Make sure to do at least one thing that excites you today!
As some of you may know, I was just about to partner up with the Asia New Zealand Foundation and start visiting Auckland high schools to deliver rakugo workshops before “Rona” hit New Zealand.
Just as many of my friends in the performing arts industry, I lost literally ALL the opportunities due to the situation the world is facing right now.
Including this partnership.
So I thought.
But, I was completely wrong!!!
A few days ago, I received an e-mail from them, asking me if I would be interested in delivering online workshops for housebound high school students!!!
Of course, I said yes!!!
Thank you so much, Asian New Zealand Foundation!!! You are AMAZING!!!
Here’s the proof 🙂
But there was an issue, though. I didn’t have a filming space…
I would’ve gone to a studio or a creative space somewhere to film learning resources, but I don’t have that luxury at the moment. I don’t have much privacy, either, as my kids are roaming all over the place… literally.
So I decided to make a part of the master bedroom into my semi-permanent recording space and named it the “Rakugo Rebel Studio”!!!
To block noises from the little cacophony artists, the “studio” will be barricaded with bed mattresses and futon as sound barriers during recordings.
We have decided to keep it until the new world begins i.e. Rona leaves us alone (my apology if your name happen to be Rona).
I will use this space to film the learning resources and possibly do live streaming sessions. Maybe I will film some YouTube videos, too!
Let’s keep on doing what we can for a better world!!!
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.
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.
our name was finally chosen.
Announcing our rakugo family name…
Here are the names of our performers who have already chosen their names:
This is just the beginning! We will rock Auckland, New Zealand, and beyond!!!
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!!!