Online Rakugo Workshops Available for New Zealand High Schools

Long time no see, everybody!

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.

Online Rakugo Project Starting Next Week!

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!

I will post it sometime next week!

Funding Approved!!! Online Rakugo Project IS Happening!!!

Hi all, Eishi here! How is everything going?

I am writing this to let you know that my funding application for “Online Rakugo Project” has been approved last Friday!!!

You can find out more about this project by watching the YouTube video below, but I am very much excited!!! 😃

Also, I would like to take this opportunity to THANK YOU for following my YouTube channel!!!

I now have 135 followers and a custom url which makes it easier for you to access my channel.

Yes, you guessed it right!

My new url is https://www.youtube.com/rakugonz 😀

Thank you always for your warm support!!! There is literally no rakugo whatsoever without the audience.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Rotten Limbs and The Japanese Art of Tenacious Wish-Making

Hi all, Eishi here! How’s your week going so far?

The one-eyed ornament on my rakugo cushion above is called a daruma.

The word “daruma” is from a Sanskrit word dharma, which means the “cosmic law and order” as revealed by the Buddha.

It’s said that this Japanese lucky charm was inspired by the famous Shaolin monk, Bodhidharma, who is often regarded as the founder of Chan Buddhism in China.

“Chan”, by the way, is “Zen” in Japanese.

I don’t know if it’s true, but a legend goes that Bodhidharma pursued zen until his limbs rotted- this is why daruma ornaments don’t have their limbs.

Daruma is often seen as an incarnation of tenacity, and it is associated with a Japanese saying “Nanakorobi Yaoki” (七転び八起き ななころびやおき ), which means “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

Because of this origin, it is often used to make a wish in Japan.

“Making a wish” might sound a bit light, so it is more like setting a goal that you really want to accomplish and ask something beyond our understanding for a guidance.

Here are the steps we normally follow:

Step 1: Enter daruma’s LEFT eye as you make a wish.

Step 2: Work hard and achieve the goal.

Step 3: Enter daruma’s RIGHT eye.

Step 4: Return daruma to a temple/ shrine to be consecrated and burned.

* It is recommended to be returned at the end of the year whether you have accomplished your goal or not.

So… I brought my daruma to New Zealand about a decade ago.

My goal was quite vague, but it was to stand at the starting line as a performer.

Though I have performed on many, many stages, I didn’t feel like I was quite there yet (Japanese stoicism speaking).

But when the lockdown started, I suddenly felt like I was finally ready to start the race.

I think I am ready.

So I finally filled my drauma’s right eye.

I am just about to begin the new chapter of my life as a performer!

I will take my daruma home when I can finally visit Japan after all this is over 🙂

Portuguese Words That Became Japanese- There Are More Than You Think!

Some time ago, I was listening to a rakugo story called “Gamano Abura” (蝦蟇の油 がまのあぶら) and came across a word that I did not understand.

The word was “manteika” (マンテイカ).

It made no sense whatsoever to me.

I looked up the word in my beloved rakugo dictionary (yes, there is such a thing!) and finally found out the meaning!

Of course, I didn’t understand it because it was a Portuguese word that meant “butter” (manteiga).

But in Japan, manteika meant fat from inoshishi (猪 いのしし; Japanese wild boars) or pigs, and it was used as an ointment for medical purposes.

You may not be aware of how crucial Portugal was to Japan as these two countries are literally located on the opposite sides of the word- the west end of Europe and Far East.

In 1543, the Portuguese arrived in Japan and became the first westerners to land on the country of the rising sun (some theory says it was actually 1541). They even introduced us to… guns.

Soon after in 1549, the Spanish missionaries followed and brought Christianity to Japan. Therefore, Portugal and Spain became our first portals to the western world. As Portugal was under the Spanish rule between 1581 and 1640, they were sort of under the same umbrella back then.

Naturally, the Japanese language was influenced by Portuguese/ Spanish from very early on.

“Tempura” was originally a Portuguese word as well. It was from “tempero”. The Portuguese introduced the deep frying technique to Japan, so tempura was originally NOT a Japanese dish.

Here are other Portuguese words that have become Japanese, which we still use today:

Buranko (ブランコ; from balanço) = swing

Furasuko (フラスコ; from frasco) = flask (for experiment)

Jouro (じょうろ; from jarro) = watering can

Kappa (かっぱ; from capa) = rain jacket

Karuta (カルタ; from carta) = a kind of Japanese card game

Japanese women playing karuta (circa 1900)

Konpeitou (こんぺいとう 金平糖; from confeito) = Japanese sweets as in the photo below

Konpeitou (こんぺいとう 金平糖)

Koppu (コップ; from copo) = cup

Miira (ミイラ; from mirra) = mummy (as in an Egyptian mummy, not a British mummy 😉 )

Shabon (シャボン; from sabão) = bubbles from soap

REFERENCE

日本語になったポルトガル語

日本とポルトガルの関係

PHOTO CREDIT

Midori / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

[Eishi’s Japanese Trivia 2] Chinese Word Used in Edo?

Hi all, Eishi here! Hope everything is well with you all, my beloved readers!

I’ve been busy preparing for the online rakugo workshop over the last few days, but I’m finally back to blogging 🙂

In another article, I talked about the influence of a completely unexpected language on Japanese.

Here is even more fascinating trivia (at least to me) about an expression used to describe a certain social class during the Edo period (1603- 1868).

I am aware that many of my readers are Japanologists, who often know about Japanese language, culture, and history more than I do, but do you know which social class during the Edo period was called “nihonzashi” (二本差し にほんざし)?

This literally means “two swords”, so yes it’s pretty easy, it was the samurai class.

But how about “ryanko” (りゃんこ)?

Which social class did this expression mean?

Here is a hint for you.

”Ryan” (りゃん) is the Japanese transliteration of a Chinese word “liǎng” (両).

“Ko” is “個” in kanji character.

So… “Ryanko” (両個 りゃんこ) as a whole means “two pieces”…

Yep, you got it right.

This also means the samurai warriors!

It was often used by everyday people to describe samurai warriors in a slightly derogatory way, and it often appears in rakugo.

So far, I’ve talked about the influence of Lao and Chinese on the Japanese language, but I will talk about the Portuguese influence on my native language!

See you next time! Stay well and positive 🙂