If you have been to a Japanese restaurant, I’m sure you have seen those waribashi (割り箸, わりばし) or disposable wooden chopsticks that you pull apart before digging in your yummy Japanese dishes.
Personally, I have a love-and-hate relationship with them- I love them because they are sanitary; I hate them because they are an absolute waste of trees.
Anyway… I came across the origin of those chopsticks the other day, so I’m sharing it with you 😃
It is said that waribashi was first created by an eel restaurant in Edo (1603-1868), which is the old name for Tokyo.
They were originally made of bamboo and called “Hikisakibashi” (引裂箸 ひきさきばし), which roughly means “chopsticks to split apart”.
However, the wooden disposable chopsticks that we use today were actually invented in Nara Prefecture(奈良県 ならけん).
It is said that amonk called Sugihara Souan (杉原宗庵, すぎはらそうあん) invented them from Japanese cedar from the Yoshino region (so called “Yoshino Cedar”; 吉野杉, よしのすぎ) in 1827.
They used the scrap wood from making sake barrels, and even today they only use wood from forest thinning in the Yoshino region, therefore making them more ecological than the imported ones from overseas.
I personally think it’s best to use reusable metal chopsticks like Korean people do for the environment, but if you are into waribashi, I recommend you get ones from Yoshino!
I’ve never posted a book review here until now, but I couldn’t resist as “Sakhalin: The Island of Unspoken Struggles” by Kristine Ohkubo has become one of the most influential books in my life for the reasons I’m about to write!
First of all, here’s the review that I posted on the author’s Goodreads page:
“Sakhalin” is an unparalleled account of the people who became the victims of the power struggles over this resource-rich island in the Far East. The history of Sakhalin is little known even to Japanese, including myself, although a part of the island was once colonised by Japan and the Japanese settlers themselves eventually became the victims at the end of World War II. Thoroughly researched, Kristine Ohkubo’s intelligible writing reveals the island’s complex history that involved the world powers such as the Mongols, China, Russia, and Japan. However, the real beauty of this book is that Ohkubo has given voice to the Karafuto Koreans, Ainu, Uilta, and Nivkh. Even though this book’s subtitle is “the Island of Unspoken Struggles”, their struggles have now been spoken.
As you can see, two of the main reasons why this book really spoke to my heart were:
It explains a complex subject that has not been discussed openly and widely in her clear, accessible writing.
It gives voice to the forgotten minorities: the Karafuto Koreans, Ainu, Uilta, and Nivkh.
But another big reason for my attraction to this book is that…
the foreword for this book was written by my very own rakugo master, Kanariya Eiraku (Tatsuya Sudo is his real name)!
Here is how this came true (insider information ahead) 😁
The author, who happens to be a rakugo fan, went to my master’s rakugo performance in LA.
She told him about the book in the process of writing and found out that Eiraku’s father was from Sakhalin!
Therefore, this collaboration came true.
What was the chance of that to happen!
I learned about his connection to Sakhalin and his Ainu uncle through this book, which I had not known even as his student.
For these reasons, I can very confidently recommend this book to you!
Find out more about the book on the author’s website! She has great online presence, so you can find her SNS on most major platforms 😃
Hastutenjin was originally a Kamigata Rakugo** created by Shofukutei Shochiku (松富久亭松竹 DOB/ DOD unknown), the founding father of the Shofukutei (笑福亭) clan. It was exported to Tokyo by Sanyutei Enba III (三代目三遊亭圓馬 1882-1945).
Having said that…
this story is almost nothing to do with Tenjin Shrine itself, but it’s a simple lighthearted story about a relationship between a father and his son.
You can watch the story at the bottom of this post, but here is what dango looks like.
Hope you will enjoy the story!!!
* You might have noticed that my YouTube thumbnail says “The First Visit to Tenjin Shrine”, but it is mistranslated. The official translation by my master Kanariya Eiraku is “A New Year Visit to the Shrine”, but I also presented a more literal translation “A New Year Visit to Tenjin Shrine” for educational purposes.
