With a very heavy heart, the Aoteya Rakugo Club has closed its doors due to the lack of interest and participation as of today.
Now that the Covid restrictions are gone, the members’ priorities and commitments have changed- some taking up new jobs and responsibilities, and others training for the national wall climbing championships!!!
I would like to thank the Auckland Council, Onehunga Community Centre, and all the staff who have helped us along the way. Without your supports, we would’ve never survived for the last 3 years. Thank you so very much!!!
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you, all the current and past members of the club, for the last 3 years. All the very best for your endeavours!!!
Meanwhile, this man can only think about rakugo that he will keep following his path- a boring man he is!
On 22 January 2022, another beautiful soul has departed from this world.
Since my teenage years, this great zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, has been one of my spiritual role models along with Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu.
Even though he was probably less known compared to the other figures that I listed above, he was the quiet presence and the solid foundation in promoting nonviolent solution to conflict and deep ecology throughout the world.
He was one of the most prominent peace activists to end the Vietnam War that claimed the lives of over 1.3 million people. He believed in complete nonviolence, and he was the very person who encouraged Martin Luther King Jr. to publicly denounce and question the US involvement in the Vietnam War.
King himself nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.
He was a true man of peace, and I respected and adored him so much as a human being.
In the letter of condolence from the Dalai Lama, he concluded his letter as follows:
I have no doubt the best way we can pay tribute to him is to continue his work to promote peace in the world.
I cannot agree with him more.
His passing gave me a renewed courage to take my small part in making the world a better place.
I don’t see why we have to say “I will die,” because I can already see myself in you, in other people, and in future generations.
My resolutions this year will be a bit different from usual, but bear with me for the next 500 words or so.
As of today, I am unemployed.
See? It’s already a bit different 😁
All performers in the world work on a project basis. Unless you are a Hollywood powerhouse actor, most of us often write, rehearse, and perform without a guarantee of income or recognition, scraping through barely making ends meet.
I am used to this roller-coaster lifestyle, but the difference this year, thanks to Mr. Delta and Mrs. Omicron, is that I have literally no income-generating project lined up as of today.
Now… I find this situation quite intriguing!
The silver lining is that I can truly empathise and walk along with people who have lost their jobs and businesses due to the grumpy spiky couple aka Mr. D and Mrs. O.
Sure, I may have to take up a day job or moonlight, but I have this rootless sense of hope that from here onward it will be up and up! 😁
With this in mind, here are my goals for this year:
1. Treat my own life as a big jokeand document my journey
Good rakugo performers and comedians know that their own lives are the best sources of comedy. They know how to make people laugh at the expense of their own tragedies, so why not?
I’ll be open about my temporary joblessness and document how I eventually get out of this situation so that I can hopefully walk along with and give courage to people in a similar situation as mine.
2. Write as many original rakugo stories as possible
With the recent passing of Sanyutei Enjo III(三代目 三遊亭 圓丈), the godfather of Shinsaku Rakugo*(新作落語) on 30 November 2021, I was inspired to start producing more original stories.
As some of you may remember from my last year’s resolutions, I have already written some stories based on Edogawa Ranpo‘s mystery novels and fairytales by the BrothersGrimm, but I am still trying to figure out how to present them- the mystery rakugo being too long while the fairytale rakugo being too short for stage…
Meanwhile, I have finished translating a rakugo story into Māori (Jugemu). Once I completed 2 or 3 more stories, I will find a cultural adviser and a Māori translator so that I can work with them to create something that is respectful to te ao Māori (the Māori world/ worldview). Hopefully, I will make some progress in this area this year, too.
* New/ original rakugo as opposed to classical rakugo (古典落語). Shinsaku rakugo literally means “newly written rakugo”.
3. Become a Laughter Yoga Leader
As some of you may know, I am a Laughter Yoga enthusiast. It has helped my family stay happy and healthy through this pandemic, and I would like to be certified as a Laughter Yoga leader this year!
I will definitely be talking more about the benefits of laughter here!
Laughter Yoga, by the way, is a health exercise and NOT affiliated with any religion.
4. Continue with my Māori Full-Immersion Journey
Last year, I completed my first year of Te Ataarangi (Māori Full-Immersion) programme. Oh boy, it was super challenging and I thought of discontinuing my journey so many times last year, but I have decided to continue on to the advanced level this year.
These are my goals for now.
