Online Rakugo Project Starting Next Week!

As some of you may know, I spent the last two months recovering from a major-ish disc injury.

I am not writing this to get your sympathy, but I am just telling you why my “Online Rakugo Project” did not happen for so long.

Having said that, I am glad to announce that I have finally filmed two of my rakugo stories, and I will start posting them from next week!

In this Creative New Zealand funded project, I will post 10 very different rakugo stories on my online platforms, mainly YouTube and possibly Vimeo and IGTV.

If you still haven’t, please follow my YouTube channel as it will be an incentive for me to keep posting videos after this project is over. Please share about it with your friends and family as well.

I was initially not too sure whether to post videos as it is a consensus among rakugo fans that rakugo would not work in the video format. It is much more suited for the audio media.

Also, it would inevitably expose my limited skills and make it open to criticisms from rakugo purists (please be easy on me!), but I decided to post them for the following reasons:

  • I have been requested by quite a few people over the last few years. If that’s what my supporters want, I will provide! I perform rakugo for those people, not for critics 😃
  • As the world faces the Covid crisis, I want to cheer up people through my project, even if it is for a slightly bemused chuckle. Throughout my childhood, my peers always told me I had a “bored-sounding voice” (つまらなそうな声) but had a funny face. I probably should make the most of my “gifted” face.
  • It will be a good record of how primitive my skills were, looking back 10 years from now.

Finally, I was torn whether to have a small live audience for recordings or not. It is now possible to have an audience in NZ, and it is so much easier to perform in front of one. But I decided to talk straight to the camera instead, in solidarity with people in countries that are still majorly affected by the virus.

The first story “Chotan” is a little unusual pick to kick off the project with, but I couldn’t resist as I like performing quirky stories. It is translated as “Long-Tempered vs. Short-Tempered”, and it is a story about two best friends, one being extremely laidback, the other being quick-tempered. Hope you will enjoy it!

I will post it sometime next week!

Rakugoka (落語家) vs. Hanashika (噺家)

In Japanese, Rakugo (落語) means a story with a punchline, and Rakugo storytellers are called Rakugoka (落語家).

Another common way to call them is Hanashika (噺家), which simply means a storyteller. In my personal opinion, this expression captures what Rakugo performers do more accurately.

Even though Rakugo is almost always accepted as a form of comedy in Japan and also introduced overseas as such, Rakugo is not always funny. If you have ever listened to stories like “Shinkei Kasanegahuchi” (真景累ヶ淵), “Bunshichi Mottoi” (文七元結 ), or “Tachikiri” (立切り), you would understand this.

“Shinkei Kasanegahuchi” is a pure tragedy, a horror story with very little humour. “Bunshichi Mottoi” is a human drama that would make you cry (I cry every time I listen to it!). “Tachikiri” is a heartbreaking love story, which also brings you tears.

I do not think Rakugo would have received the same kind of popularity if it was just comedy.

It is an all inclusive storytelling art.

I really appreciate that the manga/ anime/ TV drama
“Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju” (昭和元禄落語心中) has captured this multifaceted nature of Rakugo rather well.

The beauty of the expression Hanashika (噺家) is that the kanji “噺” is used instead of “話”, which is the most common character to mean a story.

The character “噺” can be broken into “口” (mouth) and “新” (new), so as a whole it means uttering something new.

As a traditional art, the Rakugo World has faced two missions: one being to protect the tradition and the other being progressing it so that it will remain relevant for generations to come.

To me personally, the act of “uttering something new” captures what they do as performers of this traditional art.

My Rakugo Resolutions 2019!

I guess it’s about time to share ’em, eh?

Happy New Year! 明けましておめでとうございます!

Hope you had fantastic Christmas and New Year’s celebrations with your beloved ones! If you are interested, you can check out what I was up to during the holidays on my Twitter.

As the Heisei Period is coming to a close in less than 3 months in Japan, I am feeling this groundless hope for a new beginning! I can already feel that this year will be AMAZING!!!

It’s already been 10 days into 2019, and I guess it’s about time to disclose my Rakugo resolutions for this year!

As I tend to be unrealistic about my goals (& I almost always don’t reach them…), I have decided to set realistic goals that are reachable yet not too easy this year.

Here are my resolutions for 2019!

  • Do 50 performances minimum: As I am traveling most of January, I have 11 months to accomplish this. Due to my health, this might be a bit challenging but doable!
  • Learn 12 new Rakugo stories minimum (1 of which has to be my original story)
  • Learn 30 new Kobanashi (short stories/ one-liners)
  • Finish 1st draft of my Rakugo book: It’s been about 70% done for a very long time…
  • Wellington tour: If you are a Wellingtonian, please host me!
  • Improve “small talk” skills: This is probably the most embarrassing goal to share here, but I really suck at small talks. If you know me well, I am an enthusiastic conversationalist when it comes to “big topics” (ex. politics, philosophy, or even meaning of life), but I am very poor at the initial stage of relationship building. My Rakugo career would probably go further if I mastered this skill, which I really should have learned when I was a teenager.

Now I have shared these publicly. There’s no going back!

Have an AMAZING year, everybody!