My apology I am so terrible at updating this website, but I am letting you know that two rakugo shows are coming up soon!!! This is just a notice, but I promise to post something more interesting next time!!!
One is at the Auckland Zen Centre on Saturday, 31 August. I will be sharing the stage with the super talented artist (writer, musician, poet, filmmaker, and the list goes on)/ zen teacher Richard von Sturmer!!! What an honour!!! I am also interested in the Q&A session afterwards to hear how rakugo would be received by Kiwi Zen Buddhists.
The other is my main show at The Spreading Tree on Fri 13 September. As usual, I will be doing my new stories, which I hadn’t performed anywhere else!!! It is often experimental, so come enjoy watching me struggle or soar. In the past, I’d recorded a video message to myself two weeks prior to the show and showed it at the performance… I’ve also attempted improvising a rakugo story on the spot… which didn’t go very well…
You might be wondering what I’ve been up to as my “schedule” page looks rather sad these days. Someone commented on that, being worried about the future of my rakugo career 🙂
No need to worry, my friends, here are some of the things I have been doing under the radar. (If you follow my Twitter, I tend to update more than I do on here, by the way.)
One of the highlights has been performing at a conference for Kiwis who are going to the 2020 Olympics. I got to perform a brand new piece about a judo athlete, a character that was inspired by a real Kiwi judo Olympian.
Another memorable performance happened last week. It was at Consul General’s residence. I got to perform rakugo for the Auckland Consular Corps, a group of consul generals from various countries. The Consulate General of Japan Website has a few photos from the performance.
I have also done my first animation VO for a TV programme called “Tales of Nai Nai”.
One of the things I have meant to share on this website is this possibly the first poem about rakugo performers in English.
It was written by a narrator/ actor/ writer, Stuart Atkin, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my rakugo master’s English rakugo school in October 2017.
I had a permission to share this on my website but somehow never happened until now (I did write about it on my Japanese blog, though).
So… ladies and gentlemen… this is possibly the first poem about rakugo in the English language! There are a few Japanese terms you might not understand. Please comment if you need any explanation. I’ll be super happy to answer!
The Good Old Days (Song of Rakugoka)
Yes, folks, this is it indeed: Stories from the past we tell- Trad Japan on a cushion, And lots of laughs as well! With just our voices, hands, and eyes, A tenugui and a fan, We build up pictures in your mind Of life in Old Japan. In kimonos yellow, turquoise, mauve, Red and brown, sky-blue and green, We talk of mochi, soba, fish, And the bustling Edo era scene; Chonmage, netuske, hibachi, nagaya, Cats and doctors, tea and manju, Wrestlers, travellers, vendors, bo-san, Con men, courtesans, actors, too, Not to mention roamin’ ronin, Their swords just worn for fashion…. Stories we have on all of these Here in our yose, told with passion; Tales of folk life you and me, Funny in lots of silly ways, So sip your sake, sit back and laugh, And enjoy with us the good old days!
By far, this is one of the silliest things I’ve ever done online.
I am very much used to act like an… feel free to fill the gap… on stage, but I’ve always had a strong aversion to record my performance as it somehow feels permanent.
But the time is ripe for exposing my insanity a little bit to the digital world for the sake of getting people interested in rakugo. I will be an… whatever you like… if I can be a cupid between rakugo and the world 🙂
I am starting a video series called “Super Quick Intro to Rakugo Stories”. Through this series I will talk about rakugo stories and their history just enough to encourage people to listen to actual stories.
So, here you go. The first one is on “Jugemu”. His full name is at the bottom of this page 🙂
I was a bit inconsistent with the way I said his name, but the second one is the most standard way.
Here’s how to say his name (in hiragana and Roman characters):
One of the weirdest challenges in my English Rakugo career is finding a zabuton (Japanese traditional cushion) to perform on. Buying a decent one in New Zealand is so much harder than you think.
Last week during a performance, my zabuton finally gave in and ripped without any warning whatsoever.
Perhaps, I do move around a bit too much. Sometimes enough to reveal my legs (or even more… undies?). My rakugo master always tells me to minimize movements to let my words elaborate stories more.
This baby has been with me since my first NZ performance in 2009.
It was a gift from a Japanese friend. It’d already been at least 10 years old so must be over 20 years old now. I am very much attached to it after spending hours and hours, practicing and performing on it.
By the way, this zabuton looks like this if you flip it over. This fix was done by my lovely neighbor. It added about one extra year to it.
I started hunting for a new one about a year ago.
Initially, I tried to buy it online from Japan, but I gave up as the cheapest one would have cost $280 including postage…
No zabuton made in NZ was good enough for me. They were either too rectangular, thin, or small… and often looked too western.
Then, I bumped into Auckland Zen Centre’s website the other day. They sell zen cushions!
I quite liked the idea of using a zen cushion for my rakugo, which sort of reflects my stoic approach to the art. Spending thousands of hours on zabuton, perfecting the skills, is quite zen.
Also, as a rakugo performer permanently based in NZ, it is quite symbolic to use one from here. I am trying to create something Kiwi inspired by the Japanese art after all.
I called the zen centre, and it was out of stock…
But they said they could make one for me!!!
So I ordered it on the last day of Heisei Era. Again, it was symbolic. I am not superstitious but enjoy ‘symbols’ as they make life events even more special.
Then, I finally received this one a few days ago.
I preferred a purple one and it doesn’t have tassels like Japanese ones do, but I am very happy to finally have a new one. This one is so sturdy that it would probably last a few decades!
A few days ago, I came up with a brilliant idea to save the old cushion. It was to only buy a zabuton cover from Japan, which was $40 including the shipping cost.
According to the EMS tracking, I’m supposed to receive it today!!!