily plagiarise…

it surely isn’t plagiarism as long as I mention the source, right?

The reason I do Rakugo is because…

I see reality in another way with Rakugo. Looking through the Rakugo stories, I peer into another world… For me, Rakugo is simply an excuse to learn.

I finally understood why.

Introducing Rakugo Characters No.2 [Kumagoro 熊五郎]

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Along with Hachigoro (八五郎), one of the best known stock characters in the Rakugo-verse is Kumagoro (熊五郎).  He is usually referred as “Kuma-san” (熊さん) or simply “Kuma” (熊) , which means a bear.

As the name suggests, this “Edokko” (江戸っ子)* is quick tempered, not someone to mess with!  He is usually a carpenter in Rakugo tales and loves drinking sake.  He is almost an alcoholic and gets into trouble when he drinks a little too much.

He is not the smartest person in Rakugo, but he is immensely likeable, someone with a very big heart.  He is one of my favorite characters as he reminds me a little bit of myself.  No, I do not have drinking problems!

* “Edokko” or “Edoite” is the term for those who lived in “Edo”, the old name for Tokyo, which was used during the Edo Era (1603-1868). They were known for their hospitable yet feisty temperament.  I actively promote these terms so that they will be recognized internationally someday!

Introducing Rakugo Characters No.1 [Hachigoro 八五郎]

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In Rakugo, there are some stock characters that show up over and over in multiple stories.  One of such Rakugo-verse dwellers is Hachigoro (八五郎).  His nicknames are usually: “Hachi”, “Hats-an”* (八っつぁん), or “Garappachi”* (ガラッ八).

Hachi is a happy-go-lucky clown type.  He is usually quite likeable but an infamous scatterbrain.  He is a bigmouth and has a tendency to act on half-baked knowledge.

Wherever he goes, chaos ensues.

In one story, he ends up becoming a monk.  In another, he gets promoted to be a samurai warrior.  He is possibly the best known character in Rakugo along with Kumagoro (熊五郎) and Inkyo (隠居) (whom I will introduce in other articles!).

This man mainly appears in Edo Rakugo (Tokyo Rakugo) but barely gets a cameo appearance in Kamigata Rakugo (Osaka Rakugo).

* These spellings are for pronunciation purposes only.

My Near Enlightenment Experience at Titirangi Library

The circle has been completed.

The 20-something me, who casually walked into Titirangi Library, would have never imagined that he would someday perform Rakugo at this very library 16 years later.

It was a hot summer day in February.  My Day 2 in New Zealand.

I was walking up Titirangi Road, feeling the scorching UV-infused sun on my skin.  My mission was to sign up with the library at the top of the hill.

Admittedly, I hadn’t known much about New Zealand before moving here- except for the All Blacks, kiwis, sheep, and a few other random Kiwiana.  After all, my move to this country was purely accidental; my gonna-be-wife happened to be from here.

To impress my future in-laws, I decided to adapt myself quickly to the Kiwi ways.  I did.  Thanks to all the wonderful books and information provided by this cosy storehouse of “kōrero” i.e. stories.

Excuse my sentimental mumbo-jumbo here, but it was a very special occasion for me to perform at this particular library as I could somehow feel I could give back a tiny bit to the place that had given me so much.

I may have lost half the readers by now… but if you are still reading, you are my kindred spirits!  You deserve an intermission 🙂

These beautiful origami works are done by Origami Workshop NZ.  All of them are inspired by Rakugo and especially “Jugemu”, one of the stories I did on the day.

The performance was somehow very spiritual.

Perhaps more laughter would’ve done justice.  Rakugo is supposed to be a comedic expression.

But it unexpectedly brought this magical oneness, unity, or whatever you call it… that shared “flow” you have when you are having good time with your best mates.  The feeling of the audience and performer… me!… being one.

Sometimes I act more like a “comedian” and pursue laughter.  Other times, I am a pure storyteller and see where the Rakugo stories would lead me and the audience.

The Q&A session was very fascinating.

They were mainly questions about Rakugo stories and Japanese culture.  I always learn something new from their unique insights and perspectives.  I am especially curious about finding out how Rakugo is perceived by people who did not grow up in Japan.

One audience member Tweeted me a lovely comment after the event.  She liked the way coins were kept in the kimono sleeves back in the olden days 🙂

I forgot to mention.  My favourite question at the Q&A session was something I had not expected at all:

“How do you stay so happy?”

Thank you for asking the question.  I can stay happy because of people like you.

A new circle has begun 🙂

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Rakugo & Tsugaru Shamisen Collaboration!!!

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For those who cannot make it to the English Rakugo performance at Titirangi Library this Thursday, here’s good news!

I will be collaborating with some of the AMAZING Tsugaru Shamisen performers from “Auckland Tsugaru Shamisen 音緒 -Neo-” on Thursday 9 August!

Tsugaru Shamisen is quite different from Edo Shamisen (Tokyo style Shamisen), and it is very upbeat and almost reminds me of a Japanese Rock& Roll!

I was told that there will be a Japanese drummer and a singer as well, so I am very much looking forward to it!

(Can you tell from the fact that I ended all last 4 sentences above with exclamation marks?)

As it is a collaboration project, I have decided to do arguably the most physically demanding, almost slapstick like Kamigata/ Osaka Rakugo piece to match their energy.

As I am trained in Edo Rakugo (Tokyo style Rakugo), it will be so much fun to try something entirely new.

See you there!