Super Quick Intro to Rakugo Stories!

By far, this is one of the silliest things I’ve ever done online.

I am very much used to act like an… feel free to fill the gap… on stage, but I’ve always had a strong aversion to record my performance as it somehow feels permanent.

But the time is ripe for exposing my insanity a little bit to the digital world for the sake of getting people interested in rakugo. I will be an… whatever you like… if I can be a cupid between rakugo and the world 🙂

I am starting a video series called “Super Quick Intro to Rakugo Stories”. Through this series I will talk about rakugo stories and their history just enough to encourage people to listen to actual stories.

So, here you go. The first one is on “Jugemu”. His full name is at the bottom of this page 🙂

I was a bit inconsistent with the way I said his name, but the second one is the most standard way.

Here’s how to say his name (in hiragana and Roman characters):

ひらがな Hiragana

じゅげむ じゅげむ
すいぎょうまつ うんらいまつ ふうらいまつ
ぱいぽ ぱいぽ ぱいぽのしゅーりんがん
ぐーりんだいの ぽんぽこぴーの ぽんぽこなーの

ローマ字 Roman characters

Jugemu jugemu
Gokouno surikire
Kaijari suigyono
Suigyoumatsu unraimatsu furaimatsu
Kuneru tokoroni sumutokoro
Yaburakoujino burakouji
Paipo paipo paipono shuringan
Shuringan no gurindai
Gurindai no ponpokopi no ponpokona no
Chokyumei no chosuke

Zabuton Hunting Completed… Finally!!!

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!