Home > Japanese Culture > Rakugo in English will be the next step on my way

Rakugo in English will be the next step on my way

I’ve finally posted this article.

I’ve been a member of one English learners’ group for over one year. We have an annual assembly in summer and somehow show how we grew for the past year by doing something new. Last summer, I arranged Martin Luther King’s legendary speech and demostrated it. This summer, I tried rakugo, which is a Japanese traditional storytelling.

I joined a workshop held in July and I learned what rakugo in English there. Katsura Sunshine was our teacher at the workshop. He is only one certified foregin rakugo storyteller in Japan, who came from Canada over ten years ago. He is also an apprentice of Katsura Sanshi, who is one of the most famous rakugo storytellers. All apprentices of Katsura Sanshi must be under strict rules. No girlfriends, no alcohol, no going out except requests related to rakugo with permissions of the master. Now that the relationship between apprentices and masters of rakugo are like the one between ‘Jedi Padawan’ and ‘Jedi Knight’ of STAR WARS.

Although I’ve watched rakugo in Japanese on TV before, I totally didn’t know what exactly it was and its rules were. Katsura Sunshine, now that he is a master to me, taught us a lot of things about rakugo.

rakugo storytellers have to play a few roles alone. By changing the angles to face, you can tell the storytellers act a few characters. At first, you have to know kami and shimo, which are two sides of directions. On your right side, it is called kami, and on your left side, it is called shimo. For example, you act a superior or a mentor and try to talk in kami direction, and you act a subordinate and try to talk in shimo direction.

makura is also an interesting word. Literally, makura is ‘pillow’ in English, however, makura in the rakugo world, it’s rather adequate…’icebreaker, icebreaking.’ ochi is also one of Japanese words which you often find on TV. It means ‘punch line.’ ‘The punch line of the story is not so good’ means ochi ga yowai in Japanese.

My master Sunshine showed us the shorter version topic of which the title is ‘THE ZOO.’ There are at least five charcters in the topic. I started memorizing all the lines of the topic and copying my master’s play as much as possible. Thank God. I made it at the annual meeting without forgetting lines or stammering.

Thanks to Sunshine, I got so interested in rakugo in English. Next time, I think I should try ‘Turtles and Flamengos.’ It’s more difficult and longer one.

Unfortunately, I forgot to record my rakugo play, so I can’t upload the film on my YouTube channel. Someday, I’ll try it.

Categories: Japanese Culture
  1. December 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I was just reading about Rakugo on Wikipedia but couldn’t find any website to explain what the “ochi” actually was. Than you for answering my question 🙂

    • honeypotter
      December 29, 2010 at 3:58 am

      Hello, helenharvey, thank you for coming.

      Wow, I’m so glad that my article about RAKUGO was useful to you. Are you interested in Japanese cultures?

      I’ll keep writing a lot of things about my country. I hope you would enjoy reading my posts. Thank you again for visiting my blog. 🙂

  2. February 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I like your blog. It’s great to see that your writing in English, too. Nice work. I’ve met Katsura Sunshine a couple times, and it looks like he’s going pretty good as a hanashika in the Kansai area. If you like Kamigata rakugo, I keep a bilingual blog about it. Feel free to stop by sometime.

    • honeypotter
      February 11, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Hello, Matt. I’m so glad that you visited my blog. Thank you so much. Now I’ve been learning Edomae rakugo and I join recitals held in Tokyo twice in a year. I’d be happy if you were able to come to the recital someday. Of course Kamigata rakugo is also great. I like it. Thanks to Sunshine-san, I became a hanashika 🙂

      I’ll visit your blog and leave comments. I hope we will be able to build a good friendship.

      Thank you so much again. 😉

      • February 12, 2012 at 11:44 am

        Thank you for your comment.
        That’s wonderful that you’ve become a hanashika.
        I hope I can hear you perform some day.

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