I don’t know when I can get back to stage yet. Being a one-person gig without a regular producer, it is still too risky for me to produce shows. Schools and other organisations haven’t invited me back yet.
So everything is unclear and unwritten at this stage.
Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten would be a great BGM for me right now.
I completed a full-immersion Māori programme (Te Ataarangi through Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi; continuing on to the advanced level, Te Kaupae 5& 6, next year!)
Note: One of my dreams is to perform rakugo in Māori someday so that I can give my taonga to this beautiful Aotearoa!
As you can see, this year indeed was a very crucial year in my rakugo journey regardless of all the lockdowns and my current status as an unemployed performer. All this was possible especially thanks to all the people like you… who are still reading this article all the way down here 😁
We never live alone.
Thank you so very much for being a part of my life!
May 2022 be a year of unity, empathy, and some good stories and uproarious jokes!
Here’s my special thank you to:
Asia New Zealand Foundation, Creative New Zealand, Auckland Council, Christchurch Art Gallery, University of Auckland, Embassy of Japan, Auckland Council Libraries, Onehunga Community Centre, NZ Japan Society, Paul, Echo, & “Kazuma” Janman, Yasheeka Bertram, Kirsty Sharp, Bevan Chuang, Athena Dennis, Kristine Ohkubo, Miki, Alex, Fiona Amundsen, Dr Valance Smith, Kanariya Eiraku Shisho, Kanariya Jincho, Kanariya Aimu, Kumiko Imai, English Rakugo Association, Aoteya Rakugo Club (Pukeko, Raki, Sakura, Ichigo), Fookes Family, Yee Yang ‘Square’ Lee, X, M, & M, and my supportive family members!
* This list is in a random order and not conclusive. I hope I didn’t miss out anyone…
As I went through the entrance of the Christchurch Art Gallery, I was greeted by the gigantic picture of…
I was there for the opening of the “Things That Shape Us” exhibition that began yesterday on 24 July.
As those who know me will know, I am a very private person and do not always enjoy “publicity”.
I am aware that it is a necessary evil to keep doing what I love to do, which is to devote my life to rakugo until my very last breath, but it did make me feel a little uneasy and exposed if I’m to be honest.
But I was there to witness the story that my creative partner Fiona Amundsen and I wanted to tell through our work “An Ordinary Life”.
This work is based on actual and imaginary dialogues with my late grandfather, who was a witness of the bombing of Nagasaki.
Before I talk about this work, I’d like to be clear that it is NOT our attempt to victimise Japan or Japanese; I am deeply ashamed of our colonial past and what my ancestors did particularly to other Asian and Pacific nations.
It is our attempt to capture something universal, regardless of our race, nationality, belief, or religion, through my personal experience with my grandfather whom I deeply adored and respected.
It is a very personal account that is now open to the public.
My grandfather was an unconventional man for his generation.
He turned an artist (calligrapher/ shakuhachi, bamboo flute master), a teacher, a pacifist, and even a feminist after the war.
He was the funny grandpa who always made people laugh even in the toughest of circumstances.
He was a flamboyant man and…
a very bad driver.
He was an excellent liar, too.
He had hidden most of his experiences in Nagasaki where he lost his father and siblings.
Very, very well.
Until his departure.
The inspiration for this work came when my mother told me about his journals on his deathbed.
They were full of darkness.
My mother destroyed all of the journals “to protect his honour”, and I was told what was written in there very selectively.
This made me want to know who this funny, cultured man really was.
I don’t even remember why, but Fiona and I talked about where my grandfather would be now before the opening.
My answer was, “He must be still on this side of the Sanzu River” (in the limbo state, somewhere between the worlds of the dead and the living, in the Japanese worldview).
At 4:00PM, all the artworks were blessed by karakia (Māori prayer).
Fiona said something like “Your grandfather is now blessed through karakia”.
I felt like my grandfather had finally moved on, but I was not too sure.
That night I was woken up in the middle of the night by a strange sensation as if some form of transformation was taking place.
Like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon.
I was convinced that he had finally gone to the other side of the river and fallen asleep peacefully.
The next morning, I woke up to a text from my wife to tell me that our last remaining family member from the WWII generation had passed away.
Now all the family members who witnessed the war are gone.
A circle has been completed.
We must keep telling their stories on their behalf so that we will not repeat the same mistakes.
So that we will not lose our “ordinary life” that, after all, matters the most.