㊗️ Eishi is Now a Member of the English Rakugo Association!!!

Last month when I had a rakugo performance in Wellington, one of the audience members asked me if I was a member of the English Rakugo Association.

My answer was no…

He looked almost confused as I had just told them how excited I was that the association was established… by my very own master Kanariya Eiraku!

But I was slack at taking an action until my master himself invited me (this, by the way, is a bad thing in Japanese/ rakugo culture… as I didn’t take the initiative to discuss with him…)

Anyway… making a long story short, I have finally joined the association as of today!

For those who know me well, I am a bit superstitious when it comes to choosing the right timing to begin something new.

I began my training under Eiraku on my 40th birthday.

I especially asked him if I could start on that particular day.

Today 15 August is the 76th anniversary for the end of the WWII. By surrendering to the war, Japan began her new journey as a more peaceful nation.

The restrictions for rakugo performances were lifted, therefore rakugo came back fully.

Peace is a prerequisite for art to thrive.

As a reminder of this, I hereby became a member of the association as of today to promote rakugo further to the world.

By the way, I was given Special Membership B (which I don’t know much about but sounds cool) 😃

Departed Souls: Things That Shape Us

I got caught off guard.

As I went through the entrance of the Christchurch Art Gallery, I was greeted by the gigantic picture of…

myself…

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.

Painfully 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.

Rebirth.

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.

Short Film “Half-Life”

This year I’ve had an honour of working closely with a multi-talented artist, Fiona Amundsen.

About two months ago, our short film, which incorporates rakugo, the Aikido concept of “zanshin” (残心), and remembrance of WWII, was released on Asia New Zealand Foundation’s digital platforms.

This work was a part of “IN TOUCH arts commissions” by the foundation, and I feel very privileged to be a part of this project.

You can still view this film/ artwork, but before you watch it, I’d like you to know a few things:

  1. My family’s experience in Nagasaki is only a personalised way of remembering our mistakes as humanity as a whole. I am deeply ashamed of what my Japanese ancestors did to many Asian nations and others, and this is no way our attempt to victimise Japanese.
  2. It is our way of finding the universal message of peace in the ordinary, everyday things.
  3. Part 1 is very dark and many may give up watching the rest, but Part 2 has some humour in it based on my own experience with my grandfather. But Part 2 only makes sense if you watch Part 1…

I decided to write this first because someone who probably hadn’t watched the work nor read the interview commented as below on the foundation’s SNS:

“Great idea! Let’s remember Nanking, Rangoon, Singapore, Jakaraka [sic], Port Moresby, and many many others too shall we?”

This work was created to do exactly that!

Here is the link to our work. You can also find our interviews on the page. Some of the super intellectual comments are by Fiona 😁

You can find other commissioned work here.

May peace prevail upon us all!

Kia tau te rangimārie ki a tatou katoa!

我々と共に平和がありますように。

Eishi’s Secret Film Project Revealed!

How are you all doing? Eishi here AGAIN!

Thanks to my voice issues, I’ve been finding my creative outlet in writing this week. Hope you are not sick of reading my version of War and Peace.

The title today is a…

click bait…

but I am telling you more about the film project that I mentioned in another post.

It is an Asia New Zealand Foundation funded film project, and it will be directed by the dangerously talented film director/ academic extraordinaire, Fiona Amundsen.

This will probably become one of the most important works in my life as a rakugo performer and a human being.

It is all Fiona’s concept, and I just happen to be someone with the knowledge and skills that she needs to complete her project.

As a film director, an aikido practitioner, and a good human being who understands the utter stupidity of war, she came up with a concept to combine the remembrance/ reminder of the mistakes humans committed in WWII, the aikido concept of Zanshin, and the Japanese traditional storytelling of rakugo.

We connected closely especially because of our stance on war, and we have decided to create something that would hopefully show better options for fellow humans.

As some of you may know, I lost my great grandfather and other family members in Nagasaki, and my grandpa and great uncle were both hibakusha.

So I have a very strong reason to get involved in a project like this.

We have just started working together yesterday, so I thought this is a good time to let you know.

For those who want to know more about this project, please read Fiona’s interview. It was written for Tokyo Biennale, but we are trying to create the New Zealand version of this film/ installation.

Another Poem of Hope

Good morning, everybody! Hope you are having a fantastic day regardless of the temporary challenge we are facing TOGETHER right now!

My friend just forwarded me the following poem written by a priest in Ireland.

I found it beautiful and uplifting, so I wanted to share it with you.

Let’s not forget to sing the song of life!

Lockdown

Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is panic buying.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.

But,

They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi

People are singing to each other

across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open

so that those who are alone

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know

is busy spreading fliers with her number

through the neighbourhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples

are preparing to welcome

and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.

But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again

The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able

to touch across the empty square,

Sing

Brother Richard

Introducing CliniClowns Japan!

Hi all, Eishi here! Hope you are doing well, wherever you are on this beautiful planet!

I will be updating this blog regularly from now on as I have a lot of time in my hands at the moment 🙂

Today I’d like to share about CliniClowns Japan.

They are a group of clowns who visit sick children and sometimes adults, often with terminal illnesses, to bring humour and smile to the otherwise stifling environments they are in.

If you have watched the movie “Patch Adams”, you know what they do (though the real Patch is actually a doctor as well).

They are also called “caring clowns”, “clown doctors”, etc. depending on which part of the world you are from.

As some of you may know, I was initially trained as a clown myself. My initial goal was to become a clown doctor.

However, caring clowning was not yet recognised in 2003 when I completed my training in Japan. Then, I moved to New Zealand, and this dream was completely forgotten. (But I have realised that whatever I do I am a clown anyway- once a clown, always a clown 🙂 )

I recently learned that my closest friend from the clowning school became a clown doctor. He’s been traveling all over the world with a simple aim of cheering people up. Truly a beautiful human being.

Anyway, he is a part of “CliniClown Japan”, and they have just started a YouTube channel. Please follow them to increase their visibility! It is the people like them who need to be recognised in this world in the process of healing!