** Rakugo from the Kansai region especially from Osaka and Kyoto
What I have learned through 2 lockdowns and all the restrictions due to the Covid crisis is that all live performers must improve their online platforms/ presence that would allow them to keep creating and supplement their income during a situation like the one we are facing right now. So I have decided to focus on the following this year:
a. Discover an irresistible “voice” that would woo the online audience 💖
I am very much a live performer, so I have been struggling to find my “voice” that would be appealing to the online audience. I want to develop my digital storytelling skills- presentation style, camera work, editing, etc.- so that I can entertain people online as much as when I am on live stage! It’s a completely different set of skills, so I need to learn from the scratch! 😃
b. Develop fairy tale and mystery rakugo 🦄+🧐=👍
In my attempt to discover my “online voice”, I have decided to write rakugo stories based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Edogawa Rampo‘s mystery novels. I chose these two sources because the former is so universal that it is approachable to most people and the latter is entertaining (it’s quite “pulpy”). But if you want me to be 100% honest, the copyrights for both of these have expired, so I can use their ideas freely, therefore I can focus on discovering my “voice” rather than spending hours overcoming writer’s block 😁 The stories I develop online will be performed live in the future!
c. I will acquire 1,000 followers on my YouTube channel by 30 June 2021!
To make my online work justifiable, I do need to start generating online income. You might be appalled that I am talking about money, but as a full-time performer I do need to think about the financial side of my rakugo journey so that I can keep doing what I do! If you have a burning desire to help me out, you can follow my channel. It’s free and takes a few seconds to do so!
2. Complete Te Ataarangi (Māori full-immersion) Programme
As a part of my rakugo journey, I have decided to attend a full-immersion programme to acquire the Māori language this year! The course is designed for working people, but it requires a full-time academic commitment.
I have decided to make this big commitment:
To learn from the depth of their language and culture, particularly from their oral tradition
To really understand Aotearoa/ New Zealand so that I can create a rakugo that is truly relevant to this country
To teach rakugo more effectively at schools (I teach rakugo at NZ schools)
To eventually perform rakugo in the indigenous language of this country- this is my way of showing absolute respect for te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (Māori language and its cultural protocols)
But I am realising more and more about the importance of building communities in this divisive world. I believe it is important that each person attempt building bridges for people from different walks of life with what s/he can do.
To me, rakugo is one of the few things that I can give, so I will use it to bring people together to build a better society. I want to contribute a small building block for a more connected, inclusive world.
I have always wanted to perform with the rakugo club members since I started the club in 2019, and my dream finally came true last weekend 😃
It was a tiny baby step (9 people all together!), but it was the first of many to come!
At this time of the year, I normally reflect on my rakugo journey and list things that I have accomplished during the year on this website.
But this year, I will instead list the names of the people who have encouraged, inspired, and supported me through this rather… memorable?… year.
I had never felt so strongly the interconnectedness of humans and that we never live alone.
So thank you every single one of you whose path crossed with mine this year to encourage/ support/ work with this one of the most indie performers in the world.
Kia ora, thank you, and doumo arigatou gozaimasu!
Asia New Zealand Foundation, Creative New Zealand, Auckland Council, University of Auckland, Auckland Libraries, Onehunga Community Centre, Babel Theatre, Auckland Playback Theatre, Paul & Echo Janman, Daniel Fernandez, Yasheeka Bertram, Kirsty Sharp, Bevan Chuang, Rina Kim, Athena Dennis, Kristine Ohkubo, Miki, Alex, Sydney Solis, Kanariya Eiraku Shisho, Kanariya Jincho, Kanariya Aimu, Fukuko Takahashi, Kumiko Imai, Aoteya Rakugo Club (Raki, Kazuma, Pukeko, Wine, and the Rakugo Girls), Fookes Family, Yee Yang ‘Square’ Lee/ Sums Selvarajan and their team, Sophie Tomlinson, Fiona Amundsen, X, M, & M, and my supportive family members.
* This list is in a completely random order, and I hope I didn’t miss out anyone…