[Book Review No.1] Sakhalin: The Island of Unspoken Struggles

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:

  1. It explains a complex subject that has not been discussed openly and widely in her clear, accessible writing.
  2. 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 😃

You can purchase her books on Book Depository and other retailers.

Eishi’s Rakugo Commentary No.4 [A New Year Visit to the Shrine 初天神]

Traditional Japanese Kites

Hatsutenjin (初天神) or “A New Year Visit to the Shrine”* or even more precisely “A New Year Visit to Tenjin Shrine” is one of the most widely performed rakugo stories in Japan.

As the title suggests, it is a story about a New Year visit to a shrine where Tenjin (天神) is enshrined, and it is considered an auspicious story and often performed in January.

Tenjin is the god of learning, but he was an actual historical figure called Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真 845-903 AD) before enshrined.

Michizane was a scholar, politician, and poet of the Heian period (平安時代 794-1185). He was enshrined as a god because of his immense contribution to the academia.

Tenjin Shrine or Tenmangu is where Michizane is enshrined, and shrines all over Japan enshrine him as their patron god. Among them, Dazaifu Tenmangu, Osaka Tenmangu, Kitano Tenmangu, and Kameido Tenjin Shrine are particularly famous.

Sugawara no Michizane (菅原 道真 845-903 AD)

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

Photos Credit

Japanese Kites: Momotarou2012, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


落語手帖 矢野誠一

Japanese Street Wisdom Podcast Episode 3 [Kissa Kippan]

Welcome to the 3rd episode of my Japanese Street Wisdom Podcast!!!

Today, I will be talking about a zen saying “Kissa Kippan” (喫茶喫飯 きっさきっぱん).

Please listen to the episode to find out what this maxim means, but this wisdom can be applied to literally everything we do in our lives.

Please do let me know what you thought about it in the comment section below.

I am an actor/ storyteller so find it quite challenging to just narrate, so if you have good advice to improve my presentation style, please let me know as well 😀

This Podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts as well as Spotify!!!

Here’s the link to Apple Podcasts.

Here’s the link to Spotify.

Eishi’s Rakugo Vision 2021!!!

Happy New Year, everybody! 明けましておめでとうございます!

Hope you had a relaxing break during Christmas and New Year holidays 😃

This is the time of the year to make resolutions for the year… have you made yours yet?… so here we go!

Mind you… I have already failed my diet/ exercise targets in the first week, so let’s stick with my rakugo goals for now…

I will be focusing on 3 things this year:

1. Improve my ONLINE PLATFORMS (with special emphasis on my YouTube channel)

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)

3. Expand English Rakugo Club

I want to devote myself more to the development of the English Rakugo Club.

I am NOT a leader type.

I am a lone-wolf, who likes to work on his own.

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!

Eishi’s Rakugo Journey 2020

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…

Many Ways to Say “I” in Japanese Explained

A while ago, I made a silly video about different ways to say “I” in Japanese.

Some people have asked me in what context each expression is used, so I have decided to explain that in this article!

Hope this is helpful for you 🙂

Also… if you like this kind of video, please follow my YouTube channel, too. That will definitely make my day!!!

私(わたし Watashi): The most standard “I” in Japanese. The textbook definition!

私(わたくし Watakushi): This is a more polite version of “watashi”. As you may have noticed, the kanji for “watashi” and “watakushi” is the same “私”.

僕(ぼく Boku): This “I” is usually used by a male speaker regardless of his age. When used by an adult, it is usually with someone with an equal or a lower social standing. In recent years (especially in the manga context), some women use “boku” to address themselves as well.

俺(おれ Ore): Casual “I” used by men. It is only used with someone in the same or lower social standing or someone who is really close such as family members. This is my default “I” with my parents and older sister. I have met some non-native speakers of Japanese who think this is an impolite expression, but this is not the case as it completely depends on the context and its use is often a show of closeness to the person.

俺様(おれさま Oresama): This is the arrogant version of “ore”. I have never heard of this expression in real life except when someone is being silly on purpose. You might encounter this expression in books particularly in comic books 🙂

自分(じぶん Jibun): A formal “I”. According to this dictionary website, it was originally used as a second-person personal pronoun during the Edo period (1603-1868). In Osaka dialect, it is used to address a close friend i.e. it can also mean “you”! Confusing, isn’t it?

当方(とうほう Touhou): Wow, my sincere apology, this expression actually means “we”!!! I accidentally included it as it literally means “this side” or “the group I belong to”… but it should really be treated as “we” because the person is talking about the group s/he belongs to as a representative… Sorry!!! (You now know Japanese people don’t always know Japanese!)

身共(みども Midomo): This is a formal “I” used towards someone in the equal or lower social status.

手前(てまえ Temae): This is a humble way to refer yourself. But the confusing thing is that it could also be used to mean “you” towards someone in the same or lower social status. For this use, its variation てめえ (teme’e) is often used, but remember it is a very rude expression!

おら (Ora): This “I” is usually used in the Tohoku region. It is mainly used by men, but it is used by some old women as well.

俺っち (おれっち Orecchi): A casual and almost uncouth “I”. Not many people actually use this expression, but you do hear it spoken by some stereotypical characters in drama, manga, etc. Some people say it is the short version of “俺達” (おれたち Oretachi) or “we”.

あっし (Asshi): This is often used in “jidaigeki” or a period drama. It is often used by the craftsmen of Edo.

あたし (Atashi): Informal “I” used by women. It was used by men as well during the Edo period (1603-1868), and rakugo performers still use this expression even today. I use it myself with my rakugo friends.

あたい (Atai): This “I” feels a little archaic to me, but it is used by little children and sometimes by adult women. “Atai” is used by Yotaro, one of the star characters in rakugo!

拙者(せっしゃ): This is the “I” used by samurai warriors. You still hear it a lot in period dramas!

わし (Washi): This is a variation of “watashi” used with someone in the same or lower social status. It can sound a bit arrogant.

我 (われ Ware): This is a formal “I” that shows up often in Japanese literature, and I have never met anyone who uses this “I” in conversation.

余 (よ Yo): An archaic “I” used by the feudal lords and samurai warriors in high social status.

朕 (ちん chin): “I” only used by the emperor!