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.
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 His performance title was “Homework”, which had been originally made by his mentor Sanshi.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.
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!