Pop Goes 2019! Recap of This Year

Have I told you I’m the last minute person?

It seems like Year 2019 is almost over, and it is already the New Year’s Eve here in New Zealand.

Tomorrow is 2020.

Unnecessarily a futuristic sounding year.

Perhaps, a movie called something like “2020: A Space Odyssey” would really take off.

I just wanted to thank you very much for all your warm support this year!!!

Rakugo is literally IMPOSSIBLE (bold, capital, italic, and underlined) without the audience, so I really owe you everything!!! Doumo arigatou gozaimasu!!!

Here’s my belated annual report of what I have achieved this already retro sounding Year 2019:

  • I performed rakugo at a conference for Kiwis who are going to the 2020 Olympics.
  • I performed rakugo at the Consul General’s residence 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 launched the rakugo club, and we now have 5 active members. Also, we have been offered to use Albert Park Keepers Cottage as our base.
  • I got involved in developing a play called “The Wall” with Babel Theatre and delivered a rakugo master class for them.
  • I had my animation voiceover debut on “Tales of Nai Nai“!!!
  • I found a producer who is willing to help me promote my rakugo in New Zealand and beyond from 2020!!!
  • And all the fantastic shows at The Spreading Tree, high schools, retirement homes, libraries, and others.

All these were possibly thanks to your loving support!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

I would like to give special thanks to (in the alphabetical order):

Asia New Zealand Foundation, Auckland Council (Creative Communities Scheme), Auckland Libraries, Auckland Museum, Auckland Playback Theatre, Babel Theatre, Baruk Jacob, Becky Kuek, the Consulate General of Japan, Creative New Zealand, Fumio Togashi, Sifu Gary Young, Ian Kennedy, Janman family, Julia& Tessa Clement, Kanariya Eiraku Shisho, Kanariya Jincho, Kirsty Sharp, Kristine Ohkubo, Kumiko Imai, Miki, Musashi Restaurant, Naoe Hashimoto, New Zealand Japan Society, Square & Sums, The Spreading Tree, and my loving whānau!!!

Happy New Year, everybody!!!

Introducing the First Rakugo Family From New Zealand!!!

It has been almost exactly two months since I organised the first English rakugo club meeting.

We now have five core members along with some one-off participants here and there, and we have even been offered a free venue! It has been growing much faster than I had expected before taking that dreadful first step.

We decided it was about time to choose our rakugo family name (teigou/ yagou) to nurture a sense of belonging.

We really wanted something very New Zealand, a name that would sound Japanese yet reflect the essence of this country.

Luckily, the Japanese language shares the identical vowels and most consonants with Māori, so we decided to find a Māori word to inspire us.

The most obvious word was Aotearoa, the Māori name of New Zealand, which means “the land of the long white cloud”. We considered “Aotearoya” to make it sound more like a rakugo family name, but it was a bit mouthful and didn’t quite flow.

Then, we decided to explore the origin of the name “Aotearoa”.

It is said that when the first Māori explorer Kupe discovered New Zealand, his wife said,

“He ao, he ao! He aotea! He aotearoa!”

“A cloud, a cloud! A white cloud! A long white cloud!”

“Aotea” is a beautiful word!

I checked the Māori dictionary and found that it also meant a kind of greenstone. One of their ancestral canoes (waka) was also called “Aotea”.

It was a perfect word for our family name.

However, as it lacks respect to use such a precious word without their permission, we decided to get an inspiration from the word but turn it into a different word.

So…

our name was finally chosen.

Announcing our rakugo family name…

Here are the names of our performers who have already chosen their names:

碧て家令宝(あおてや れいほう)

Aoteya Reihou

碧て家ぷけ子(あおてや ぷけこ)

Aoteya Pukeko

碧て家一馬(あおてや かずま)

Aoteya Kazuma

and me

鹿鳴家英志(かなりや えいし)

Kanariya Eishi

This is just the beginning! We will rock Auckland, New Zealand, and beyond!!!

My 15 Years in Comedy!

About a week ago, I randomly realised that I had been performing comedy in New Zealand for almost 15 years.

