Last Saturday, I was able to experience something very special: English rakugo (落語). For those that don’t know, rakugo is a traditional form of storytelling in which a single performer, with only a kimono, a wood block, and a fan, is seated upon a cushion on a dais and proceeds to tell a story in a very elaborate way. It’s an old form of Japanese entertainment that I had always wanted to enjoy but couldn’t, since my Japanese is not good enough to understand the Japanese version. So, when a student of mine told me about an upcoming English rakugo performance being held about 300 meters away from my school in Fukushima (スミス英会話福島), I was excited to go!
I went with my student to the theater and arrived just in time. For this performance, there were 4 different storytellers and, I was delighted to see, they were all Japanese! I knew that the stories would be complicated and a high level of English would be necessary to tell them, so I was happy to see such commitment to English. They told a variety of stories: a human interest story, mischievous tales set in modern Japan and historical Japan, and comical anecdotes about our society. I was impressed by the performer’s ability to utilize English and they did so in a way that I think any Japanese person studying English could enjoy. Their enunciation and speaking speed were great and they would often use gestures or include a few Japanese words so that nobody was lost during their story. Not only was I entertained, but I could also appreciate their attention to communication.
After the show, I could talk to a few audience members about their relationship with English and, of course, complimented the performers on a job well done. I think English rakugo is a great way to study English, whether you listen to it or study it to be a rakugo performer. I was very happy to see English being used in such a way and I plan to attend the next English rakugo show in Fukushima! If you want to come, too, let me know!