One of my dreams has been to produce storytelling performances curating stories from all over the world including my art, rakugo.
This may sound like a massive dream, but the journey of a thousand miles got to begin with one step!
So, I was wondering if any of you would be interested in starting a very casual storytelling group where members share their stories or simply read picture books or passages from your favourite book or poetry?
If you are interested, please contact me via the contact page or one of my SNS (linked icons below).
If I get 2 or 3 people interested (as 1 on 1 would be a bit awkward…), we can meet at a cafe or a library somewhere in Auckland. I will book a space!
Here in Auckland, some parts of the city were flooded once again the day before yesterday, and last night we had a thunderstorm with hail where a lightning struck the Sky Tower. The temperature dropped nearly 10 degrees overnight, too.
My life isn’t as dramatic as the Auckland weather these days, but it’s definitely about time for an update on the rakugo front.
As some of you are aware, I have been struggling with a frozen shoulder for a while, but to make it more exciting, I injured my back during my recent trip to Japan. It was kind of exciting to buy my first walking stick, which I affectionately call ‘Mjölnir’, to waddle back to New Zealand.
It felt like being Yurakutei Yakumo if I let my inner anime geek shine through…
Fortunately, I don’t have to use the cane anymore, and I am steadily recovering.
However, the problem is that I still can only hold the seiza position up to only 20-30 minutes.
My usual solo performances run 60-90 minutes, so it is currently not possible to do a full-length performance.
I am looking for groups, organisations or venues in Auckland to let me perform rakugo only up to 30 minutes maximum…
Do you know such people who would kindly invite me?
As it is my favour, I will not charge my usual fees, but I’m keen on performing for free (though petrol money would be appreciated).
I really need to get back to stage to polish my craft.
Please contact me via the contact page if you are interested. Thank you!
I have to say that one of the highlights from my recent Japan trip was Tōkōin Temple (東光院) in my hometown, Oiso.
Mind you, I am not at all a religious person.
I only visited this temple to pay respect to my uncle who passed on during the pandemic, but this temple really blew my mind and showed me what it is to adapt our old traditions to this ever-changing world.
As you would know, not taking off your shoes to enter a Japanese house is a cardinal sin.
If I’m allowed to be a bit passive aggressive right now, each time my NZ European family members and friends walk into my house with their shoes on, I’m internally very, VERY cross! (Now you know!)
This cultural rule is upheld even more strictly at places of worship such as shrines, temples, and even some churches in Japan.
But, as you can see in one of the pictures above (“Keep your shoes on” sign), this temple broke this sacred cultural law to make the sanctuary barrier free for the elderly and people with disability (you need to bend down to remove your shoes, which is hard for them).
I was born and raised in Japan and spent about 21 years of my life there, but it was the very first time to visit a temple that allows you to keep your shoes on… in the sanctuary!!!
They also removed tatami mattresses and placed chairs in the sanctuary so that people don’t have to sit in the seiza position. It is a seiza-free temple!!!
I don’t know any other temple that does this. Please comment below if you know any other temple like this one in Japan… This is that rare!
But what really surprised me doesn’t end here.
This temple has a cozy community space with a library which is completely open to the public- anyone can just walk in and use it to study, to work, up to you.
When my family entered the space, there were a lot of after-school primary school students, reading manga, playing games together, or doing homework.
Then joined one of the monks (who once was a boxer!), and they all started watching the Final of 2023 World Baseball Classic together!
As you may know, Japan beat US and won the championship this year 😁
Did I say that the temple also provides tea, coffee, hot lemon drink, and sometimes even snacks free of charge.
If you want to have some quiet time to meditate, there is space available, too, where you can do sutra copying (写経) or “shabutsu” (写仏), which is a meditative practice to trace pictures of Buddha and other Buddhist deities.
My son was really amused by the tracing activity and completed it in a few minutes- though it’s supposed to be done very slowly to contemplate.
The temple also works closely with doctors, nurses, social workers, psychotherapists to offer free help for those who cannot afford these kinds of services themselves.
They invite academics to do open lectures on non-Buddhist subjects like economics as well.
There are even more radical things they do, but I’ll stop here to not to bore you!
My learning from their adaptability is that traditional arts such as rakugo also have to keep evolving, adapting themselves to the time, here and now. I have to say this temple is way ahead of the world of rakugo.