A few weeks back, I was invited by a member of my community to enjoy a
professional Rakugo (落語） performance sponsored through their organization. Sanyu Kurabu(サンゆ倶楽部).
Since opening in 1976, they specialize in many different aspects of Japanese arts and culture and do work which brings the community together in fun and life building ways. The latest theme which they held was about Rakugo, literally translated as meaning, ‘Fallen words’.
For those who don’t know much about Rakugo, you’re not alone. I am just beginning to learn about this humorous Japanese art of story telling myself. Just like stand up comedy we have in the West, Japan has Rakugo…Japanese sit-down comedy. The Rakugo actor is alone on stage and tells us a long and intricate comedic story. While in the kneeling position known as seiza (正座), the 落語家(Rakugoka) will portray a conversation by acting out each of the characters involved. He does so by altering the pitch and tone of his voice, and ever so slightly changing the tilt of his head. With only a fan and a hand towel as props, he is able to portray a dialogue that makes you believe there are actually two people (or even 3) speaking to one another.
It was a fascinating display to watch. Even though my Japanese is quite limited, I was able to get the gist of the story merely by watching the performer’s lively facial expressions and listening to the tone of his voice. As I looked around the room, there were a variety of people of all ages totally engaged in this master comedian bringing his story to life. Bouts of laughter, applause, and more laughter gave the room a magical atmosphere. I truly felt privileged to have experienced such an intimate and close up encounter of this wonderful Japanese art.
If you like to laugh while experiencing a unique and culturally rich type of Japanese entertainment, I highly recommend you take in a Rakugo performance. One other amazing thing about Rakugo which I just found out is that they perform English Rakugo! I yet have had the opportunity to see it for myself, however it is something that I and a few of my students would definitely find quite interesting.
For a more detailed explanation of Rakugo and English Rakugo (英語落語), please click here . For anyone interested in not only Rakugo, but other mind and health enriching activities, please feel free to drop by the サンゆ倶楽部（Sanyu Kurabu） during one of their Guest Nights, or click here to visit their website for more information. If you have any trouble finding its location, please come see me at ｽﾐｽ英会話鶴橋校 and I’d be more than happy to introduce you.
Smith School of English, Tsuruhashi