This year I’ve had an honour of working closely with a multi-talented artist, Fiona Amundsen.
About two months ago, our short film, which incorporates rakugo, the Aikido concept of “zanshin” (残心), and remembrance of WWII, was released on Asia New Zealand Foundation’s digital platforms.
This work was a part of “IN TOUCH arts commissions” by the foundation, and I feel very privileged to be a part of this project.
You can still view this film/ artwork, but before you watch it, I’d like you to know a few things:
My family’s experience in Nagasaki is only a personalised way of remembering our mistakes as humanity as a whole. I am deeply ashamed of what my Japanese ancestors did to many Asian nations and others, and this is no way our attempt to victimise Japanese.
It is our way of finding the universal message of peace in the ordinary, everyday things.
Part 1 is very dark and many may give up watching the rest, but Part 2 has some humour in it based on my own experience with my grandfather. But Part 2 only makes sense if you watch Part 1…
I decided to write this first because someone who probably hadn’t watched the work nor read the interview commented as below on the foundation’s SNS:
“Great idea! Let’s remember Nanking, Rangoon, Singapore, Jakaraka [sic], Port Moresby, and many many others too shall we?”
This work was created to do exactly that!
Here is the link to our work. You can also find our interviews on the page. Some of the super intellectual comments are by Fiona 😁
This is the year of defiance for the rakugo performers and fans, and these auspicious events are the proof that the pandemic simply can NOT stop us from having fun and sharing the joy of storytelling and laughter.
First of all, I would like to congratulate the author for her sense of humour, strength, and indomitable will to give birth to this influential work while residing in one of the countries that were affected by the pandemic the most.
I have had the privilege of being a friend with the author for the last few years.
She is one of the biggest rakugo nerds that I know 😁, and she has even become a member of English Rakugo Association! (Did I mention that even I haven’t joined yet?)
She has been a great promoter of this art in the English speaking world, and the world of “English Rakugo” is eternally indebted to her.
There have been some academic books on the subject of rakugo in English (that put me, a rakugo performer, to sleep!), but I can confidently say that “Talking About Rakugo: The Japanese Art of Storytelling” will be the first book of its kind in English language that is accessible to everybody.
This is the way it should be as rakugo is an art of the poor and the ordinary (like myself).
The author hasn’t announced the exact launch date, but you can follow her SNS to find out the date first:
To celebrate this special occasion, they are organising a free online performance/ workshop for children all over the world on Saturday 5 June 2021(American time). It will be held bilingually in English and Japanese 😃
I believe that the details will be posted on Rakugo Association of America’s Twitter and website, which is under construction.
Hi all, long time no see! Hope everything is well with you!
I am sorry about my long absence… a lot have been happening in my rakugo journey… I will have to catch up in another article about my latest projects soon!
I have just realised that I have not introduced the rap song that my Japanese rapper friend, Kotaro Akiyama, kindly composed for me a while ago.
It’s really catchy, and a lot of thoughts must’ve gone into this project. I am very moved that he gave me this one of the most thoughtful gifts ever in my life! Thank you so very much Akiyama-san!!!
Some of my English-speaking friends have asked me for the English translation of the lyrics, so I will give you rough translation below next to the Japanese lyrics.
Sorry it will be a bit of a Japanglish!
Access to the audience’s imagination This process is not always a success story English Rakugo born in NZ, check out Kanariya Eishi Fell in love with rakugo at the age of 10 The ordinary and the poor are on the centre stage Silly episodes with loose screws Adorable crazy characters
Crazy and adorable Because I’m crazy! S, s, screw, s, s, s, screw Folks missing a screw or two unfold Chaotic tales with punchlines
Jugemu jugemu gokouno surikire Kaijari suigyono suigyoumatsu unraimatsu furaimatsu Journey to the world of rakugo through shelves-full of Cassette tapes from Oiso Library
Devoured hundreds of tales The boy who dreamed of becoming a storyteller Found himself being a stand-up comedian in America Fell in love with his partner, a major turn Tied the knot, to the southern hemisphere, New Zealand Life is unpredictable, unforeseen plot How you end your story is up to you Time goes, scenery changes Ain’t let go of the torch of passion Ignite the fuse with sparks Back to the world of rakugo again
Ecstasy in the rakugo universe Now share rakugo with pupils Stage name gifted by Master Eiraku Kanariya, yeah, extremely dangerous! Check it out! Kanariya Eishi
It was officially registered with the Japanese government at the end of last year, but it kicked off its activities last month in March 2021.
The first event that they organised was a duo performance by Sanyutei Koseinen(三遊亭好青年), the one and only Swedish rakugo performer on earth, and Kanariya Eiraku(鹿鳴家英楽), my dear master and the founder of the association.
They run many performances, but their next big gig will be held at Edo-Tokyo Museum on 3 May to commemorate the launch of the association. This is a very special event that you don’t want to miss!!!