My Master's Performance in Auckland!!! 英楽師匠オークランド公演!

Image result for Kanariya Eiraku


My Rakugo master, Kanariya Eiraku, is coming to New Zealand for a performance (5 March) AND a workshop (4 March) in less than a month!!!

This is probably the first time in history for an English Rakugo master to perform AND teach in New Zealand. You really don’t want to miss this rare opportunity as I don’t know when he will visit here next time.

He is an internationally recognised performer and has toured in US, UK, Denmark, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Laos. His work has been introduced in various media in the world including NHK World and Rafu Shimpo. He is kindly dropping by Auckland on his way to performances in Sydney.

This show will be very significant for me as well because it will be an “Oyako-Kai” (Master-Disciple) performance, just the two of us. This is considered an immense honour in the rakugo world, and I really want to have a full-house to honour him. The capacity is smallish and only 50 (possibly extended to 60), so be quick to secure your seats!!!

You can purchase tickets from the links below:


WORKSHOP (Participants to the workshop are treated to a complementary rakugo performance on 5 March!)

Hope to see you there!

Also, as this is a self-funded project, any generous funders are very, very welcome! Please contact me from here.












5 Year-Old Rakugo Master!Seriously!

Readers, be prepared to melt today!

Ahem, I have at least two people whom I can safely call my “fans”.

They are the half-Japanese, half-French sisters who have been coming to my rakugo performances since the beginning of my rakugo career here in New Zealand.

That’s right, if you have been following me for a while, it is the sisters who make me origami medals every time they come to my performance (the one hanging from my ear in the photo).

The other day I bumped into them at my local library.

The older sister looked super delighted to see me and excitedly said,

“You know what, I just went to that Okiku’s well in Kobe you told me about!”

She was referring to a rakugo story called “Okiku’s Dishes”. For those who are not familiar with the story, here’s the youtube clip I made ages ago (you can always follow my youtube channel, too!).

I was already impressed that she actually went to a location in a rakugo story.

“It was a bit scary, though!”

Then, she said, “You know what? I perform rakugo for my family and friends!”


“What stories do you do?”

“Jugemu! I can say his name!”

“Oh, really… how cute! She’d probably know only a part of the name, surely!”

So I thought.

Then, she started reciting the name of the Japanese boy with the longest name ever.


I was so impressed that I asked her mother if I could record her, and here it is. This is the voice of a future female rakugo master!!! Are you ready to melt?

But hey, this is not the end!!!

Her younger sister also volunteered to recite the name of Jugemu for me!!!

Here you go!!!

This so far has been THE highlight of my rakugo career!!!

“Karakusa” Pattern and the Art of Stealing Your Heart

Here is a pop quiz.

The design above, the white squiggles with the green background, is called the “karakusa pattern” (唐草模様 からくさもよう).

Q: What is the first thing that comes to a Japanese person’s mind when s/he sees this pattern?

If a “furoshiki” (風呂敷 ふろしき) or a Japanese traditional wrapping cloth came to your mind, you know a lot about the Japanese culture.

It was the most common patterns used for furoshiki.

Furoshiki, Japanese traditional wrapping cloth

However, many Japanese people would also think of burglars.

In the olden days, furoshiki with this pattern was so common that most families owned at least one at home.

When a burglar broke into a house, s/he just grabbed a furoshiki sitting around in the room, wrapped his/ her new acquisitions, and ran away. They didn’t even have to take their own furoshiki as they were literally everywhere.

So the answer to the question is a furoshiki or a burglar.

But did you know that stories about burglars are considered auspicious in the rakugo world?

This is because burglars are good at stealing.

Rakugo performers also wish to be good at stealing audience’s hearts just like burglars.

Recently, an anonymous person sent me a generous donation for my rakugo work (by the way, here is the link if you have a burning desire to support me).

As I was very moved by his/ her kindness, I decided to use a small portion of the donation to buy something to remember him/ her.

This is what I bought.

It’s a pouch for my rakugo fan.

