What an interesting experience! I went to see a rakugo in English by Diane Kichijitsu at the JCKL Charity Bazaar. I didn’t expect that I would enjoy it as much as I did. I mean, I can barely understand rakugo in Japanese unless I listen to it more than once and at times I need to look up the summary to see if I understood correctly. Besides that, comedy in one language may not translate very well in another language.
But firstly, maybe I need to briefly explain what rakugo is. Rakugo is a form of traditional Japanese storytelling done in a sitting position by a single storyteller. The stories are often comical in nature and can be very engaging because the performer acts out the scenes using dialogue and props. As Diane said, it’s all about imagination. I quite like how she started by explaining about the props that they use; the small cloth and the paper fan. For example, she would use the fan as chopsticks or a pair of scissors.
My first introduction to rakugo.
The first time I’ve ever considered listening to rakugo was when I saw Takarazuka’s Yarazu no Ame (Snow Troupe 2006). It was a compilation of different rakugo stories in one play. From there I started to look into rakugo more and more. When I listened to Tetekawa Shinosuke’s Shinigami, I was just glued onto my seat, it was so engaging. But even now, my Japanese isn’t so great to fully appreciate rakugo as a whole.
The Zoo and stuff
Diane did the “Doubutsuen” or simply translated as “Zoo” story. It’s one of those stories that can easily be understood by even non-Japanese. I think you can find various version of it in English on youtube. Here’s an example, by another rakugo performer.
At the end, she stood up and gave tips on just how to laugh, the laughter yoga, as she calls it, which I suppose must be done indoors unless you want people to look at you like you’ve lost your marbles.
All in all, I was glad that I decided to go out and come all the way to see it. I wish I had the opportunity to greet her after the show though. By the way, I always go to these kind of things alone so if anyone is interested, hit me up.