Monthly Archives: September 2011

Rakugo in English: : A Japanese traditional performing art by dedicated Canadian story teller, Katsura Sunshine

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sunshine      Have you ever heard of this word: rakugo? Rakugo means a kind of Japanese verbal entertainment. It’s one of Japan’s traditional performing arts, and the storytellers called rakugoka always wear kimono and sit in Japanese traditional way –seiza– on the stage.

     I had an interesting opportunity to go see rakugo in English last Friday of 23. The main rakugoka storyteller is from Canada! He is Katsura Sunshine, which is not his real name, but is his stage name. He’s thrown himself into a strict Japan’s traditional entertainment world and become a famous rakugoka Katsura Sanshi’s pupil. Katsura is the name of one of the biggest groups in rakugo world, and all of Sanshi’s apprentices’ names start with Katsura.

     The rakugo in English was held at Nadia Park in Nagoya on September 23. It began with Sunshine’s comic talk on his accordion. He sang songs of funny lyrics while playing the accordion in a beautiful autumn maple leaves pattern kimono. He is not only an excellent comic but also a prowess as an accordionist.TS3N1234

     Once he left the stage, another storyteller appeared. He is Okidoki-tei Kanta. He’s an amateur rakugoka. He’s Japanese, but performed rakugo in English. That was my first time to listen to rakugo in English, but I was able to understand the story and laughed and enjoyed it.

     Next, Sunshine returned to the stage in another kimono. His performance title was “Homework”, which had been originally made by his mentor Sanshi. It’s a funny story of a tired father who tries to answer his son’s homework. TS3N1235

     The plot of “Homework”:

     An exhausted father came back home in the evening and started complaining to his wife about a freshman, who graduated from Harvard University, but was useless. He was about to have a bath, when his son came and asked him to help with his homework. According to the son, the teacher started checking the student’s academic levels with math homework. The father wanted his son to have a good record, but he couldn’t answer to the question properly and got angry, “The question itself is nonsense!” But the son didn’t give up. So the father gave an answer randomly.

     Next day, the father asked to the useless freshman about his son’s homework at office. The Harvard-educated man answered to the question in a moment. The father was amazed and said to the new boy, “You don’t need do that job. You just stay here!” In the evening, the father tried to say the correct answer to his son, when the son said that yesterday’s question was over but he had another question. The father couldn’t answer and got angry again and gave an irresponsible answer to his son.

     Next day, the father asked to the new employee about the new question and got the correct answer. But he came back home, his son was waiting for him to ask a new question. Finally, the father got mad, and he went to the school to complain about his son’s homework next morning. The teacher listened to the father’s claim and said in complete calm, “All right, I’ll never give homework.” The father was still angry and shouted, “What made you say so?” The teacher replied, “Now I know your level.”

     Sunshine’s “Homework” was really fun! It’s a shame not to be able to tell you his humor well here…He performed energetically and gesticulatively with rakugoka’s special items: a fan and a hand towel. You can see some stages of Sunshine on youtube, but I highly recommend going to see him performing in person! It was a great experience to enjoy a Japanese traditional art performed by a non-Japanese! That was a wonderful time!

     The rakugo in English was held as the 8th anniversary event for My English Room, where you can learn real English and enjoy chatting with native speakers with reasonable fees in a comfortable atmosphere. I appreciate the permission for using their photos and send my heartiest congratulations for their 8th anniversary! (You can see amazing photos of the event at their gallery:)

     By the way, I sent a message to Sunshine after the stage: Mr. Sunshine, your English is perfect!

A Wonderful Firework Display Turn to Sad News: Mayor apologized for cancellation of using a firework made in Fukushima.

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      “Oh, I didn’t know that…,” I murmured when I saw the newspaper next morning. There quite shocking news was on the page. It was about a firework display on 18 in Nisshin next to Nagoya. The news made me sad because I had had a nice time at the event without knowing anything on the night before…

     According to the article, the planning committee for the firework display and officer of the city government in Nisshin had been going to use a firework made in Fukushima for promoting reconstruction support to the devastated area, however they had decided not to use it on the eve of the event because some citizens protested against using it for worrying about the effect of radiation.

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     As the news spread, there was a big uproar all this country next day. Nisshin is called “city”, actually it’s a town of 85,000 people. In fact, there had been just about 20 objections to using the fireworks made in Fukushima before the event, but the city office received more than 3,000 angry phone calls objecting to the city decision to cancel the Fukushima’s firework after that.

     Of course, the protest was not only phone calls to the city hall but also enormous posting messages on the Internet. I was shocked at some of them: “I knew the people in Aichi Prefecture were cruel and couldn’t feel someone’s pain before this!”; “Nisshin just spread harmful rumors that all of things from Fukushima are dangerous!”. TS3N1231

     After this series of protests, Mayer Hagino visited Kawamata-cho in Fukushima and apologized to the small town and the firework maker for the cancelation.

     I understand the people’s fear for the radioactive contamination. They were afraid because they were not informed anything. The city should have tested radiation level on the firework and announced the result officially: There’s no need to worry for the radiation. The maker is in Fukushima, but it’s far from the radioactive affected area, and their fireworks have been inside of the building. The radiation level of the firework we are using at the event is as low as nature. nisshin

     I also understand feelings of protesters on Nisshin’s cancellation of using the firework in Fukushima. Japan’s people have seen lots of tragic scenes since March 11, and many of them have been supporting victims and the devastated areas in diverse ways. This event discouraged both of victims and supporters sadly…But I sometimes wonder where protesters’ anger is at…

     Some protesters just take out their anger on someone or something they happen to find. That is, their anger is not at the incident. I mean, in this case, people made a protest against Nisshin’s decision not to use Fukushima’s firework, but I’m wondering if some of them have own problems within and just released their anger on officials in the city office, taking the occasion under anonymity…

     All the more this issue is sad because the fireworks were really beautiful in the end-of-summer sky…