[The recording of this story is at the bottom of this post.]
Jugemu (寿限無) probably is one of the best-known rakugo stories in Japan along with Time Noodles (時そば) and Scary Manju (まんじゅうこわい).
It is also one of my favourite stories to perform for people who are new to rakugo.
This tale is about this Japanese boy who had an unnecessarily long name, which would cause all sorts of problems. I am very glad that my name is NOT…
Suigyoumatsu unraimatsu furaimatsu
Kuneru tokoroni sumutokoro
Paipo paipo paipono shuringan
Shuringan no gurindai
Gurindai no ponpokopi no ponpokona no
Chokyumei no chosuke
(*There are some different variations.)
The exact origin of this story is unclear as its basic structure appears in many books and folktales.
The prototype of this story is found in Shasekishu (沙石集) or “Sand and Pebbles”, which was a collection of Buddhist parables compiled by a monk called Muju (無住) in 1283.
It was widespread, and the same concept can be found in Kyogen and a traditional lullaby from Shinano Azumigouri Yamato Village (信濃安曇郡倭村).
One of the scary variations I have heard of before is that Jugemu drowns because his name was a bit too long…
Just like the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales, some stories became un-PC, so they have been rewritten over time as rakugo is not only a traditional art but a popular art at the same time.