“Shiawase-nara-teo-tatako (If you’re happy and know it, clap your hands) …” A man came into the room playing the accordion and singing with a big smile. He is Katsura Sunshine, the rakugo comic storyteller from Toronto. Rakugo is a Japanese traditional verbal entertainment. The blond man sang in fluent Japanese comically and lifted the audience.
I was in the 15th anniversary event of Aichi Goodwill Guides Network (AGGN) held at Nagoya Chikyu Hiroba of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) near Nagoya Station on March 2nd. AGGN is a non-profitable organization sending sightseeing guides and interpreters for non-Japanese speakers in Nagoya area. They marked their 15th anniversary this year. Katsura Sunshine was the special guest for the cerebration.
Sunshine reappeared in a formal rakugo storyteller costume after the opening song and climbed up to the stage. There was a small wooden screen called hiza-kakushi (hiding one’s knees) in front of him and it had a mark of a maple leaf proudly. Of course, it is the symbol of Canada, which is his homeland.
He started with the most famous short story in rakugo: Jugem. Jugem is a part of a boy’s long name: Jugem-Jugem-Goko-No-Surikire-Kaijari-Suigyo-No-Suigyo-Matsu- Unrai-Matsu-Furai-Matsu-Kuneru-Tokoro-Ni-Sumu-Tokoro-Yabura-Koji-No-Bura-Koji-Paipo-Paipo-Paipo-No-Shuringan-Shuringan-No-Gurindai- Gurindai-No-Pompokopi-Pompokona-No-Chokyumei-No-Chosuke.
Ha-ha! Crazy! The story is about a nonsense daily life of the boy because of his absurd long name. For example, while his mother is trying to wake the boy up by calling his name, the school is over. I know the plot well, but I laugh whenever I hear the short story. Oh, this time the rakugo was held in English! Of course, it was very funny!
Next story was “Homework”. This is one of the original rakugo stories created by Katsura Bunshi IV, the teacher of Sunshine: A father comes back home and starts complaining about a freshman, who just graduated from Tokyo University. The university is considered as one of the highest-level universities in Japan, but the young man is useless in the office. After grumbling, the father is about to take a bath when his son asks him to help with his homework. That is a math assignment. The father cannot answer properly and criticizes the question.
Next day the father goes to the office and asks the freshman about the question. Surprisingly, the young man solves the problem quickly. The father is impressed and changes his attitude to him, saying, “You don’t need to do that job. You can just stay here.” Relieved, the father comes back home, when his son brings him a new assignment. He cannot solve the problem and fudges on the answer. Next day he asks the freshman about the question and gets the answer. The same things continue for a while, and the father gets mad and storms into the school in a rage at last. The teacher says calmly, “All right. I don’t need to check academic abilities anymore because I understand your level.”
I am sorry, but I cannot express the humor of the story here…You must see the rakugo play in person! The story itself is really not only funny but also very interesting. It will satisfy your intellectual curiosity. Sunshine is a great rakugo storyteller. I enjoyed his performance.
After the rakugo, there was a party. Not only Sunshine but also some other guests were also invited there: Chris Glenn, the radio personality; Gary Kirkpatrick, the teacher at Nihon Fukushi Unviersity; and Stephen Carter, the translator and the guide in Osu. The party was started with Chris’s deep and sweet voice, “Domo, Domo…”I had a great time talking with those guests and other participants over delicious foods and drinks. Congratulations on the 15th anniversary of AGGN!