Book Review: Talking About Rakugo

I am embarrassed.

I had completely underestimated the newly published book, “Talking About Rakugo: The Japanese Art of Storytelling”.

When I was interviewed by the author, Kristine Ohkubo, for the book, I thought to myself in a fake British upper-class accent:

“Oh, it’s so lovely she’s writing a book for rakugo newbies.” (* I don’t think the aristocrats use the word “newbies”… or “rakugo”.)

Oh my gush, I was so, so, so wrong!

This book is a gem full of rakugo knowledge. It is a one-stop-shop for rakugo newbies and connoisseurs alike!

The book opens with how rakugo began its journey and evolved into its present format. It introduces most of the legendary masters including Kokontei Shinsho V, Sanyutei Ensho VI, and Tatekawa Danshi V.

The truly unique feature of this book is that it covers such subjects as female rakugo performers, rakugo in other languages, and even Sign Language Rakugo!

But its biggest feature is that it includes 16 of my master’s rakugo scripts in English!!!

Now… let me sidetrack for a minute.

The author, Kristine Ohkubo, somehow managed to keep it a surprise for me that my master was actually her co-author until very recently!!!

So did my master Eiraku…

Now I know these two people are excellent at keeping secrets… something I had not known…

Getting back to the rakugo scripts, the following stories are included in this book, with which you can enjoy and/ or perform yourself:

  • Another Bottle of Sake (Kawarime)
  • The Summer Burglar (Natsu Doro)
  • Browsing in the Pleasure Quarter (Nikai Zomeki)
  • Faceless Ghost (Nopperabo)
  • The Father and Son Who Love Drinking (Oyako Zake)
  • Foxes in Oji (Oji no Kitsune)
  • Gonbei and the Racoon Dog (Gonbei Danuki)
  • Gonsuke’s Lantern (Gonsuke Jochin)
  • Okiku’s Dishes (Okiku no Sara)
  • Peach Boy (Momotaro)
  • Test Sake (Tameshi Zake)
  • Time Noodles (Toki Soba)
  • King Lear (Lear Oh)
  • The Replacement of Enma (Enma no Irekawari)
  • Scary Hamburgers (Hanbaga Kowai)
  • Japan Milk Corporation (Nihon Miruku Kosha)

Did I mention that the book also includes extensive interviews with English Rakugo superstars like Katsura Sunshine, Tatekawa Shinoharu, and my master Kanariya Eiraku?

There is an interview of a lovely New Zealand-based performer called Kanariya Eishi, too.

Without any bias, I can confidently say that this is probably the best rakugo book that has ever been written in the English language.

I sincerely hope that this book will spread rakugo to the end of the world!

This is the beginning of a new chapter in English Rakugo.

You can purchase the book from here.

“Talking About Rakugo: The Japanese Art of Storytelling” NOW ON SALE!!!

I am super excited!!!

Kristine Ohkubo‘s latest book “Talking About Rakugo: The Japanese Art of Storytelling” has JUST been published!!!

I haven’t been thrilled this much for a while, and this is easily one of the highlights in my rather drab life.

I have REALLY been looking forward to this day for the following very good reasons:

  1. The author is a big rakugo fan, and this book is her expression of her love for this art. She is even a fellow member of the English Rakugo Association!
  2. I just found out that my master Kanariya Eiraku is the co-author of this book!!! (I just found this out myself… both Kristine and my master kept this a secret for a long time… cheeky them 😁)
  3. I am featured in this book along with my rakugo superstars!

I can confidently say that it is the most accessible yet comprehensive book on rakugo that is available in the English language!

I forgot to mention, but the book even features some rakugo scripts by my master Eiraku!

The author has just notified me that she had ordered a copy for me to thank me for being a part of this book!

But I am the one who needs to thank her 😊

You can purchase your copy here!

“Talking About Rakugo: The Japanese Art of Storytelling” Will be Released Soon!!!

Image

2021 has proven to be one of the most important milestones in the history of rakugo!

Along with the launches of the English Rakugo Association AND Rakugo Association of America, a book titled “Talking About Rakugo: The Japanese Art of Storytelling” by Kristine Ohkubo will also be published soon!

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:

Amazon

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

Twitter

[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.