Free Rakugo Workshops! RSVP by Mon 5 April 2021!

Hi all,

Hope everything is well with you and your loved ones!

Our Aoteya Rakugo Club is back in full swing 😃

I’m letting you know that I am considering running two free rakugo workshops for those who are thinking of joining the club.

If you have been wondering if rakugo is for you, this is a great opportunity to learn the basic of this Japanese traditional art of comic storytelling.

Having said that, this workshop will only go ahead IF we have at least 5 people interested.

Because I will use our usual rakugo club time and venue, I need to make sure that there is enough interest to justify this event as our regular members will miss out on our usual activities for 2 sessions.

I hope I was clear enough with bold fonts and underlines! 😁

If you are interested in joining us, please RSVP by Mon 5 April 2021, which is next Monday so that I have enough time to prepare for the sessions.

I haven’t run open workshops since 2019 and have no idea when I will run them next, so please take this opportunity if you are interested!

Venue: Onehunga Community Centre

Time: 2:00-4:00PM, 10 April AND 17 April 2021

More details to be provided to people who have RSVP-ed 😃

Rakugo History in the Making

Correct me if I’m wrong, but…

our Aoteya Rakugo Club is probably the oldest English rakugo club outside of Japan.

I am aware that there have been a few groups of self-taught performers overseas, but our club has a strong connection to Japan though me. So it’s perhaps more like the oldest authentic-ish club of its kind (it will never be authentic because I am a bit too unconventional… sorry!).

For your information, the club was established on Sun 6 Oct 2019.

Please do let me know if your club is older than ours as we are really curious!

Last Saturday (20 March 2021), after 1 1/2 years since its conception, we finally had our first performance, which had originally been planned in March 2020.

Again, I, Eishi, claim it to be the first English rakugo performance produced by an overseas-based English rakugo club (until corrected)!

It was a small performance but a meaningful first step for us especially after going through the four strict lockdowns here in Auckland.

I am just so thankful that the members did not abandon rakugo after so many interruptions.

Thank you all those who have helped us reach this milestone!

We are looking forward to having more public performances together!

Four Defenders of Japanese Festivals

At Japanese festivals, four banners with the pictures of the four divine beings are sometimes displayed.

You might have also seen them at a ceremony at the imperial palace.

They are the defenders of Shin’iki (神域 しんいき) or the sanctuary of the shrine.

These four defenders are: Blue Dragon (青龍 せいりゅう Seiryu; the defender of the east), White Tiger (白虎 びゃっこ Byakko; the defender of the west), Vermilion Bird (朱雀 すざく Suzaku; the defender of the south), and Black Tortoise (玄武 げんぶ Genbu; the defender of the north; usually entwined together with a snake).

Together these four flags are called “Four Godly Flags/ Banners” (四神旗 しじんき Shijinki).

But in the Edo period (1603-1868), they were also called “Four Godly Swords” (四神剣 しじんけん Shijinken) in the Tokyo area as they put swords at the tips of the flags.

There is a hilarious rakugo story that involves a set of “Four Godly Swords”, which is based on a true story that happened at a restaurant called Momokawa (百川 ももかわ).

Unfortunately, it is one of those stories that would get lost in translation, but I will attempt explaining it another time!

See you next time!

Japanese Street Wisdom Podcast Episode 4 [Un Kon Don 運根鈍]

Hello everybody! Hope you are safe and well!

Welcome to the 4th episode of the Japanese Street Wisdom Podcast.

In this episode, I will introduce a Japanese saying “Un Kon Don” (運根鈍), the Japanese secret of success!

I had never really thought hard about this saying before, but I found it interesting that it is actually heavily influenced by Japanese fatalism and our effort to defy it!

Please do let me know what you thought about this episode and/ or your suggestions (for improvement, future content, etc.)!

As in the thumbnail above, this podcast is now available both on Spotify and Apple Podcasts!!!

You can also listen to it on my YouTube Channel if you prefer.

Thank you always for your continued support!

“Mummy” Medicine of Edo!

If you are a speaker of British English, you might be slightly confused if I’m talking about an adult female human with a child/ children or a preserved human body that could’ve been a mummy… or a daddy.

If you are a speaker of American English, you are right I meant a mummy by “mummy”.

The Egyptian kind of mummy, who could’ve been an Egyptian mummy before her passing (OK, I’ll stop annoying you!).

I recently learned a shocking fact about a Japanese medicine during the Edo period (1603-1868), and I couldn’t resist sharing this particular one!

Kaibara Ekiken* (貝原益軒 1630-1714) was a very well-known Neo-Confucianist philosopher (じゅがくしゃ 儒学者) and botanist who studied the medicinal herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Ekiken is especially known for his books called Yojokun (ようじょうくん 養生訓), which was a collection of his health advice, and Yamato Honzo (やまとほんぞう 大和本草) that introduced medicinal plants from China and Japan.

Yamato Honzo (やまとほんぞう 大和本草)

Kaibara Ekiken* (貝原益軒 1630-1714)

In Yamato Honzo, mummies… or mummified human bodies probably from Egypt… are introduced as a medicine!!!

Mind you, Ekiken himself opposed to the use of mummies as a medicine for ethical reasons, but researches suggest that they were widely used as all-purpose cure though they cost a fortune.

We don’t know exactly where they were imported from (and how they were sourced), but it was likely to have been via China or Netherlands as Japan only traded with these two countries then. It could’ve also been from Korea (via Tsushima), Ainu (via Matsumae/ Hokkaido), or Ryukyu/ Okinawa. **

According to Yamato Honzo, mummies were good for toothache, headache, chest pain, high fever, antidote for poisonous insects, and others.

* Some people also call him “Ekken”.

** If you know the answer to this question, please comment below!!!

Reference

貝原益軒著「大和本草」記載のミイラの薬効について 江頭啓介・原敬二郎

Photo Credit

Yamato Honzo: Momotarou2012, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Origin of Waribashi (Disposable Chopsticks)

If you have been to a Japanese restaurant, I’m sure you have seen those waribashi (割り箸, わりばし) or disposable wooden chopsticks that you pull apart before digging in your yummy Japanese dishes.

Personally, I have a love-and-hate relationship with them- I love them because they are sanitary; I hate them because they are an absolute waste of trees.

Anyway… I came across the origin of those chopsticks the other day, so I’m sharing it with you 😃

It is said that waribashi was first created by an eel restaurant in Edo (1603-1868), which is the old name for Tokyo.

They were originally made of bamboo and called “Hikisakibashi” (引裂箸 ひきさきばし), which roughly means “chopsticks to split apart”.

However, the wooden disposable chopsticks that we use today were actually invented in Nara Prefecture (奈良県 ならけん).

It is said that a monk called Sugihara Souan (杉原宗庵, すぎはらそうあん) invented them from Japanese cedar from the Yoshino region (so called “Yoshino Cedar”; 吉野杉, よしのすぎ) in 1827.

They used the scrap wood from making sake barrels, and even today they only use wood from forest thinning in the Yoshino region, therefore making them more ecological than the imported ones from overseas.

I personally think it’s best to use reusable metal chopsticks like Korean people do for the environment, but if you are into waribashi, I recommend you get ones from Yoshino!

References

わが国における食事用の二本箸の起源と割箸について 向井由紀子, 橋本慶子, 長谷川千鶴

You can access this document, but it takes ages to load somehow: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/cookeryscience1968/10/1/10_41/_pdf

箸の本 本田総一郎