Here in New Zealand, September is the Māori Language Month (Mahuru Māori), so I have decided to post my pepeha (self-introduction) on my YouTube channel to take part in this special occasion!
The Māori culture is an oral tradition just like the rakugo tradition, so I have always been fascinated by the immense richness of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (Māori language and its protocols) since I moved to New Zealand.
My Māori is very limited, so I probably made some mistakes in grammar, pronunciation, etc. in the video. Please kindly comment below to correct if you spotted any so I can improve my reo!
In my household, my Pākehā (NZ European) wife and I try to use Māori as much as possible, and my children now can recite karakia (Māori prayer) before meals.
I will keep learning this beautiful language and culture to deepen my understanding of this world, oral tradition, and rakugo.
Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa! (Greetings to you all!)
What I miss the most about Japanese summer is those amazing fireworks.
They are inseparable from my childhood memories of summer festivals and make me very, very nostalgic!
If you have been to a firework event in Japan, you might have heard some people shout “Tamaya! Kagiya!” (たまや！かぎや！). These calls are archaic, but I still heard them when I was growing up in a small town near Yokohama.
As you Japanese culture enthusiasts may know, these are the names of the most famous firework makers from the Edo period.
Kagiya (鍵屋 かぎや) started operating in 1659 and still exists even today. Tamaya (玉屋 たまや) was established in 1810 but shut down in 1843 due to an accidental fire.
You may have known the origins of the firework calls, but did you know where the names of these firework makers (Tamaya/ Kagiya) were from?
The answer is fox deities.
Fox deity worship was a very common form of spirituality during the Edo period (1603-1868). You can still see many shrines dedicated to them all over Japan.
There were at least three in my small neighborhood, and there was one at my primary school. They are literally all over Japan even today. Not many people now actually worship them, but they still treat these shrines with respect.
Now look at the picture above. Can you see that the fox has a key in his mouth? (It’s not a sword, by the way!)
A key is “kagi” in Japanese. So “Kagiya” literally means a “key shop”.
Another common item fox deities carry is a ball that is similar to the one dragons carry.
A ball is “Tama”…
You got it right. “Tamaya” literally means a “ball shop”.
So these two firework makers got their names inspired by the fox deities.
I don’t think many Japanese know this, so if you do your Japanese friends will be impressed 😁
Hope you are staying well regardless of the challenge the world is facing right now.
It seems like we Aucklanders will be stuck at home for a while…
As such, I will be running online rakugo workshops (in English) for New Zealand high schools this lockdown in partnership with the fantastic Asia New Zealand Foundation!
It is generously funded by the foundation, so you can enjoy my workshop free of charge.
The workshop is suitable for subject areas such as drama, Japanese, and English, and it gives your students something lighthearted to do at this time of uncertainty while learning this uniquely Japanese storytelling.
If you are interested, please visit this page for more details. The contact detail for the education adviser is listed under “Rakugo workshop” on the page.
As some of you may know, I spent the last two months recovering from a major-ish disc injury.
I am not writing this to get your sympathy, but I am just telling you why my “Online Rakugo Project” did not happen for so long.
Having said that, I am glad to announce that I have finally filmed two of my rakugo stories, and I will start posting them from next week!
In this Creative New Zealand funded project, I will post 10 very different rakugo stories on my online platforms, mainly YouTube and possibly Vimeo and IGTV.
If you still haven’t, please follow my YouTube channel as it will be an incentive for me to keep posting videos after this project is over. Please share about it with your friends and family as well.
I was initially not too sure whether to post videos as it is a consensus among rakugo fans that rakugo would not work in the video format. It is much more suited for the audio media.
Also, it would inevitably expose my limited skills and make it open to criticisms from rakugo purists (please be easy on me!), but I decided to post them for the following reasons:
I have been requested by quite a few people over the last few years. If that’s what my supporters want, I will provide! I perform rakugo for those people, not for critics 😃
As the world faces the Covid crisis, I want to cheer up people through my project, even if it is for a slightly bemused chuckle. Throughout my childhood, my peers always told me I had a “bored-sounding voice” (つまらなそうな声) but had a funny face. I probably should make the most of my “gifted” face.
It will be a good record of how primitive my skills were, looking back 10 years from now.
Finally, I was torn whether to have a small live audience for recordings or not. It is now possible to have an audience in NZ, and it is so much easier to perform in front of one. But I decided to talk straight to the camera instead, in solidarity with people in countries that are still majorly affected by the virus.
The first story “Chotan” is a little unusual pick to kick off the project with, but I couldn’t resist as I like performing quirky stories. It is translated as “Long-Tempered vs. Short-Tempered”, and it is a story about two best friends, one being extremely laidback, the other being quick-tempered. Hope you will enjoy it!