Murder, Cursed Sword, and Rakugo

Hi all, Eishi here! How are you all doing?

Last night, I listened to a rakugo story called “Daimaruya Soudou” (大丸屋騒動 だいまるやそうどう) based on a real murder case that took place in 1773.

It is unusual for a murder to become the theme of a rakugo story, so I was quite fascinated by this tragedy.

I will not write about the details of this case, but if you are interested and understand Japanese, you can find more information here.

Though it is not clear what kind of sword was actually used as the murder weapon, in the rakugo version, it says that a sword called Muramasa was used.

If you ask any Japanese person what the most famous sword would be, they are likely to answer either Masamune or Muramasa.

You see a lot of references to these two swords in Japanese literature, movies, and even manga/ anime.

Masamune is often described as a sword that protects while Muramasa is a sword that harms and kills.

Muramasa to most Japanese people is a “cursed sword”.

Muramasa got a bad reputation as Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543- 1616), the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, was said to have lost his grandfather and eldest son by this sword.

Photo Credit: Ihimutefu – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18271854

Pinky Promise- Japanese Style!

Hi all, Eishi here! Hope you are doing well 🙂

As you might’ve noticed, my blog is very random.

It is a pure reflection of who I am as a scatterbrained Japanese comedian.

Yes, everything here is written from the perspective of an English Rakugo performer, but the topics may vary from rakugo and Japanese language/ culture to wellness, positive psychology, and philosophy.

Today’s post is about pinky promise/ swear.

The other day my son asked me to pinky-promise to take him to a certain fast food restaurant once this chaos is over.

Pinky promise is cute, but do you know how it is done in Japan?

The action of a pinky promise is the same (as in the photo above), but we say the following phrase as well.

ゆびきりげんまん、うそついたらはりせんぼんのます。ゆびきった!

指切りげんまん嘘ついたら針千本飲ます。指切った!

This roughly translates as…

Pinky promise, if you tell a lie, I will cut your finger, hit you with the fist 10,000 times, and make you swallow 1,000 needles…

Kids often don’t know the whole meaning of this phrase, but this is what it actual means…

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you are pinky-promising with a Japanese kid, think twice.

Deliver what you promise, or else…

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

Image result for Kanariya Eiraku

日本語の記事は一番下にあります。

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:

PERFORMANCE

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.

(日本語)

遅ればせながら明けましておめでとうございます!

タイトルにありますように、来月3月5日(木)に私の英語落語の師匠、鹿鳴家英楽師匠がオークランド公演をすることになりました。

鹿鳴家英楽師匠は英語落語の草分け的存在の一人で、今までアメリカ・イギリス・デンマーク・ジョージア・カザフスタン・ラオス等の国々で活躍され、NHKワールドやその他の世界のメディアで紹介されております。

今回はシドニー公演のついでにオークランドに立ち寄って下さることになりました。

親子会(師匠と弟子)として公演をしてくださるという大変な栄誉で、私としてはやはり満員御礼でお迎えしたいので、もしよろしければ皆様と楽しいひと時を過ごせたらと思います。

50~60人という小さな会場ですので、なるべく早めに下のリンクからチケットをご購入下さい。

英語落語公演のチケットはこちら

英語落語ワークショップのチケットはこちらワークショップ参加者は5日の公演を無料で鑑賞することができます。

3月4日(水)にはワークショップも開催され、見るだけではなく実際に演じる方法を学ぶこともできます。

また、サマーホリデーの直後という時期的な問題もあり、オークランド大学からの会場提供を除き、公共団体からの助成金がゼロの状態で運営しますので、もしサポートを頂けます団体様、個人様がいらっしゃいましたらご一報頂けましたら幸いです!ご連絡はこちらからお願いします。

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!”

Whaaaaaat?

“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.

PERFECTLY!

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

『本来の落語は古典ではなく全てが新作だった。』

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.