Time flies, indeed…

Though I have changed the forms of my comedic expression, I have been pretty consistently involved in comedy until today. It’s nothing to do with my suitability or will power, but it’s like a bad addiction that I can’t get rid of.

I started my comedy career as a stand-up comedian.

I don’t remember the exact date I did my first open mic, but it was in the first week of November in 2004. The MC of the night was my favourite comedian, Mark Scott.

I was pretty average as a stand-up comedian (just good enough to make tens and tens of dollars), but stand-up taught me the basic of the western comedy like its timing, delivery, and the Kiwi sense of humour, which was the hardest for me to pick up.

There were some highlights and lowlights just like in any old career.

I disappeared from the stand-up scene when my wife and I decided to start a family. It was my attempt to become a responsible adult… but it wasn’t quite successful.

Remember? I’m an addict.

As the lure of comedy was too strong, I soon started getting involved in improv comedy with a hope that I wouldn’t have to spend hours writing materials anymore.

I was wrong.

I still had to practice quite a bit. There were heaps of workshops to attend.

I did some awesome scenes and devastatingly awful scenes along the way.

Again, I was quite an average improviser. I still have so much respect for good improvisers. If you master improv, you can pretty much accomplish most things in your life.

In 2016, when I was just about to turn 40, I questioned myself what I really wanted to do with my life. It was clear that I wanted to do rakugo, the Japanese traditional comedy I learned when I was a teenager.

Rakugo has been a big part of my life since I was around 10. When I was at university, I loved rakugo so much that I attempted to become an official apprentice of a rakugo performer.

I chickened out at the last minute because I didn’t have confidence to survive the traditional, feudalistic training. I gave up the traditional pathway to learn the art and instead decided to study theatre in America where I spent the next 5 years of my life.

I was very lucky to meet my English rakugo master Kanariya Eiraku, who was willing to teach the art to me in a long distance relationship. I am very delighted and proud that his art has been receiving international recognition in recent years. I am very excited that I will possibly perform with him next year both in New Zealand and Australia!!!

After all these years of performing comedy (4 years in Japan, 5 years in US, and 15 years in NZ), I eventually went back to rakugo where I started.

This reminds me of the parable in Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”.

I already had the treasure when I started out.

Many years later, I finally realised that I had been carrying the treasure all along!!!

Now I know what my real treasure is.

If you are reading this paragraph, you must be either my family, close friend, hardcore fan, or stalker. Thank you very much for your continued support!!! I still do what I do because of the people like you!!!

Doumo arigatou gozaimasu!!!

Enough reminiscing.

Now get back to work!

Where I am as of today!

mandala

It has been a year since I started rediscovering Rakugo.

I used the verb “rediscover” as I had so completely lost in touch with this Japanese tradition for nearly a decade.

In 2009, I did attempt introducing Rakugo to the New Zealand audience in a production called Asian Tales™: Native Alienz.  I wrote an English script for “Mount Head” (頭山) and performed it at Herald Theatre in Auckland.

I enjoyed the whole experience of reconstructing a Rakugo story in English in a way that could be understood by English speakers.  Then… as a man of insatiable curiosity… other creative interests took over, and Rakugo was forgotten.

Last year, I suddenly realised that I had spent about a half of my life in Japan and the other overseas in US and New Zealand.

I was officially a “half and half”.

I decided to explore Rakugo once again as I was curious to see what would happen to pursue it as a more-than-a-half-westernized Japanese.

The process of reconnecting with this uniquely Japanese storytelling is similar to a search for identity.  It has helped me understand who I am.

I initially learned Rakugo as a teenager in Japanese in Japan, but now I perform it in English in New Zealand.

I have to admit that I am a little frustrated, though.

By the lack of my own motivation to actually produce a show.

Yes, I have been practicing it (almost) everyday, and I now have five stories to share: “Jugemu”(寿限無), “Karanuke”(からぬけ), “A Visit to Tenjin Shrine”(初天神), “A Summer Burglar”(夏泥), and “Mount Head”(頭山).

It is definitely a daunting task to learn Rakugo stories and also somehow produce a show by myself… in English… in New Zealand.

But it is about time.

To make it happen.

THIS YEAR!

Oops, did I say that?