A fan to a rakugo performer is like a sword to a samurai. It is something that encapsulates the essence of what we do. So a pouch for my rakugo fan is a very significant item for me.

You know why I chose the one with the “karakusa” pattern.

I will keep polishing my skills so I can be better at stealing people’s hearts with my stories.

ALL Stories Were Once Brand New


There was originally no classical rakugo, but all the stories were newly written.

『やさしい落語』柳家花緑 (“Easy Rakugo” by Yanagiya Karoku)

Today, rakugo stories are divided into two groups: “classical rakugo” (古典落語) and “new rakugo” (新作落語=newly written rakugo).

But I just learned today that this classification hadn’t existed until the beginning of the Showa period (1926-1989).

Throughout the three previous periods i.e. Edo, Meiji, and Taisho periods, rakugo performers simply talked about the now. *

As you may know, a rakugo performer (落語家) is also known as a “hanashika” (噺家) or a storyteller. The kanji “噺” used in this expression, in fact, means “saying something new”.

Rakugo performers, then, were NOT some defenders of a traditional art but trendy entertainers and social commentators who were ahead of the time and dealt with the current events.

At the beginning of the Showa period, it is said that they performed stories from the Edo period (1603-1868) by replacing the old expressions and contexts to the new.

They told them as new stories.

It is fascinating that since the term “classical rakugo” was invented, those “old” stories were suddenly put on a pedestal and became something that had to be protected dearly.

Of course, I love classical rakugo and would like to learn and perform it as authentically as possible. However, I have to also remember that rakugo performers must stay ahead of the time and speak of the now.

* During these eras, people were either born during the Edo period themselves or had family members who had been born in Edo. Edo was still very much a part of people’s lives, so Edo rakugo still belonged to the now. Early Showa was the time when the remnants of Edo started disappearing.

Rakugo Retold: The Art of Latin American, Maori, and British Rakugo

Stories are universal.

As long as they are told by humans, they inevitably carry human truths regardless of their cultural origins.

They encapsulate our love, hate, joy, despair, greed, lust, wisdom, stupidity… No matter how different we think we are from “them”, we are really not that different.

Rakugo specialises in our imperfect nature, being full of flaws and mistakes (a perfect format for someone like me!). In fact, rakugo was defined as the “acceptance of human nature/ karma” (業の肯定) by the rakugo legend, Tatekawa Danshi V (technically VII).

About a month ago, I did a little experiment with Babel Theatre to prove that the essence of rakugo is universal.

I am a bit of a rebel, but as a rakugo performer and an actor, I could not resist this experiment. It was too tempting.

Here is the rather unconventional approach I took in my experiment:

  1. Participants externally explored the stock characters from rakugo through “shigusa” (set movements), postures, hand positions, etc. while sitting down in the seiza position
  2. Participants internally experienced and processed these characters in the sitting position
  3. When the characters were fully internalised, actors stood up and performed improvised scenes as rakugo characters
  4. Using characters developed in 1-3, actors reenacted 3 folktales from New Zealand, England, and Latin America

The result of the experiment?

Look at the photos, and decide for yourself.

But I am personally very pleased with it!!!

“A Fortune Teller” is Born!!!

I have just finished writing a new rakugo story called “A Fortune Teller”.

It involves “karoshi” (death from overwork or work-related exhaustion), two fortune tellers, and a superhero.

Rakugo is both a traditional art and a popular art at the same time, which gives it a very unique status among the Japanese traditional arts.

It is something to protect as a cultural heritage and also something to evolve so it stays relevant now and in the future.

I’ve always wanted to write something that reflects the early 21st century, and this is it!

It is really absurd (it’s my work after all) and lacks depth at this stage, but I hope it will eventually evolve into something that other English Rakugo performers would want to perform.

As an experiment, I will perform it at my next public performance in December.

As usual, I’ll appreciate your feedback!

(I’m writing this as I wait for my turn at a barbershop. Hope my new haircut will be OK!)