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…


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.


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.

1000 Podcast Downloads!!!

Maybe I am someone with very low expectations about what I do, but…

I’m genuinely surprised to find out that my Podcast ‘Japanese Street Wisdom– A Rakugo Performer’s Musings’ has already been downloaded a little over 1,000 times!!!

Thank you so very much for all your continued support!!!

Your support means so, so, so much especially for someone like me who is engaged in the most indie art of pretty much all the indie things!!!

I am sorry that I have long neglected it, but now I feel obliged to record the next episode as it seems like a lot of people are actually listening to it without my knowledge!

If you still haven’t listened to this rather short and sweet (& rough-cut) podcast, you can find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube.

Or you can listen here on my website:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

“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!!!


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:






RAKUGO Association of America is Born!!!

The other day I introduced the newly formed English Rakugo Association, but here is another exciting news to the world of rakugo.

As in the title, Rakugo Association of America was born YESTERDAY in New York!!!

Congratulations, Yanagiya Tozaburo Shisho!!!

To celebrate this special occasion, they are organising a free online performance/ workshop for children all over the world on Saturday 5 June 2021 (American time). It will be held bilingually in English and Japanese 😃

I believe that the details will be posted on Rakugo Association of America’s Twitter and website, which is under construction.

I will help promote the event via my SNS, too!

Exciting time!

Introducing THE English Rakugo Association!!!

I can’t believe that I haven’t written an article about this HUGE news until now, but…

THE English Rakugo Association is born!!!

It was officially registered with the Japanese government at the end of last year, but it kicked off its activities last month in March 2021.

The first event that they organised was a duo performance by Sanyutei Koseinen (三遊亭好青年), the one and only Swedish rakugo performer on earth, and Kanariya Eiraku (鹿鳴家英楽), my dear master and the founder of the association.

They run many performances, but their next big gig will be held at Edo-Tokyo Museum on 3 May to commemorate the launch of the association. This is a very special event that you don’t want to miss!!!

The tickets can be purchased here.

They usually stream their live performances, but unfortunately this particular one will not be available online i.e. I’m gutted that I will miss out on this special occasion!

I am really excited that my master’s long-term dream has come true, and it is my sincere hope that rakugo will keep spreading outside of Japan.

I will do my small part here in New Zealand 😃